Friday, April 24, 2015

Tool: How to Get Unstuck and Get Going!

by Barbara Pratt

Whether you work in the project world or not, from time to time everyone comes up against problems or opportunities that stump them… even if the stumpage is only temporary.

For many, a problem solving tool that takes you through a logical sequence of thought which results in super-quick clarity, understanding and control can help you break through the quagmire. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is This Really Scarier Than Snakes or Death?

by Wilbur Pike

Dozens of studies have shown that most of us have a fear that is more frightening than snakes or even death: the fear of public speaking!

Over the years that I have been helping people increase their effectiveness at work, this obstacle has come up again and again. Surely we can count it among some of the bigger reasons for preventing us from taking the next step. Most of us are fine in planning the next step, even creating details to achieve it, but if one of those steps includes having to stand up formally in front an audience and talk we hit the freeze button on our plans.

Surely, it IS a little scary to make a presentation to an audience, even if we have been invited to do it, are fully prepared and rehearsed, feel great about our presentation materials and know the audience is on our side.  After more than 30 years in the presentations business, I will readily admit to sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate just about any time I am presenting.

So what do we do about it?  Well, there are lots of techniques that we can easily employ that will move the nervousness needle from paralyzed to functional.

The first of those is to realize that the fear concept is better understood as a point on a continuum, rather than as an on-off switch. Is President Obama nervous before the State of The Union Address? You can bet that he is, but that fear is well within manageable limits. In fact, the research shows that a little nervousness is good for us. It fully engages our brain, puts on the balls of our feet, ready for action and excitement. That sounds like a great recipe for effective presentations. So the key is not eliminating the fear, it is managing it to a level that allows us to be at our best.

Another technique is preparation. It may be hackneyed, but that’s for a good reason. When we have done our homework, created great slides or other materials, practiced in front of a mirror or better yet, a practice audience, our chances of success have gone up exponentially. I still practice my presentations in the car on the way to the event. I listen to phrases that work and ones that don’t. I try different approaches, different topic sequences, variable stories that illustrate my points, pace and volume. This is especially valuable for the first and last couple of minutes of your presentation.

For most white North Americans, eye contact is vital in the successful process of presenting information to any audience. While there are many cultural variables in the business of eye contact for most of us most of the time it is an important part of your presentation success. But, most folks without training actually use eye contact to increase nervousness, not reduce it. They scan their audience. They sweep their gaze over their audience without actually focusing on anyone specifically. Scanning produces exactly the wrong outcomes for reducing nervousness. It produces effects like “wow, look at how many there are out there”, or “they all look so stern, even angry” or “they aren't smiling, they already hate me”.  Not the stuff we need to feel confident and functional, eh? That’s because our brains need more visual data than scanning produces. What works much better is to slow the scan down to at least 5 full seconds per face. That’s just what you’d if you were one-on-one with that person. When you stay focused on that face for a full 5 second count you are only presenting to just one person and that’s so much easier than the whole gathered group. Of course, we move from face to face, staying on each for a full 5count, until we are fully into our presentation. My rule is to try to remember who smiled and return to that face whenever I need a save place in my presentation.

Lots of people have told me that they found great reassurance as presenters once they have gotten out of their own way and focused instead on the value of their message for their audience. Lots of people have told me that they found great reassurance as presenters once they have gotten out of their own way and focused instead on the value of their message for their audience.  While your heart may be racing as you move the front of the room, the audience is not thinking about your nervousness, except maybe as thankfulness that it isn't each of them up there where you are. No, instead they start on your side. Their hope is that you’ll be good, that your message will be relevant to them personally, that you’ll be captivating and fully engage their attention. They start out with positive expectations for you, your content and presentation skills.

In fact, your success as a presenter is NOT determined by how slick you slides are or whether your jokes are funny. Your success is determined by whether or not the information in your head is successfully transferred to your audience. You are up there for a reason, often by invitation, to give something of value to your audience. The degree to which that information transfer has been made or at least initiated is the only measure of your success as a presenter that matters. Bottom line: it’s not about you, it’s about your audience.

What have you found helpful in overcoming the fear of public speaking? Leave us a comment below.

About Wilber:

Wilbur Pike’s career in the field of human development spans more than 30 years. He has worked internally in the field of social services in the YMCA, in manufacturing, in finance, insurance, government and multiple other industries. As an independent consultant, his work has taken him through hundreds of assignments with companies all over the world.

Mr. Pike’s academic background includes an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and an MA in Organizational Psychology. He has devoted much of his professional career to the study and practice of effective management behaviors as well as within the broad field of interpersonal effectiveness.

UNF Division of Continuing Education is delighted to bring Mr. Pike's expertise to your organization as part of our Customized Learning SolutionThe Customized Learning Solutions department of the UNF Division of Continuing Education brings the up-to-date knowledge and techniques right to your place of work, shaped by the objectives and culture of your organization. While all of the courses are available on the UNF campus, most can be taught at your facility to maximize time, coordinate with shifts and schedules or to dovetail with your internal training and development resources.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Dos and Don'ts of Moving Forward in Your Career

by Nancy Dering Mock

As a management consultant and former HR Executive, I am often asked why some people seem to “get ahead” and others seem to “get stuck” in their careers.  This blog post will share some of my observations about what does and doesn't work.

First, my list of what doesn't work:

1) Hope 

There are those people who believe that if they show up and do a good job, someone will notice and they will be propelled up the corporate ladder.  In my experience, this alone doesn't work.  We all know many people who have been loyal, kept their nose clean and worked hard whose reward has been to languish in the same job.

2) Fate 

There are other people who subscribe to the “right person in the right place at the right time” theory. They believe that advancement is all a matter of timing and waiting for “their turn.” We all know people who have retired still waiting for their turn.

3) Dependence on Others 

These individuals believe that their boss or the HR Department will take interest and invest in their future. They defer and rely on others to enroll them in training or set their developmental goals.  In my experience, this places the responsibility with people who may not be that skilled or interested in helping others advance. 

Now, let’s explore a few things that do work. 

(These ideas are borrowed from two current Continuing Education workshops, “Charting Your Future,” and “14 Best Strategies for Being A Standout.”)

1) Get a Mentor.

Find someone outside your chain of command and challenge them to challenge you.   Set regular times to meet and set development goals. Pick his or her brain for ideas, contacts, professional groups and other ways to learn and grow. 

2) Keep a Journal.

Keep track of your accomplishments, at work and outside of work. Keep a running list of observations, networks and contacts for future reference. Use your journal to note issues and questions you’d like to explore with your mentor. This journal will be priceless in constructing your resume and preparing for job interviews.

3) Be the “Can-do” person.

Develop a reputation as the person who can get things done. Say “yes to the hard stuff,” those assignments others back away from. Do your homework; always arrive totally prepared and ready to be a contributor not merely an observer.  Find solutions to problems. Look for ways to improve current processes and propose changes.

4) Never, never, never stop learning.

It is often the people who challenge themselves to learn and grow who are tapped to move into more responsible work. Think about and ask for assignments and experiences that would give you new skills or networks. Think “breadth, not depth,” in broadening your experience and perspective. Set developmental goals for yourself and pursue them through workshops, on-line learning, college courses and professional organizations. Note your developmental goals and accomplishments in your journal.

5) If you want it, ask for it.

People are not mind-readers. If you have development and job goals, share them with people who have influence in your career. How does your boss know how you are doing? How do you know the requirements for that next promotion? How do you know what training and development opportunities are available to you? Does your boss know your career goals?  These questions can only be answered by your opening the conversation and sharing your goals and interests. After clarifying for yourself what you want, make sure that others are clear on what you want, too.

So, starting today, stop relying on hope, fate and reliance on others to advance your career. Start by adapting a few of these ideas that do work, take that next step and take control of your career and your future.

About Nancy:

Nancy Dering Mock is a management consultant, specializing in Strategic Planning, Leadership Development and Change Management.Her career has included founding two consulting firms, serving as HR Executive for an 80,000 employee organization and significant community leadership.She shares her experience with UNFCE workshop participants through interactive sessions which explore real-world challenges and offer real-world solutions. Learn more about Nancy at

Join Nancy at her upcoming one-day workshop "Demystifying HR: Human Resources Management for Non-HR Managers" to be held on April 9 from 9:00 until 4:30 p.m at UNF. Click here for information and registration.

Mystified by the jargon, acronyms and requirements of Human Resources Management? This full day session is designed for professional/technical managers with little or no background in managing human resources. It explores the roles and responsibilities of managers in managing other people.

Through discussion, the participants identify their most pressing Human Resource management challenges; formulate a plan for addressing them and for partnering with HR professionals in the process.