Are We Failing At Being Assertive?

Is lack of assertiveness really a problem for today’s outspoken society?

After all, we are encouraged to speak out, educate others how to treat us and voice our opinions. But many people do this badly and instead of being assertive they end up being aggressive without even knowing it’s a problem – until they have to suffer the consequences.

Watch this short video on ‘Being assertive whilst maintaining rapport’ – and see your relationships and outcomes improve as you use these simple but powerful techniques.

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Be The One They Remember At Networking Events

When I speak at or attend networking events, I see people struggling to engage meaningfully with others. Typical questions are asked like ‘What do you do?’ to which the standard reply is a 30 sec elevator pitch which doesn’t take the listener into account, nor does it get them saying ‘That’s interesting – tell me more!’ They’re then bewildered as to why the standard elevator pitch hasn’t hooked someone in and people aren’t hanging on their every word.

Engaging meaningfully with others requires so much more than sharing what you do or what you do for others. People make friends, do business with and remember people they like. So how do you really get people to like and want to talk to you? By adopting simple strategies, become memorable regardless of whether your service or product is what they want or what interests them.

WATCH this 4 min video on the hooks that make people eager to talk to you.

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Conversation not flowing? Try a different modality!

If you’ve tried everything to get the conversation flowing and yet you keep coming up with a blank wall or conflict, you may be speaking a different ‘modality’ language.

WATCH this short video and learn how to modify your language to engage others in their preferred ways of perceiving, processing and conveying information. grasp how these different modalities work. Next time you can’t get the conversation flowing, use the techniques to mirror the other person’s preferences and see your communication improve.

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Why Networking Is Like Dating

Whether we are a solopreneur, small enterprise or employee within a large corporate, the principles of effective networking are the same. A lot has been written about networking but these underlying principles are rarely properly identified, and opportunities to make connections with others are lost because the quality of what we communicate involves much more than effective networking skills. As with all communication, skills alone are insufficient to make meaningful and lasting connections with other people. Something more is needed that has to do with congruence in all communications with other people.

People working in small businesses spend a lot of time going to networking events for a number of reasons:

  • To connect with other people in the same and different industries
  • To market their services
  • To create collaborations and new business opportunities
  • To secure new clients
  • To socialise

There are some common communication mistakes that people make before, during and after networking events. These mistakes limit the benefits we derive from networking. Let’s examine these in order to make some important changes that will positively affect our business and make networking more enjoyable.

Before The Networking Event

  • We often make prior assumptions about whom we will find useful at a network event, and actively seek out these people. We may believe that only certain people at a particular level of seniority or from a particular industry will be useful, and avoid interacting with those who don’t fit our view of who will be worth talking to.
  • With this predetermined view of who would be useful, we concentrate on making links with a limited set of people. We overlook the value of many other people who could benefit us enormously in unexpected ways. These people are often known to others, and could be introduced to us if we were more open to unexpected opportunities.
  • Many of us prepare for the event by focusing on refining our elevator pitch about the benefits of a product or service, rather than clarifying our values and passions, which are just as important to communicate who we are to others.

During the Networking Event

  • Delivering the standard elevator pitch about the merits of a product or service might seem like a good use of time, but the people who are really remembered after an event are usually those who are funny, who ask questions or provide an element of intrigue about what they do. We should not be single in our focus.
  • Opportunities are lost when we are given thirty to sixty seconds to communicate about our business to the whole audience and spend it giving a list of what our product or service does. This is no more than random marketing, often falling upon deaf ears as the message is lost in the crowd or missed by others who are preparing to stand up next and do the same.
  • Avid business card collecting is another bad habit, that only gives us the daunting job later of going through a large pile of cards trying to remember each person and thinking how to say something different to each one in a follow-up email, to avoid the impression of spamming.

After The Event

  • Very few people follow up with others after an event. This may be because we can’t remember who anyone is from our collected pile of business cards or because our mind went into overload after all the elevator pitches. If we haven’t made a note on their business card of something memorable about each person, we may find ourselves wanting to connect with a one of them but no longer knowing who that person is.
  • Some of us see network events as an opportunity to build an email list, later irritating or boring people with monthly newsletters that the recipients have not signed up for or can’t remember who they come from.
  • A common habit of many of us is to ‘unsubscribe’ from any emails from people who communicate with us after an event because we don’t think the emails are particularly useful to us. Whilst it can be irritating to be put on a mailing list which we haven’t subscribed to, unsubscribing basically says ‘I don’t want to hear from you’. If the email is a genuine attempt to reach out and not a sales pitch or thinly disguised spam, then the subscriber may be considered bad-mannered, and this will not be easily forgotten.

Why Networking Is Like Dating

Networking is rather like dating – it has to be taken in stages, and if we come on too strong too early, we can put people off and lose opportunities to make closer connections. Imagine you meet a potential romantic partner for the first time. Would you walk up, grasp their hand tightly, look them in the eye and tell them all the benefits of going out with you? Of course you wouldn’t – unless you wanted them to beat a hasty retreat. Then why do it in a networking event?Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 5.10.49 pm

Let’s say you get past the first encounter and invite your potential date out for a coffee of lunch. Would you ask them to marry you or have children with you? For the majority of us, moving so quickly through the stages of a relationship would bring a very quick end to it. So why would we meet someone at an event, tell them of all our merits and why they should go out with us and then after a first 1:1 meeting ask them to make a long term commitment and ‘forsake all others’?

This analogy maybe overstated, but we all know someone who has done this. We also know of people who have overlooked others with wonderful products and services to offer but who are not heard because they don’t communicate as well as they could.

Communication is much more than speaking out assertively and clearly and aligning this with confident body language. Communication is what we convey to someone about ourselves in every encounter with them. Our messages have to be thought about carefully and aligned with our actions, since incongruence between what we say and what we do will be interpreted as our being untrustworthy. That is why a person may learn to market the value of their product or service, but if they don’t pay attention to truly connecting with other people and learning about what is important to them, they lose important opportunities.

Good Communication Starts With Us

During the research for my recent book Communicate, I interviewed twenty-two CEOs/senior executives from four different countries and a wide range of industries. Some come from organisations with hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide whilst others work in SMEs with smaller operations. I wanted to know what they thought had contributed to their success, and ask their advice about communication. Whilst there were similarities in their responses, there were also differences depending on their specific situations. However, there was one thing that they all agreed upon: every single one of them said that to be an effective communicator, a person must have an on-going high level of self-awareness and self-knowledge.

To be an effective communicator, we must:

  • Constantly evaluate how and why we react to and perceive things as we do
  • Take 100% responsibility for everything that happens to us
  • Question our part in every outcome we get in our lives
  • Self-reflect on how we have contributed to others’ reactions to us
  • Ensure our communication is congruent across time and situation

The findings of my research highlighted something very important about the importance of communication in being successful. These executives said that in order to be successful they focused on forming real connections with other people, and worked hard to ensure that every message to other people was consistent.Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 5.10.56 pm

In networking it is important to use the opportunity to connect with other people and form a foundation upon which conversations about business can be had. We may think that we have to be highly efficient, and that providing information about our business is all others want. But what works is being interesting and memorable, and showing interest in what they do and what their problems and challenges are. They may do business with us in the future or open doors for us with other people. The chances of this happening are dramatically increased if we allow such conversations to occur by building a relationship with them which demonstrates we are trustworthy and not just there to sell to them. Like dating, if we move in too quickly the rewards are unlikely to be long-lasting.

Effective communication is essential if we are really to benefit from networking. Communication is an alignment between everything we say, do and convey to others. A high level of self-awareness and self-reflection allows us to examine the messages that we send to others. And when there is congruence between everything we say and do, potential customers will trust us and be attracted to us, knowing that we are likely to deliver what we promise.

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Looking for work in all the wrong places?

Often my coaching clients say that the job market has changed dramatically and job hunting is a whole new ball game. Traditionally, responding to an advert and being the best person for the job was all that was needed. Today, a whole new mindset is required, as we have to compete with a global market for local jobs. This is specifically the case in the IT industry.

In the IT industry, an employee or contractor may spend most of their time in front of a computer screen creating complex products. The contract comes to an end or the employer decides to outsource or downsize and this highly skilled person is out looking for the next contract.

How do you find your next contract?

How do you communicate your skill set to potential employers or people offering contracts when your main interaction is with a computer? Most people I speak to search on Seek, Monster or other job sites. If you are, or might ever find yourself in this situation, the challenge is, ‘How will you differentiate yourself from potentially hundreds of other people who are also applying for these roles?’

Most job seekers only put themselves out into the market when they need a job or a contract ends. They need work and so the stakes are high. Becoming an attractive commodity in today’s market requires a completely different set of skills and the most important one is a change in mindset.

Changing your mindset

MindsetTo compete in today’s IT job market, you must shift your mindset from one of seeing yourself as an employee or contractor to one of self-employment. The biggest mistake anyone can make at work is to believe that someone else employs them. Each of us is the CEO of our own personal services company. If you think you are an employee, you will be waiting for someone to select you for a job. You must turn this on its head and make yourself attractive well before you even begin to seek a new position. You are the supplier and you must seek clients to use your services rather seeing yourself as an employee or contractor and a company being the boss.

How do clients and suppliers get together?

1. Ensure you can be found

You must showcase your skills on a dedicated website, social media page or appropriate directory. This is the minimum you must do to be found by someone who is searching for a skilled worker.

2. Become an exquisite communicator.

You must succinctly communicate what you do so potential clients have evidence to predict your ability to do the job. You must include evidence of you results and communicate this in such a way that the client wants to know more. This information shouldn’t just be a list of technologies you are conversant in but evidence of how you have utilised these to solve problems and achieve outcomes.

3. Become a trusted supplier.

TrustTrust is one of the most important attributes you must possess in today’s market. This doesn’t mean are you reliable and turn up to work. It means that you can provide real evidence that you can do what you say you can beyond answering questions in an interview.The way to do this is to consistently ‘exist’ in the market through contributing ideas, suggestions and responses in your subject area and the best way to do this is in online and offline discussions. You must prove that you are the expert. You must promote yourself long before you are looking for work because when clients are continually exposed to you before they are looking for suppliers, then you will remember you as soon as they have a vacancy.


Most people when invited to see themselves as a supplier to a client, reveal a pre-existing mindset that must change. If you feel similar resistance or find yourself in unfamiliar territory, you must now develop a self-employed mindset regardless of the type of contract you enter into with a supplier. If not, you will rely on your resume to convey your skills in an attempt to stand out from hundreds of other people who are equally skilled and looking for work.

Changing your mindset requires dedication and a deliberate choice to do so, knowing that ‘when you have been doing something wrong for a while, doing it right is going to feel wrong’.

If you want to stay marketable in today’s job arena, you must change your mindset so that you see yourself as the CEO of your own personal services company and then ensure you can be found, become an exquisite communicator and a trusted supplier.

For tips and strategies on changing your mindset and developing these skills, join our regular webinars:

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Solving The Relationship Conflict Puzzle!

What is conflict?

  • Is it about a disagreement or escalation of anger and disappointment with someone else?
  • Does it exist if the other person doesn’t know you feel in conflict about an exchange with them?
  • Is it possible that your ability to resolve conflict within yourself is related to how well you resolve conflict with others?

Conflict, regardless of who’s involved, relates to the emotions that present as internal discomfort, frustration, anger, negative self-talk and if not resolved, anxiety.

When we learn how to identify and label our own conflicting thoughts and feelings about things, we can learn specific techniques to resolve conflict with others. Without the prior (and sometimes simultaneous) ability to understand and work through conflicting thoughts and feelings, we are limited in our ability to resolve conflict with others. This is largely because we operate only from a cognitive or ‘thinking’ perspective, when the emotions underlying conflict are the ones that stop us seeing the whole picture.

Insights from Neuro-science

Neuro-science shines an important light on understanding what happens in the brain when we experience internal and interpersonal conflict.

When I interviewed Andrew Mowat (co-author of The Success Zone: 5 Powerful Steps To Growing Yourself And Leading Others), he shared an older model of brain function that is broadly accepted although it may not be 100% correct. He explained that the brain is made up of three layers:

  1. Reptilian brain at the back
  2. Mammalian brain – the mid layer where our emotions sit
  3. Cortical brain which sits on top (modern human thinking brain)


If a teacher (or any communicator) says something to offend someone, it shifts the blood flow in the brain to a more primitive part – the reptilian or mammalian brain. The hearer becomes far less self-aware, more self-focused and less interested in the things about them, and not about others. This is called the Red Zone.

However, when someone listens carefully and takes notice of the other person; when they show generosity or vulnerability in the conversation, they trigger the area behind the forehead – the mammalian brain (Blue Zone)

The teachers, leaders, friends and gurus 
we find inspirational are those who were not only operating from a blue zone mindset – they engender this state in us, because mindsets are highly contagious. The blue zone is the home of engagement. A person who is in the blue zone is very highly engaging to other people. People who are in the red zone are very disengaging.

This explains something about the conditions of conflict and how to reduce them – not only using strategic negotiating skills but by doing everything we can to stay in the blue zone, because mindsets are highly contagious.

Brain science now confirms that a person’s charm is linked with their ability
 to ‘engage’ other people because they are operating from a blue zone mindset. This is a learnt behaviour, and by doing certain things, we can trigger a blue mindset and increase our capacity to engage other people.

Importance of exquisite communication

Two key communication skills that trigger a blue mindset are:

  1. Listening in a particular way.
  2. Language skills based around questioning.


Because these occur when we are in a blue zone mindset, when we communicate we become highly engaging and communicate with impact, and engender a blue zone mindset in others, which further enhances communication. When we learn to use these skills and combine them with specific strategies to navigate difficult conversations, our communication and relationships improve dramatically.

Combining powerful communication strategies together with an understanding of brain function and blood flow, we can learn to effectively overcome conflict and work towards resolution and more harmonious relationships.

This I believe is the missing piece in the ‘relationship conflict’ puzzle.
JOIN me for our free communication skills webinars and learn specific tools and techniques to get better results in your business and relationships. Leave each webinar with 3-5 specific techniques you can use right away.

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Does your talk match your walk?

Creating a more ethical and humane workplace is hot topic amongst academics and business leaders. Many HR professionals have been imploring leaders for some time to revisit earlier personnel management practices that treated people more than mere units of production.

In Strategic Human Resource Development: Strategies and Practices I highlighted the real costs to organisations and society if people are seen only as resources to be optimised, exchanged, compared and disposed of. A decade on it would seem that leaders are starting to see the value in this.

With conferences specifically seeking to humanise the workplace and include mindfulness practices, what must managers be aware of as they embrace these changes?

At a recent conference in Sydney I heard leaders speak about humanizing the workplace and how they could bring ‘heart, head and hands together’ in their strategy and operations. As they talked about these ‘feeling, thinking and doing’ aspects of their operations, some of them omitted to see the incongruence arising out of their language. I overhead phrases like:

‘With every move towards excellence, there will be bloodshed’.

‘We have to be better than the best and we are there to win!’

‘It’s all about getting the right people on the bus and there’s not enough room for everyone’.

Such phrases led me to think that we have some way to go to ensure ‘heart, head and hands’ are on the same page. The phrases above are reminiscent of the military style corporations that modern large organisations have been modeled on. These are not without their costs to human beings who must put on a straightjacket of conformity to fit into the command and control style of leadership, despite attempts being made to make them more agile.

With one major organisation I know of priding itself on being called the ‘abattoir of the human soul’, it’s going to take more than a shift in language to truly change the culture of some organisations. However, it’s gratifying to see so many leaders usher in a new more humane style of leadership.

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How to Stay Empowered When Someone Throws Multiple Issues at You!

Do you feel frustrated when someone says something which contains several issues you wish to address?

If you start responding to only one of the issues, you run the risk of forgetting the others or worse, letting the other person get away with acting in a way that you wish to call them up on.

This simple technique will help you structure your response, ensure you address each issue and assertively take back your power to be heard.

Use it in 1:1 situation or meetings and never again feel ignored.

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