30 Jul Email Etiquette is Vital to Productive Communication in the Workplace

By Tori Aiello, Coach/Trainer at The Speech Improvement Company

I recently was stopped by someone on the street who had participated in one of my email training courses and she said, “You’re not going to believe this but one of my friends was just let go for laying off her employees by email.”  I replied, “If only she had taken my email training course!”

Imagine how her colleagues must have felt when their termination notice was communicated via email? Not appreciated. Disposable. Confused. An email disaster like this may sound unusual, but I hear different variations of similar stories in the business world on a regular basis.

Over the past decade, email has become an increasingly important form of communication in the workplace.  According to the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, worldwide email traffic totaled 247 billion messages per day last year. It is projected that by 2013, this figure will almost double to 507 billion messages per day (source: www.radicati.com).

As a communication coach/consultant, I am often asked how email can be used effectively to lead, manage and communicate in the workplace.  My overarching advice is three fold:

1.     Understand the communication vehicles available to you as a leader/communicator,

2.     wisely utilize each of these options in a manner that is appropriate to the message that needs to be delivered and tailored to your audience,

3.     follow basic guidelines to model and reinforce professional email etiquette within your work environment.

Effective leaders understand the advantages and the differences between the three main elements of workplace communication — email, telephone and face-to-face/ interpersonal communication; and they utilize each vehicle depending upon the type of message that needs to be delivered and an analysis of the intended recipient(s) needs, bias, knowledge and anticipated reaction.

For example, an effective leader would never use email to communicate a difficult or a confrontational message where tone and intention can be easily misunderstood, causing great hardship for all involved.  Instead, a good leader understands that uncomfortable messages are best delivered in a face-to-face scenario where clear two-way communication involving detailed explanations and opportunities for question and answers can facilitate a “meeting of the minds” (or at least a basic understanding from the recipient of what needs to be improved). This approach is especially pertinent to those recipients who tend to be overly sensitive or hold a defensive posture.

Am I suggesting that leaders never use email? Impossible!  Besides the fact that it would be unrealistic in today’s work environment, email offers many distinct advantages over other forms of communication in the workplace when used properly.  Email is quick, efficient (eliminates “phone tag”), and it is a cost effective option for communicating with colleagues who are off site.  Also, there is no better tool for sending documents or communicating the exact same basic message to many recipients at the exact same time.

However, the increase in email communication in the workplace brings with it the need for better understanding and practice of professional email etiquette.  And while some may view email as casual communication and treat it as such, I always remind my clients that their emails reflect their professionalism (or lack thereof) and set the tone for how they gain respect, establish trust and manage effectively.

Now more than ever email is changing the dynamics of how we communicate in the business world, and I have found that this type of communication is most efficient and effective when everyone in the same workplace agree to some “rules of the road” such as “Who do I need to cc?” or “What needs to be in the subject line?” or “When is it appropriate to forward?”.  In order to achieve this goal, I strongly encourage businesses to adopt, educate and reinforce professional email etiquette.  The result will be clear and more efficient electronic communication that increases productivity and camaraderie across the entire organization.

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Tori Hollingworth
Tori Hollingworth
tori@speechimprovement.com

27 Jan Styles and Smiles: Brown’s Victory in Massachusetts

By Monica Murphy, Senior Coaching Partner and Ethan Becker, Senior Coaching Partner

As Speech Coaches, we look at how the art of communication persuades a voter. Have you thought about how communication style impacts a voter’s perception? By style we mean: how someone comes across to their listeners. Forget about the healthcare, balance of power in the white house, and messaging for a moment….Let’s look at the communication reasons why some Massachusetts voters eagerly checked the box next to Scott Brown on the ballot. Simply said, wrong style, not enough smile.

In Massachusetts in 2010, Martha Coakley did anything but come across as conversational and approachable on the campaign trail. Instead she came across as arrogant and elitist. Now wait a minute, we’re not saying Martha Coakley is arrogant and elitist, as a speech coaches, we’re more selective with our language than that, she “came across” that way. And in some circles, that will be ok, it will translate into confidence. In the job of an Attorney General, this serves a purpose. But when it’s a political female candidate, and your competition is already shouting from the rooftops, “Liberal arrogant elitist”… and then you “sound that way”, it solidifies the perception.

What do we mean by sound that way?

Often when Coakely spoke in public, her tone and inflection did not match the message. This does not indicate if she was sincere or not, it simply projects the impression that she is not, Remember, it’s all about perception.

Add to that, it’s been our experience at the firm that women have a more difficult time projecting a consistent confident, authoritative and approachable style. The attempts are often seen as arrogant or condescending. There must be a strong use of Pathos, emotional appeal, as well. One woman who is perceived as succeeding in creating an approachable, even charismatic style is Michelle Obama, what strikes you about her? Yes… it is her Style and Smile…

What could Coakley have done more of?

-Incorporate more nonverbal communication such as more smiling and larger gestures. –
-Use language that evokes more emotion
-Vary the tone and inflection in her voice to project a more approachable and sincere style

These are very specific mannerisms that many speakers need to learn, even in business.

Brown’s Style and Smiles…

Brown came across as comfortable, confident and down to earth. Why? Well, keep in mind, he did not need to influence voters in North Carolina, only in New England. The single most identifiable verbal trait of a New Englander is to drop the “r”. “Pahk ya cah in hahvad yahd.” Brown has a keen skill to turn this on and off in a way that has him described as articulate!

Brown’s use of nonverbal communication was very effective. Often seen with a smile or an engaged look, he appeared conversational and approachable. Now add some strategic placement of issues and messaging and you have a formula for success.

Any candidate who is running for office should look carefully at the way he or she speaks. This is not about pretending to be someone your not. It’s about knowing your listeners.

The short version from these professional speech coaches who live in Massachusetts: Coakley’s communication style simply came across as flat and even offensive to many. Brown’s communication style came across as charismatic, articulate and approachable. Brown’s style and smile made it easy for people to create a Massachusetts Miracle.

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Dr. Ethan Becker
Dr. Ethan Becker
ethan@speechimprovement.com

16 Jan Britney Gengel–Please be Alive

By: Laurie Schloff

Usually I am glad when there’s an empty seat next to me on a plane. Yet when a mom with a beautiful smile apologized for taking the middle seat, her spirit was so warm, I didn’t mind at all. As TV camera people came down the aisle to film her just sitting there. I said “You must be famous.” She told me that she was going to meet her daughter, a student at Lynn University in Florida, who had just arrived in Haiti with a student group called “Journey of Hope to Haiti”. An hour after checking into the hotel, the earthquake hit. I instinctively said, “You’re Britney’s mom.”

I had heard her husband on the radio that morning praising God and that all he wanted was Britney in his arms. They had been told she had been rescued, was in a helicopter, perhaps on its way to the nearby Dominican Republic. They had not talked to her or seen a picture and didn’t know if she was physically hurt.

Going through a personal earthquake of emotions, to a destination of unknowns I was amazed by CherylAnn’s ability to show such grace and cheer on the outside. This was a communication under pressure lesson for me and one I will pass on to clients –and myself.

I felt protective of CherylAnn, flying through the clouds to hold her daughter. We both watched CNN in fear., I gave her some juicy fruit and movie magazines. She told me that Britney dreamed of being on TV. I said that as a speech coach, I’d help her in any way and for her sure to be debut as a guest on The Today Show on Monday . CherylAnn turned to say ” See you on Oprah!” as she departed with her husband and their two teen boys to reunion with their little girl.

But this morning, the world and dear mom, CherylAnn, were told that there had been a mistake and that though eight Lynn University students arrived in Fort Lauderdale last night, Britney was not one of them.
It is now a Journey of Hope for the world, CherylAnn and her family.

Britney Gengel, please be alive.

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

02 Dec The New Boss-Dynamo or Dudsville?

by Laurie Schloff,
Senior Coaching Partner

Hal Gordon, a member of The Professional Speakers group on LinkedIN provoked my thinking about what style of leadership is working well these days.

Mr. Gordon prompted us to reflect on the November 12 issue of the Economist, which included a fascinating article on “The Cult of the Faceless Boss.” According to the article, the recent economic downturn has caused companies to reject flamboyant CEOs in favor of executives described as “humble, self-effacing, diligent and resolute souls.”

If this trend continues, says the Economist, it is only a matter of time before somebody writes The Management Secrets of Uriah Heep: be ‘umble, be ever so ‘umble.”

The Economist deplores this trend. “In general,” says the article, “the corporate world needs its flamboyant visionaries and raging egomaniacs rather more than its humble leaders and corporate civil servants.”
What style of boss behavior do you think we need in these times?
Is it possible to be ever so humble and dynamic at the same time?
Do you know anyone who fits the bill?
Send us your thoughts.

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

20 Nov THE TALKING AMERICAN TALIBAN

I have been coaching speakers of all kinds, from all walks of life, from every continent, from every age bracket, from every economic strata, and from every social class for more than 45 years. I have coached through times of peace and times or war. I have coached on topics of great and grave public consequence, and on topics of intimate and personal concern. I have coached speakers of the highest public personality and purpose, and speakers whose purpose in life was survival. I am a teacher. I am a coach. I am a guide. I am a motivator. I am a listener. I am a professional. I am very concerned.

The current level of speaking and listening regarding the expression of opinion on matters in the public domain, including opinion about people in the public domain in our beloved country is alarming, very alarming. Those people in the “public domain” whose individual career, personality and income is fed by the attention and commentary, good or bad, pleasant or putrid, are not my concern. Those people whose courage and commitment to the service of other human beings puts them into the “public domain” are my concern. Chief among these currently is our President of The United States of America, Barack Obama.

Now, I am quite aware of, and accepting of, the need for public criticism of public politicians, especially The POTUS. In fact, public criticism of The POTUS is a constructive part of the democratic process. Criticism of public policies, programs, and philosophies is an essential contribution to be made by the loyal opposition, no matter which party is in power. Such criticism is also very valuable when it comes from the “public”. It is also part of the democratic way of life that we cherish.
It serves as a valuable contribution to ” The American Way”. So, why am I very concerned?

I am concerned, disappointed, embarrassed, frightened, and angry about the type and amount of vitriol and sleazy speech we are hearing about The POTUS. No, not because I am a registered Democrat. I am not. No, not because I voted for Obama, and that is none of your business. Commentary and criticism have turned into condemnation and threats. The current spate of racial epithets and curses spewed about our POTUS and supported and justified with quotes from the bible have risen to a frightening level. I am hearing and seeing what can only be referred to as the American Taliban. It is made up of those who use religion as a basis for their remarks. Isn’t that exactly what the Taliban and Al Qaeda do when then try to justify their vile and murderous treatment of other human beings by citing the Koran? There is no difference. The fact that these members of the American Taliban are “citizens” of this country does not give them the right to threaten our POTUS.

As disgusting and un-American I believe this type of speech to be, I am a defender of the right to free speech, which we cherish in our country. However, it seems to have reached a new low, a low that I cannot recall over my 45 years as a speech coach. Of most concern is the fuel that it puts on the fire within those persons who are not able to self contain their dislike of others and who look to responsible leaders for guidance on how to express their dislike. Of special concern is this propensity for using religious justification and citations from holy books to explain and claim the right to do harm both physical and psychological. It has reached a pitch that cannot be ignored. These American Taliban members must not be ignored. They are not just a bunch of crazies. The are not just ” on the lunatic fringe”. We have always had those among us. This new brand of mongers come from and are supported by those who would be seen as “respectable” citizens. The fact is, they are hiding in plain sight. They are as dangerous as the Taliban found in foreign countries. They are the religious zealots on the right and the left.

I am writing these words to urge each and every person who loves America, who loves the freedoms we have, who loves and respects the separation of church and state, who sees the horror and pain that has been inflicted in the name of religion, to speak out. Do not simply ignore these people. Do not write them off as crazies. They are dangerous. We have had too many Timothy McVeigh’s in our lifetime. Be a good citizen. Exercise YOUR right to free speech. Do not be afraid to defend the freedoms so many have fought and died for. Whether you like his politics or not, defend The POTUS. Defend the Presidency. It is representative of the American way of life. Be part of that life. Be the loyal opposition. In this case, oppose the vile and degrading comments that are being made about our President, our Presidency. Help protect, preserve, and propagate the productive speech that has made this great country what it is.

Dr. Dennis Becker

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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

26 Oct WE SEE RUDE PEOPLE

by Laurie Schloff/Senior Coaching Partner

Bravo to columnist and author of the new book I See Rude People by Amy Alkon. Fed up, she invoices telemarketers for interrupting her evening peace, and makes considerate calls to tell others they lack consideration.  I was shocked to find that Amy lives in California.  We communication professionals in the Northeast thought that perhaps the cold well….made people cold.    Seems like there just isn’t motivation for minding manners anywhere.

All people want good relationships and a safe, pleasant community.
So,why are we creating a surly civilization?  Amy Alkon thinks it’s human nature.   Amy, I (respectfully) disagree on this point.

As a career observer of why people may not always choose the right words, I want to explore why most of us are, at least at times, not on our best behavior.  Understand the causes and then we’re ready for the cure.

So here we go with some reasons Why We See Rude People:
1. Values Issue—Being kind isn’t emphasized or rewarded.
2. Impulse Issue–Not having much control over emotions, especially when there are few consequences
3. Skills Issues–Some don’t have the words, tone or demeanor to act more kindly
4. Empathy Issue–Trouble understanding impact of behavior on others

Let us know your reasons for rudeness.  Then we’ll move on to what to do about it.
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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

14 Sep ALL TOGETHER NOW: TAKE A DEEP BREATH

by Laurie Schloff/Senior Coaching Partner


World peace is getting harder to imagine.  It seems that there’s a daily news headliner about losing it.

Kanye West just jumped on the stage and grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift in the middle of her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards to announce who HE thought should have won.

Come on Kanye, a lot of us are bonkers about Beyonce too, but somehow we learned it’s just not nice to grab awards away from winners at ceremonies.

On September 12, Serena Williams told the judges at the 2009 U.S Open that she didn’t like their call. “You can take this (expletive) ball and stuff it down your (expletive) throat.”

What separates the dignified from the sore loser?  Keeping your cool and grace.  Forget tennis for now, Serena and head directly to Anger Management Class.

And don’t forget that fiery moment one week ago.  President Obama is giving his healthcare address and Representative Joseph Wilson of South Carolina blurts out “You lie!” when Obama asserted that illegal immigrants wouldn’t receive government covered healthcare.

Did you catch Joe Biden shaking his head with a how did we get to this level of disrespect look?

Reasonable American citizens of both parties agree with the Vice President that it’s rude to interrupt a presidential speech and to insult even worse.

We need to keep our eye on the scary bonding between  irrational citizens who are overtaking town halls, hosting mad tea parties and flipping their lids when the Prez gives a pep talk to the kiddos.

It’s just not good for a society when anger becomes contagious. Venom is too easily spread online and on the airwaves and it’s worrisome.  No matter what your politics, let’s get behind President Obama’s call for civil discussion and a calm manner.

Let’s hear your thoughts

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Katie Ackerley
katie@speechimprovement.com

11 Sep Obama’s Healthcare Speech

By Senior Coaching Partner Dr. Dennis Becker
President Obama gave an impassioned presentation  on the topic of Healthcare Reform.  We have been monitoring and critiquing his speeches and speaking style from  the outset of the primaries.  We have reviewed and commented on many, many of those speeches and press conferences, etc..  This  speech had  some of the same techniques and cadence.   But, in this speech I heard and saw something different.  Yes, he had the same articulation prowess.  Yes, he had the same powerful use of language.  Yes, he had the same air of confidence.  Yes, he had the same control of the moment and the audience.  Yes, we saw the usual dynamism of a good speaker.   But, this time, I saw more.  This time I heard more.  This time I saw and heard the President  use many more “color words”.  These are words which any speaker emphasizes in a slightly different way than other words.  Those words add “color” the otherwise black and white sound of the speaker.  Mr. Obama often depends on his exquisite use of language and his precise skill at presentation.   He is very good.  Whether you like his politics or not, most reasonable people will agree that Mr. Obama is a very good speaker.
His use of “color words” was carefully applied.  We saw most of it in two places in the speech.  We heard  “color words”  used effectively in the first 10 minutes of the speech.  We heard “color words” used effectively  again in the segment that referred to the late Senator Kennedy.  To me, that was the most touching and poignant part of the speech.  The addition of this “color” to his speaking style was a positive.  It helped him seem more human and less robotic and practiced.
It was also interesting to note that he showed his comfort in using the media, in this case TV,  to his benefit.  He looked directly into the camera, at us at home, seven times.  Each time he was referring to  “Americans”, “Seniors”, etc.  It was a very effective use of the camera.
Finally,  he handled the very rare and unexpected outburst from a Republican attendee who shouted out “you lie!”.  He handled it very well.  Basically, he recognized it with a glance in that direction and went on, unshaken.   This was one of President Obama’s best deliveries of a speech.
One closing thought on a slightly different topic:  I watched the speech on CNN.  Unfortunately, the  program was hosted by Wolf Blitzer.  This  intelligent and experienced newsman continues to have one of  the most distracting, unprofessional, and unattractive speech habits.  It is his constant use of  the vocalized pause, “uh”.   Mr. Blitzer, pleeease learn control this awful habit.
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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

01 Sep I FEEL VERY SORRY FOR THEM

by Senior Coaching Partner Dr. Dennis Becker

Today I heard  another one of the ultra conservative talk show stars talking about Ted Kennedy’s funeral and the things that people said as part of the eulogies.  Oh, yes, I do refer to them as “stars” because I have to believe that is their desire – to be seen as some sort of media star or public figure which gives them the call to fill the airwaves with vitriol an childish, schoolyard name calling….but ,I digress…

Todays verbal bully was Laura somebody or else.  I’m sure she would like me to use her name.  That’s truly insignificant.  What she said is more bothersome, and should be more insulting to everyone who cherishes the kindness that humans of all races and cultures show to one another during times of pain,tears, and suffering…times like the death of a loved one…ah, I digress again…
Todays insensitive and inaccurate bullying was about what President Obama said  as part of his eulogy.   She accused the President of “politicizing” this sad event.  Todays whining claimed that President Obama urged us to honor Ted Kennedy’s memory by passing the Healthcare  legislation that Kennedy had fought for during his life.  First of all, and as usual, that is not true.  I heard the entire eulogy , listened to it twice, in fact, to be sure of what I was hearing.  He never urged such a thing.  But bullies, verbal of physical, don’t care much about accuracy or truth.  They shape it to fit their form of bullying.  So, in effect,  todays whining and bullying  was not much different than any other day, or any other schoolyard, by any other common bully.
I feel sorry for them.  I really do.  As a communication coach,  I feel sorry for their inability to be more productive and  more friendly toward those who may see things differently than they do. I feel sorry for their insistence on showing a fist rather than an open hand.  I feel sorry that they can’t rise above  schoolyard posturing . The simple fact that they can earn or buy time on  radio or tv to draw attention to themselves and stir the passions of those less informed or less capable of understanding the complexities of legislation and politics is weak justification  for using their “star” role to step on the solemn proceedings of a funeral, anybody’s funeral.   It would be nice to hear some answers to our problems rather than simple minded accusations and insults.  Who does that really help in the end?
On the other hand,  I guess these are the type of people who my grandmother was talking about when she told me,  “it’s easier to tear down a cathedral than it is to build a dog house”.
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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com