Deficient Customer Care and what you can do about it.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationBackground:
It is interesting how negative personal experiences with an organization can make you reconsider different areas of our day-to day work experiences and reactions. The following case has made me focus on what we can do when deficient customer service directly effects us.
Four years ago, a family member purchased a second-hand Mercedes Benz A Class (2005 model) from an employee of an authorised dealer for M-B in Madrid, Spain. The car had been serviced by the M-B dealer and the log book showed that all the required maintenance has been carried out properly. The car was always garaged and had never been on bad roads. In August, 2013, with only 74.000 Km of use, the car’s automatic gear box broke down and badly damaged the car’s transmission which resulted in a bill for 1.484,83 euros just for the repair of the transmission. The gear box was, fortunately, covered by a special policy with our insurance company which covered the cost of the replacement gear box. Obviously, the damage to the transmission would NOT have occurred if the gear box had not been defective and caused the breakdown.

Action taken:
Since the car had such a low milage, The family member & I immediately contacted the M-B dealer in Madrid and asked if it was normal for one of their cars to break down with such a low milage and did they think it appropriate that the client should have to pay for the repair when it was obviously a manufacturing defect. After all, one does not expect a M-B to break down after such a small amount of use! The response from the Customer Service Department of the dealer & M-B Spain was basically “Bad luck, the guarantee has expired…so…, not our problem!”

While MB were acting in accordance with their legal rights, the response created a sensation that M-B’s customers were of less importance than their bottom line profits.

NOTE: The staff  in the dealer’s repair centre / workshop were professional, courteous and understanding & did their best to help us at all times. They actually refused to let the Insurance company remove the gearbox to have it repaired somewhere else. It was the dealer’s & then M-B’s German Customer Service Dept. Responses that let the whole organization down.

We then contacted M-B international Customer Service in Germany by email and by telephone to find out if this was something that was “normal” with M-B cars. The response was polite and the same as that from the dealer which was basically: “Bad luck, the guarantee has expired…so…, not our problem!”.

We then contacted other “quality” car sellers (BMW, Audi, Honda and 6 others) and ask them what their response would be to this situation and all of them agreed that NO quality car should have a gearbox problem with such a low milage and said that they would have responded in a totally different way to M-B.

What were the learning points from this event:
For the organization

Just because a company says that “customer care is important”, their actions speak louder than their words. To put it bluntly, there are times for organizations to : “Either put up or shut up!”

Many organizations are so arrogant that they feel that they can treat customers badly and that they will accept this bad treatment. Which is a serious error: many customers vote with their feet, tell their friends about the bad treatment which results in the company losing customers that they never know that they have lost! (see the reference at the end of this article)

Many organization never think about who they might be dealing with or the power to influence others that a customer might have. Normally, the more expensive the product, the greater influence the buyer may have!

There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule which means that any organization which is inflexible in the application of it’s Customer Service policy is heading for disaster. There is ALWAYS someone who has the power to authorize the exception, but many Customer Service Staff are “afraid” to take a complaint to a higher level: That is why the C.S. policy manual exists!

What might seem reasonable and logical to a “normal” person who has paid good money for a product and have certain expectations about quality, durability, post-sales support, etc,. is often perceived as being unreasonable by member of the C.S. team because of the indoctrination received from the organization.

Anyone working in Customer Service should read the article mentioned at the end of this article as it provide valuable input on how their response to a complaint can affect their business (and possibly their own jobs!).

Latest updates:
June, 2014, problems with the petrol gauge: 4 days in the garage, collected the car, got halfway home and had to return with  the same problem!

One week later, the same problem again and back to the dealership!

July, 2015, same problem as indicated above: the petrol gauge. Now, it appears that the battery is responsible however a search on the internet indicates that this is a common problem wih many models that is known to Mercedes Benz but it appears that they can’t / won’t fix it. Their solution is to sell you a new battery for $280 to solve the problem.

For the client / “victim”

1.    Ensure that you have a legitimate complaint. For example, if you car has 300,000 km or more on the clock, you have to expect that there will be problems sooner or later.

2.    Make the complaint, in writing, in the dealership where you brought the vehicle as soon as possible after discovering the problem. Give them time to respond to your complaint. A professional and ethical organization will respond rapidly while others will keep you waiting in the hope that you drop the complaint.

3.    If there is no response to your complaint in 10 working days, increase the pressure: – Contact the National Sales Manager, General Manager or other senior directors. Often they tend to be “unreachable” or “unavailable” to mere clients, but try all available means to reach them. If there is no immediate response from anyone you do reach, wait for 10 days and then contact the people in the European or International Head office with copies of all your     documentation, etc., with copies to all the senior managers.

4.    Put your bad experience on the internet: social networks such as face book, linkedin, twitter and other open forums.

5.     If possible, put your complain on the internet in as many language as possible – the more the better. If you can do it in Mandarin Chinese, even better as many producers or sellers of luxury and EXPENSIVE goods are trying to get a market share there! Put your complaint on the Chinese social networks, too.

6.     Tell all your friends, family, colleagues, clients, etc., about what has happened; what you have done and what responses have been received from the organization.

7.    Always let the organization know that you are publishing your problem which gives them another opportunity to respond to your complaint.

8.    If, after trying all of these steps, you still have no satisfactory response, contact local and national consumer protection organizations – with COMPLETE details and documentation of the communication between you and the organization.

9.     If you thing you really do have a valid & legitimate complaint, persist with it.

– Never threaten the organization in writing or verbally.
– Never use inappropriate or offensive language in writing or verbally.
– Never exaggerate, tell lies or omit relevant data.
– Never get angry and respond viscerally.
– Always keep a copy of ALL the documentation that they send you and you send them.
– Record any phone conversations – make sure that you get the name of the person that you are talking to – They will probably record your call so it is fair for you to record them.
– If the problem is resolved, always update the status of your complaint on EVERY site you have posted on.
– Be persistent but “educated”.

To avoid future problems:
1.    Check the internet before spending money on anything. Look for complaints about the company, it’s products and their Customer Service or support services.

2.    Ask friends, family, colleagues about their experiences with the company / products / customer Service, etc., before buying.

“Caveat Emptor” may be true in many cases, but NOT always.

The content of this article is based on personal experience and any additional feedback / comments would be gratefully received.

The following article may prove useful in your negotiation with a problematic Customer Service Department. Basically, it states that “As a rule of thumb, four out of every five customers who complain but receive satisfactory treatment remain loyal. Moreover, these customers may tell up to ten or twelve other people of their positive experience. Every dissatisfied customer, by contrast, will typically share his or her experience with double that number.”

Best practice benchmarking of customer relationships and retail marketing
A Joint study by The Union of the Electricity Industry – EURELECTRIC and The Boston Consulting Group (2000)

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, January, 2014 (bilingual web page – English & Spanish)

Graphic from:

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Negotiation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

15 Ways to Work the Room Elegantly in a Meeting or Presentation.

discussion two groupsOne of the most common problems I have observed in many meetings & presentations is that many people do not appear to know – or are not interested in – how to ”work the room” elegantly in order to network more effectively. Here, I am talking about both speakers / presenters and members of the audience! Many audience members merely enter the room, look for a place to sit and then start playing with their smart phones, ipads / tablets or laptops and drift off into their own little world until the event starts. Many speakers / presenters do little more than set up their equipment (if necessary), and like the audience members, do their own thing until it is time to ”perform”.

It is vital to remember the purpose of these types of events is to communicate with PEOPLE from the very beginning. I do not mean from the moment the “owner” of the meeting calls everyone to order or the presenter takes his place, I mean from the moment that people start arriving in the room – that’s when it becomes a communicative activity.

These days, it is not enough to be an expert in your chosen field, you also have to be able to communicate this expertise to everyone in order to progress along your desired career path. This requires visibility and one way to obtain it is through elegant and effective presentations and another way is through the construction of an effective and wide  network of fellow professionals that know and trust you.  For this reason, one should always take advantage of every opportunity to expand your network and meetings are a great way to do it.

Some people become very nervous or self-conscious in these contexts and prefer to avoid introducing themselves for fear of rejection or “putting their foot in it” by saying something silly or inappropriate, however it is important to remember that many other people also suffer from the problem and they appreciate someone else making the first move! Be a leader, not a follower!

1.    Arrive early if presenting or running a meeting. Get everything arranged the way YOU want it, set up your equipment (if necessary) and then get ready to greet as many people as possible!

2.     If you are a member of the audience or meeting participant: Enter the room, stop in the doorway or just inside the room, look around to see who is there, find a place to sit & put your stuff down and then start networking!

3.     Rapidly greet the people you know well already – focus on the unknowns! You WILL have time to talk more with the people that you already know later.

4.    Look for people that look interesting – for whatever reason – and walk straight up to them.

5.     Approach groups of two or three people use their Non verbal communication as a guide to whether you can join them or not.

6.    Take the first steps, if you appear friendly and open, people will normally reflect your behaviour back to you!

7.     Give your name & job. Then ask the other person about themselves – nothing personal!!!

8.     Introduce people that you already know to people that you have just met so that they can extend their networks, too.

9.     Circulate around the room – do NOT sit down and do your thing or stand up and become a wallflower!

10.     Have lots of your business cards easily accessible and share them out. Get business cards from new contacts cards whenever possible. Actually read both sides of the card as soon as you receive them – it is perceived in many cultures as a sign of respect!

11.     During the meeting / presentation sit beside people that you do not know. Always introduce yourself to the people sitting to the left and right of you!

12.     Do not initiate conversations during the event, but you can respond – briefly!

13.     During coffee breaks, change-overs, etc., continue networking.

14.     Never complain about anything (speaker, ideas, installations, etc.) – if something is bad, remain “neutral”  – you never know who you are talking to!

15.     Beware of the cultural norms governing introductions: in Spain, kissing on both cheeks is common while in other countries it is frowned upon! Check out what is permitted BEFORE the event.

While it often common for some people to feel inhibited in certain contexts and many may find it difficult to initiate communication with unknown people, it is important to remember that the other participants are there for the same reasons that they are. This means that there are certain shared interests for everyone present which provide a real and valid reason for someone to start the communication. So, why don’t you take the first step?
In addition, it is generally recognized that an extended network can be of great benefit to all its’ members by providing a great source of information for those who need it!
If the first time is difficult, the second time will be much easier and the third time even easier and from then on you should have absolutely NO problems. Remember: Practice Makes Perfect!

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., madrid, Spain, January, 2014.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Meetings & Teleconferences, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Present before Negotiating? What a Novel Idea!

negotiation1In this article, I am working on the premise that prior to the negotiation stage of any deal, there is an initial selling stage: in other words, first there has been some sort of “sales” process – whether it is selling a product, concept or service – which has led the potential “purchaser” to the stage where there is either an overt or covert agreement to proceed to the negotiation stage which will deal with the terms and conditions to be met and are necessary for each part to receive what they require in exchange. Therefore, one might say that selling and negotiations are two completely different stages and should be treated as such.

Having been involved in negotiations worldwide for more than 30 years, I have noticed that in a great many cases there is a tendency for many negotiators to feel that the objective(s) of the negotiation is clear for all sides involved. This is, unfortunately frequently untrue and this incorrect assumption frequently leads to unexpected and undesirable consequences during the negotiation where undeclared expectations or perceptions can cause unnecessary conflict.

In order to ensure that all the parties involved in the negotiation start with a clear idea of “our” team’s starting point, perceptions, expectations, etc., we recommend to our clients that, prior to entering into the negotiation, they make a short, clear and concise presentation to the other parties involved in it, thereby ensuring that, for their part at least, there is the perception of transparency and goodwill.

The fact that you have prepared a presentation of this type is usually taken as a sign of your seriousness regarding this negotiation and shows your level of preparation which can, in many situations, give you a strong psychological advantage over less well-prepared interlocutors!

Stages of the presentation:
The first part should involve an overview of  what has been accomplished by both parts that has led up to this negotiation: Previous meetings, studies performed, problems identified, alternatives studied, the specific proposal that is going to be the subject of this negotiation. Etc., with the focus always being on the positive elements rather than the negative.
The objective of this first stage is to provide all the participants with a short review of what should be “known information”*  and helps to create a psychological “Yes  Set” in the minds of the participants. So that they become used to the idea of being in agreement with you. It also provides you with the opportunity to verify that your ideas and recollections are shared by the other parties.
We recommend that this is NOT treated as a multi direction / multi person discussion, but as a unidirectional presentation – You to them!

The second stage of the  presentation should capitalize on the psychological advantages obtained in the first part to lead the other parties into more problematic areas. It has proven useful to do this part as a presentation rather than a discussion in that once each step has been presented, the other side have a complete overview of how we perceive the negotiation and how we could achieve a win-win outcome. This part could be based on the elements outlined in “Getting to yes”** by Roger Fisher which include:
– Talking about Interests***:
– Ours: We should talk openly about what our interests are in this negotiation with the focus being on how our interests can also help them to achieve their interests (as we currently perceive them). We believe that it is useful to actually provide the other participants with a written copy of our interests which will usually be perceived by them as yet another display of our transparency which frequently leads to reflective behaviour from the other side – If we do it first, it serves as an example for them to follow.
– Theirs: We then present (briefly) what we believe to be their interests at this time with the  promise that we will revisit them later to check what elements may be added, deleted or modified. The emphasis is on the benefits that they want to obtain. The other side would also be given a printed copy of this list.
 – Shared: Presenting a list  showing our shared interests which have brought us to the negotiating table. This list is that should enable us to work together to achieve mutual benefits and serves as a reminder of why we are seated at the table should problems be encountered. Once again, a printed copy should be given out for future reference.

Once these two areas have been covered, we then move from the presentation mode into the discussion part of the process where we would go more deeply into the three areas mentioned above to modify, if necessary, each area to reflect the real interests of each party and to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of what interests are involved, their importance in the negotiation and how we will all use them to achieve a successful outcome.  The objective of this part of the exercise is to show transparency in our way of thinking and behaving during the negotiation.  Also, we are involving the other side in a collaborative task to help ensure the success of the negotiation while creating a precedent for resolving problems “together”. In addition, when the interests have been agreed, it is much more difficult for the other side to suddenly decide to change their interests which have been the basis of the whole negotiation up to that point! Finally, if the negotiation is blocked at some point, it is always useful to remind the other side of the list of agreed interests and ask them how this fits into their interests!

After the previous stage and when agreement has been reached by both parties on their interests and the shared interests, many clients have also returned to the Presentation Format to present the areas of “Creative options” by presenting a range of options that are all directly linked to the expressed interests of the other party: “We have option XYZ which directly covers your interest for ABC by providing XXX”. Whenever, and wherever, possible we recommend that both sides look for elements that “Dovetail”: Cheap for us and high-value for them or vice versa.
We have to directly and clearly link all our options to their interests as we should never assume that the other side are able to do so – what is clear for you might not be so clear for someone else.

They then link these “Creative options” to “Objective Criteria” which serves to validate them. It is important to make it very clear that these are possible Options NOT Proposals. It is vital that we have Objective Criteria which validates our proposals and reduces the risk of emotional responses.

There are bound to be some occasions / contexts or topics when it might not be possible or desirable to apply the techniques mentioned here for a multitude of reasons. However, as a general rule, we have found it to be of great use in achieving mutually beneficial outcomes when working on two or three-party negotiations.

While this type of activity is new, different and requires additional time and effort from the negotiator and their team, the results more than justify this extra preparation.

* For more information, see this article: The Three Key Structures of Effective Communication.  Short link:

** R. Fisher, W. L. Ury, B. Patton.: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

*** For detailed examples, see these articles:
1. Applying Dovetailing in a Union Negotiation – A Practical Example. Short link:

2 Dovetailing in Negotiations; Human Resources Case study. Short link:

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, Negotiation, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changes in communication over the last 60 years and their significance today. UPDATED March, 2019.


Update: 6th March, 2019.

Since the original post was published on this blog, many things have changed in the area of interpersonal communication. Among these are:

  • The great increase in the use of visual imagery to provide instantly understandable communication. One noticable element of this is the growth of both the range and style of Emojis available that can communicate feelings and emotions rapidly and easily. Web sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, instagram, Pinterest, etc., also contribute to the ease of access to visual information. etc. Obviously, this is due, in part, to the availability of cheap telephones that can connect with the internet with screens that permit the user to see videos, photos, etc., with great clarity in high definition. Cheaper large-screen TVs, cheaper personal computers and “tablets”.

  • The great increase in research in the areas of neurobiology, neuropsychology, psycho physics and other areas about what is more easily processed by the brain in terms of mental processing (Top-down versus Bottom-up), attracting attention, maintaining interest and influencing decision-making.

  • The development of fMRI, eye-tracking technology and other advanced scientific instruments has also helped in developing a greater understanding of what happens, where and when, in the brain.

  • It appears that in many countries, very young children (I have seen some as young as 4 years old) are allowed to use tablets or mobile phones so that their parents are free to use their own phone, tablet or laptop. In other words, our phones / tablets, etc., have become our baby-sitters!

  • All of this indicates that “Attention Curves” have been reduced from around 9 minutes to about 4 – 5 minutes or even less in some cases, depending on the context, content or communication method.

  • Since written text is processed differently from visual imagery in the brain,  it appears that while up to approx 14 linked images can be simultaneously processed & manipulated by “Working Memory” (W.M.), only 3 or 4 chunks of non-visual input can be processed effectively by W.M.

  • There is therefore a greater need for visual communication, especially if we are dealing with younger audiences whether they be students or employees in an organization. The old methods are, unfortunately, generally less effective than they used to be.

school 1950I have spent most of my working life involved in research, teaching, training & being involved in communication-related areas in a range of different countries and have an innate passion for observing what is going on around me. Instead of merely relying on scientific studies for knowledge, I prefer to observe closely, question, consider, re-observe, re-question, reach conclusions, prepare material, test, monitor and review instead of blindly accepting generalized or extrapolated scientific studies in MY area of expertise. classroom.2013

These are some of  the most important changes that I have noted in communication over the last 40 years.

Up to and including the early or mid 1960’s, in many countries, generally our main methods of mass communication were either by books or other written communication; radio; face-to-face spoken language. If you compare school books used in the 1950’s & 60’s to those in use today you will find them radically different: Today’s books are much more visual: colours, images, etc; less dense, and generally more “attractive” to the user.
Also, how many of us, as children, remember sitting at home listening to our favourite radio programmes and how many readers have not had that experience but instead remember watching their favourite kids programmes on the T.V.! In brief, we could define our communication then as being very “Auditive” – see below for a definition.

In the mid 1960’s, with the unprecedented expansion of television: colour vs black & white, more channels, etc.  and, in the 70’s,  the invention of “portable” video cameras & recorders with the first “format” war between Sony (Betamax) and JVC (VHS), there was a massive increase in the amount of visual material available on television and commercially – all available and easily stored on videotape for use later. In other words, the world was becoming less “Auditive” and more “Visual”.

In the 1980’s, home computing entered our lives. Sinclair launched the ZX spectrum computer which brought cheap computing to the masses and created a revolution in the world of computers: ever increasing memory size, capabilities, reduction in costs, etc., with all that that entailed for our channels of communication. The result was a world even more “Visual”.

In the 1990’s, Palm launched the Palm PDA which was the first Personal Digital Assistant that allowed people to store and retrieve all kinds of information: addresses, data, photos, music, calendars & appointments, and so on in a pocket-size device and was a precursor of what was to come in the following years & decades.

From 2000 onwards, we have had an amazing growth in methods of communicating rapidly and effectively: Internet, multichannel tv, video conferencing, webinars, etc. Which has brought us to where we are today – a world which is predominantly “Visual” with all that this implies.

Some other points to consider (in no particular order):
It might prove useful for you, if you consider the implications for each one of them.

Please think about the quantity and types of devices we have for accessing visual material at home. How many TVs, video players, DVD players, Digital video recorders (DVR), gameboys (or similar), laptops, tablets, PCs, smart phones, etc., do YOU have in your house? Who uses them the most?

– There is now access to visual material via smart phones, tablets, laptop PCs, wifi access everywhere, satellite TV, DAB radio, etc., All of these with software designed to increase access to whatever  we want, anywhere, anytime and which can be updated “Over The Air” (O.T.A.) By the owner of the device or the programme producer.

– There appears to an increase in video-conferencing (both “talking Heads” style like Skype and “telepresence” professional systems), due, in part, to the fact that many people prefer to be able to see the other participants in the conversation. Skype (and similar systems) is successful because many devices have built-in video cameras and permits “video-chat” between users while being very easy to use.

– It seems that teleconferences are still popular for virtual teams for their relatively low cost. While cheaper than video conferences, there appears to be a decrease in their use due to the lack of the visual element and dissatisfaction by many users / participants.

– It appears that many people tend to use smart phones, tablets or laptops to entertain themselves while travelling on planes, buses & trains instead of reading “real” books, magazines & papers. What do YOU do while travelling – read a book? Read an ebook? Use a tablet / Smart phone for music or videos? When was the last time you read a newspaper on a regular basis?

– There have also been great changes in teaching materials and techniques in schools & universities. While the traditional “Chalk & talk” professor is still around, many organizations are using much more participative (and interesting) ways to educate students such as case studies and other small-group tasks.

– There is an amazing increase in offers for training & development through the use of on-line courses, seminars, and web sites dedicated to specific types of communication skills.

– It appears that attention spans have markedly decreased over the years due to the influence of visual information. After all, if one picture is worth a 1000 words, why read the 1000 words?

– There is a never-ending stream of video games and devices to play them on for both children and adults. How much time do your children spend playing video games instead of doing other things?

– The incredible growth of social networks such as Facebook, YouTube and similar sites have created a tendency for people to share visual imagery (photos & videos, etc) – especially with younger people.

I could continue with this list. However, I hope this will start you thinking about other elements we could add to it.

I would like to propose that if we apply research from Neuro Linguistic Programming, linguistics and psychology to the process of communication and its changes over the last 60 years, it can greatly enhance our understanding of how we can improve it by applying new & relevant concepts.

In addition, I would suggest that many of the scientific studies done in the area of communication between the 1950’s and 2000 need to be re-evaluated due to the changes discussed in this article.

Very briefly, Neuro Linguistic Programming posits that:
– Everyone has three “Representation Systems” (R.S.) which dictate how we interact in, and with, the world that surrounds us. These R.S. are named : Visual, Auditive & Kinesthetic (also known as: V.A.K.)

– We all also have a preferred, subordinate and less-developed representation systems that we use as appropriate either in our work environment or, alternatively, outside of it. No one is ever 100% V, A or K. – we use each system as, and when, we need it. However the preferred one is the one that we use most frequently and feel most comfortable using.

In this article, the term “Visual” , “Auditive” or “Kinesthetic” refers to people who appear to have this as their preferred Representation System.

A brief, and very general overview of the characteristics of each Representation Systems as applied to communication:

– Visuals: – considered to be around 78% of the population –  This is due to the prevalence of visual input nowadays: Television, video, internet, etc. In general, they are not too worried about change as they live with it every day. They have the capacity to adapt to new ideas & methods more or less rapidly. They do, however, tend to have problems following all the detailed elements required in the implementation of detailed change; new systems, internal & external compliance, etc. They tend to use visually-oriented language: Look, see, visualize, etc. Frequently they are in jobs such as marketing & sales or positions which require creativity. They tend to make decisions rapidly, often without having all the data.

For this reason, many young children are often classified as “educationally challenged” or “Academic Failures”, etc. When we consider that the first few years of life of a baby are dedicated to learning via predominantly visual input and by “playing” as well as not having to worry about eating and obtaining the creature comfort such as clothing and shelter: everything is, or should be, provided for them. We can see that young children would tend to prefer using the visual and kinesthetic channels as it is all that they have known!. However, one day they are taken to a new place, separated from their mothers, put into a group with other children of a similar age and start having to obey the instructions of an unknown adult –  the teacher in school! Soon after starting their school life, they are asked to start thinking & processing information logically & sequentially in terms of reading & writing, etc. This is the children’s introduction to the world of the Auditive: some children adapt more easily than others – especially when influenced by their parents. As we all know, parents are role models for their children ; what the parent’s do, the kids will do so if the parent’s don’t read, the kids won’t!

– Auditives, approximately 12% of the population, tend to have the greatest resistance to change. They love structure, systems, rules, checklists, etc. If it has worked for years, it is difficult to convince them of the need for change. They usually have jobs that require detail, analysis, data, etc. The tend to use auditive- oriented language: Examine, discuss, analyse, study, etc. They tend to have great problems making decisions because they always seem to need one more piece of information. They also tend not to trust their emotions. They love to read “real” books, not electronic ones and usually carry one with them wherever they go.

– Kinesthetics (considered to be about 10% of the population) generally need time to adapt to, and accept, changes. The word “kinesthetics” often includes emotion, touch, taste & smell. They need to feel safe with the planned changes. Everything is black or white, love or hate! For them, the most important part of their work, for them, involves their contact with other people. Everything is evaluated on how it feels to them. They take a long time to make a decision and will not do so until it “feels right”. They tend to use more emotive language: feel, rough, soft, bitter, etc. They are often in people-centred jobs such as nursing; the caring professions such as psychology, physiotherapy, etc. Many sports people, professional chefs, sommelier, hairdressers,  Perfume “noses”, etc., also usually have a kinesthetic preferred system. Many politicians tend to be kinesthetics (reference….)

To personalize this, I am a visually preferred person at work. As a trainer / professional communication, I need to be constantly observing, and reacting to, the verbal and non verbal communication of my audience or interlocutors to ensure clarity in the communication. My subordinate system is kinesthetic in that I tend to respond viscerally about what needs to be done – I do not go into a deep analytical study of how to respond, I just do it! My least developed system now is Auditive: I prefer to obtain my information by a whole range of different sources instead of just depending on written texts.  Having been a university professor for many years, I was, by necessity and training Auditive. When I moved into consulting, I had to become more Visual in my learning / teaching styles.  At home, I am a Kinesthetic preferred, Visual subordinate and Auditive less developed.

(For more information about NLP, please Google it!)

What does all this mean for us today in our communication with others?

1.     As expert communicators, we need to have more knowledge about our own preferred Representation Systems and the skills necessary to use different ways to identify the Representation Systems of our audience: learners, friends, family members, colleagues, etc., so that we can communicate effectively and elegantly with them.

2.     Our learners need to learn how to use the knowledge of Representation Systems as part of the communicative process in the personal & professional lives.

3.     Excellent communicators MUST understand of the needs, wants and lacks of the audience. (See this article for more information: shortlink: )

4.     For effective communication to occur, it is vital that visual material is elegantly linked to auditive input: both verbal &/or  written as well as kinesthetic elements which create an emotional response in our audience.

5.     All learning material should ensure that all the activities and exercises incorporate the use all three representation systems – V.A.K..

6.     If we rely solely on Auditive communication such as written texts or purely oral input, we are depriving our audience of the opportunity to learn through the other representation systems.  ALL communication should be designed

7.     The excellent trainer, presenter, teacher or communicator is one who is expert in providing a “globally accessible message” whatever the preferred learning styles of the audience.

8.    Anyone who hopes to become an excellent communicator in whatever field of endeavour MUST learn how to observe how the learners or audience respond to what they do and react in the most appropriate manner.

Health Warning: This article might cause some people to have an apoplectic fit!
There are people who will take umbrage at the content of this article and probably cite page after page of detailed studies (from the last century or earlier in this century and trying to take one , or various studies  and try to apply it/them globally!) to prove me wrong instead of dedicating an equal amount of time and effort to prove me right! For them, I would be considered a radical who should be burned at the stake for even daring to question the value of scientific studies! Let me be clear: Recent scientific investigations dedicated to the study of  a specific  hypothesis applied to a specific target group, in a specific context, in a specific place and with a significant number of participants to create validity are excellent and useful in THOSE SPECIFIC contexts.

I hope this article has given you food for thought about what you are doing and, if necessary, some ideas on how to improve your communicative skills.

Your feedback would be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain.  November, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Not again! The same old story!” – 5 steps to take someone from the past to the future

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationIt appear that a common occurrence both in our business and professional lives is that someone keeps bringing up a perceived injury from the distant past and chastises us with it – even if we were not responsible for it. An example of this might be a client  who, every time we see them,  insists upon telling us about something that another employee of our organization did to them XYZ years ago – they actually appear to be reliving the incident and all the emotions that they felt at that time. Another example might be that of a family member who continually reminds us of the time when we were 5 years old and we pushed them off the swing which resulted in them breaking their arm and having to go to hospital.
Years of observation and experience indicate that arguing with people in this context serves no useful purpose.  Their logic seems to be common to that found in many other contexts: If you argue with them, there must some kind of reason for you to so, so by arguing with them you are validating their argument. If you do not argue with them, you are accepting and validating their argument! Basically, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t! I have always believed that it is better to do something different to avoid this situation.

Having suffered this situation personally for many years, I finally decided that I was fed up with always being the guilty party in the other person’s drama so I developed this brief and simple model to deal with this specific problem. The great news is that it worked and has been tried, tested and worked for many clients who followed the steps indicated below.
So here is how I resolved the situation for once and for all….

Step 1. Recognize what has happened in the past: “I realize that we have had a problem in the past”
It appears that many people who use this type of communication to blame others feel that their interlocutor does not really understand that the problem was a serious one for them and that subconsciously they want some open recognition of this “fact”. By using this structure you are:
1.    Personalizing the roles: “ I realize that we...”
2.    Providing the desired recognition that a problem existed (for them!).
3.    Contextualizing it into a past event which is now finished by the use of grammar and choice of vocabulary (“have had a problem…in the past”).

Step 2.  Apologize for what happened: “For the last time, I want to apologize for what happened”.
Linguistic note: When using this phrase, it is vital that you have a short pause between the words “time” and “I want…” and that there is a stronger stress on the word “last”. In this way we are marking out these words for processing by the subconscious mind through the use of an embedded command which are great at bypassing the conscious mind to place ideas directly into the subconscious.

For many people, all they really want is a sincere apology from someone – not necessarily the person who caused the problem – so that they feel that finally, they have been vindicated for their hurt feeling. By using this structure you are:
1.    Indicating directly and elegantly that this will be the last time that this matter is raised by them.
2.    Personalizing the apology…”I want to apologize…” WITHOUT going into details of the what was done or why!
3.    Providing the (generalized) apology that they think they deserve.

Step 3. Recognize the emotions related to what occurred: “I understand how you must have felt when this occurred”.
Often people appear to feel that nobody understands or appreciates had badly their feelings were hurt – often by a person (or organization) that they loved, trusted, respected, etc. The stronger emotional link with the person or organization responsible, the greater the perceived injury!
By using this structure you are:
1.    Indicating that you “understand” (on a logical & unemotional way) their feelings. This does not mean that you accept that their feelings  were correct or that you are empathizing with them…only that you understand!
2.    Limiting you acceptance of their feelings to only that specific incident & moment and nothing else.

4.  Equal the emotions: “I am sure that I would have felt the same as you”.
In general, it appears that most people like to feel that other people are just like them and that if someone else had experienced the same situation, they would have felt exactly the same way.
By using this structure you are:
1.    Indicating what your probable response would have been in a similar situation.
2.    Showing that their response was not incorrect…then!
3.    Using the past tense to indicate that the activity is over.

5.  Lead the person into the future: “Let’s go forward and see how we can make sure that this never happens again.  Will you work with me on this?
With this part of the intervention, we are taking the person’s mind set from the past into a joint leap into the future together and creating a mutual search for solutions to ensure that there is no repetition of this event in the future which should proved psychological security for them. We then ask for their active collaboration in this task and the usual answer is an affirmative.
By using this structure you are:
1.    Changing the roles involved in the situation from individuals into a joint shared task by using phrases like:
– “Let’s go….”
– “See how we…”
– “work with me…”
2.    Offering to accompany the person towards a more productive & useful future.
3.    Asking them to contribute their ideas about how to avoid the same situation in the future.

–     In this model, we are taking control of the situation & communication from the very beginning of the interaction.

–    This is NOT a dialogue. It is NOT a discussion. NOR is it an argument. It is a continuous flow of content with one objective: to resolve the situation elegantly and permanently. The moment you start a question / answer session, the intervention becomes a discussion. See the drawbacks outlined in paragraph # 2 above. Also, asking questions is a great way to ensure that the person starts to relive the incident and all the attendant feeling and emotions of that particular moment. Do you really want to throw more fuel on the fire by getting the person to relive everything again?

    The structure used has been found to be the most effective one to ensure that the information is processed subconsciously so that the desired result is achieved. We go from the past to the present and then forward into the future.

–     This technique uses the idea of the primacy and recency effect. The first sentence uses primacy to mark the context & topic of the conversation. The last part of the model uses the recency effect to take the person from their past orientation into an improved future where similar situations will not happen again.

–    Occasionally, if there is a long period of time between seeing the person, you might have to repeat the intervention or, alternatively, draw the person’s attention to the previous time they had started the same conversation. My usual response is something like: “Remember the last time we discussed this, we agreed that it was resolved so … (+ change of subject)

The complete uninterrupted text.
“I realize that we have had a problem in the past.  For the last time, I want to apologize for what happened. I understand how you must have felt when this occurred. I am sure that I would have felt the same as you. Let’s go forward and see how we can make sure that this never happens again.  Will you work with me on this?”

While this technique might appear to be too simple and easy to be effective, you could consider it to be an “Aspirin solution”! Why continue being on the receiving end of these comments when you could try something that works? If you have tried to end this situation before and have not been successful, why keep doing the same thing? A presupposition of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten!” Another of the key concepts of N.L.P. is “When you see it, you’ll believe it and when you believe it. you’ll see it!”

As Richard Bandler once said “The human brains works much better than you think” after he had removed a phobia from a patient in trance with one simple order: “Phobia, be gone!”
Remember: The Aspirin Solution is often the best!

Your feedback on this technique would be gratefully appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, Madrid, Spain, October, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Meetings & Teleconferences, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Sales, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

12 + 5 Advanced Telephone Techniques.

angry man on phoneIn this article. the term ‘Client” includes both internal & external clients and we believe that all of our clients deserve to be treated respectfully and professionally.

It is important to remember that the telephone is the first and main means of communication with the company and is therefore of vital importance in ensuring that any client who calls is kept happy. In addition, the telephone is an extremely intimate method of communication: who do YOU let get close enough to you to speak into your ear…I am sure that it is only close friends and family. This psychological & physical closeness mean that using the telephone correctly is an integral part of excellent communication.

12 tips.
1.   Give a polite, and sincere greeting: “Good morning + name of organization.” or “Good morning,+ name of organization + your name + speaking.”.
By giving the salutation/greeting first, followed by the name of the company/department (and your name), It lets the caller become accustomed to your style of speaking and facilitates comprehension. In addition, it helps the listener, psychologically, by making them feel comfortable and unthreatened which increases the effectiveness of the communication. It also allows the telephone line connection to connect properly.
Importantly, it permits the caller to identify the company/department or individual which provides the caller with additional psychological security.
It is also the most important piece of information that the client wants to hear. In English (and many European languages) the most important information usually comes at the end of the sentence. This is known as “End-Weighting”. If you give the name of the company first, and then the greeting, the greeting becomes the most important piece of information!

2.     Put a smile in your voice. This is known as the “Verbal Handshake”. Since you can not see the caller and they can not see you, they will judge you, and the company by the only sensory input they have – the sound of your voice over the telephone & the way you deal with them. About 55% of the information you give or gain every day in face-to-face communication comes from non verbal communication. 7% from the actual words used and 38% from the paralinguistic input: Timbre, tone, volume, stress, intonation, etc. This means that working by telephone the participants lose 55% of the information and have to rely solely on what they hear so there is a greater sensitivity to aural input, but there is also a greater degree of psychological uncertainty about what is happening because the listener can not use his eyes to get additional information.

3.     Speak slowly” clearly, be helpful and sound friendly. If you sound friendly,  the caller will “reflect” this attitude back to the person they are speaking to. Even if you do not feel happy or friendly, you must sound friendly when speaking on the phone – especially to clients. The tone of voice is very important. As mentioned above, people are much more sensitive to aural/oral input when they can not see the person they are speaking to. Recent studies have shown that a deeper tone of voice tends to be perceived as being more attractive, professional and “caring” than a high-pitched tone. Think of Barry White’s voice: deep, throaty and very kinesthetic!

4.     Speak naturally. If you have an accent or dialect, speak slightly more slowly. If you do have an accent. do not worry about it. Accent can sound at attractive and provide the speaker with a personality. In addition, There is an old saying “You can take the person out of their country but you can’t take the country out of the person!”

5.    Research shows that after 5 rings the clients’ become more and more irritated. In addition, there is often the perception that time seems to pass more rapidly when people are “hanging on”: a one-minute wait can seem like 2-3 have passed. This is usually reflected in the caller’s attitude towards the person who (finally) answers the phone. The longer a person has to wait, the angrier they become. As a consequence, when clients are angry they do not listen to reason or act “normally”.

6.     Do not say “Just one minute, please” or ‘Hold on one minute, please”. These are meaningless phrases to the unseen caller. Where are you going? What are you doing? How long will you be? Is there a definite reason for you to be away from the phone? It is better to keep the client informed about the reasons why you have to leave them holding on. When you return, thank the caller for holding on and apologize for the time spent waiting (if appropriate).

7.    Always let the caller answer your questions. Never assume anything!  Listen carefully to the client and then consider what they have said and the implications for them and, more importantly, the company. Then feed back what the caller has said removing all the negative or emotional elements to check (and show) that you have understood what they have told you. If in doubt, ask questions to clarify!

8.    Do not interrupt the caller (especially if they are angry). If you are talking, you can not be listening. One way to make an angry client even more angry is to interrupt them, argue with them, and the greatest sin of all: try to talk over them.

9.     Never put an “open” phone down on your desk or cover the mouthpiece with your hand as some phones are more sensitive than others and frequently pick up comments which damage the individual and/or the company. Always use the mute button on the telephone.

10.     When calling outside the company, do not just ask for the secretary of Mr. Smith. Ask the switchboard operator of the company for the name of the secretary and use it when you talk to her. Psychologically, it puts you in a much more powerful position and it also creates a very professional perception of you.

11.     Do not move on to another task, or call, until you have completed the first one. Finish writing one message / report / note, etc., before you move on and deal with the next.

12.     Consider how callers feel when being bounced around from extension to extension so help them when transferring their call. For example: give the name of the person they are being transferred to, and/or their extension numbers and job titles when possible. In this way, the client knows what is happening at all times. The information about where they are being redirected to reduces uncertainty for them.

Additional tips:
–    NEVER say “Can I help you?” ALWAYS say “How may I help you?” – this answer usually tells you the caller’s preferred representation system (V.A.K.) Which tells you how to respond most appropriately to their communication.
–     NEVER hold two conversations at the same time. ALWAYS focus on the person on the other end of the phone.
–     NEVER transfer the call to someone who “may” be able to help. ALWAYS Find exactly the right person!
–     NEVER say “They are at lunch”. This phrase indicates that the whole department shuts down at lunch time which implies a lot about how the organization perceives the needs of the clients and how to meet them! ALWAYS say the person is not available at the moment and offer to have the correct  person call them back later.
–     NEVER use scraps of paper or rely on your memory when you have a message to deliver. ALWAYS have a telephone message pad beside the telephone and USE it!
–     NEVER start giving detailed information immediately you start speaking to the caller. ALWAYS give them time to get accustomed to your speaking style.
–     NEVER say that an error is not your fault or blame someone else. ALWAYS remember:  Forget blame, the caller usually wants you to provide a solution!

Dealing effectively and elegantly with people by telephone is a difficult task and requires training and dedication. Every caller is different and MUST be treated in a way which is appropriate to them.

Putting time limits on calls, have boards showing number of calls waiting, average waiting time, etc., only serve to induce stress in the people dealing with incoming calls and reduces the possibility that the caller will be dealt with in the most appropriate manner.
ALWAYS remember the famous phrase: “If you look after the client, the client will look after you!”
And the corollary: “If you DON’T look after your client, there is ALWAYS someone willing to do so!”

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, October, 2013.

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What is Spatial Anchoring in Presentations and Training?

ndcmanSome “Professional Communicators” mistakenly tend to feel that walking around the stage is the best way for them to “get in contact with the audience” and, at the same time, subconsciously burn-off excessive adrenalin.  However, this can cause certain problems for the audience. This article is to provide the reader with information about spatial anchoring, it’s relevance and practical use to presenters and trainers and those who wish to develop or improve their advanced communication skills

Anchors are an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) term for something that acts as a trigger that creates a specific response or reaction in the mind and/or body of someone. For example, consider how you feel when you hear that “special” song that marks a special moment in your relationship with your other half.  The song can be considered an anchor for the reaction your body or mind produces of that “special moment”. Another example is that of Pavlov and his dogs!
There are many ways that anchors can be used both in a clinical setting and in a business one so I shall focus solely on Spatial Anchors in the indicated business contexts.

Spatial anchoring
This occurs when a specific place becomes anchored in our subconscious as having a special meaning or significance: One example might be our childhood bedroom where we felt protected, loved, surrounded by OUR things, and with many happy memories, etc. Every time we go into our old bedroom, the old feelings  automatically return! Another example is when we have had a car accident. Afterwards, every time we approach the scene of the accident, we have a reaction: fear, caution, etc.

As a trainer or presenter, I ALWAYS set up spatial anchors © Copyright 2008 Corbis Corporationfor my communication by conducting the first few minutes of the presentation or training from one specific point – usually close to, and in front of – the screen so that my physical presence (image) is psychologically linked to my verbal input and the image(s) displayed on the screen. This takes advantage of both Focussed and peripheral vision which is known to increase retention of material. This static location is known as the “Presentation Point”. One thing that I NEVER do is wander around the room talking, looking at the screen, etc., while I am training or presenting. There are various reasons for this:
–   The Australians have a great phrase for this – “Going walkabout”. to wander through the bush or (Informally) to be lost or misplaced or to lose one’s concentration. ( I want my audience focussed on me and the task at hand – and nothing else!

–     Constantly moving does NOT anchor anything in the audience members subconscious minds therefore nothing is perceived as being memorable and is easily forgotten.

–     The constant movement may be interpreted by the audience as a sign of the presenter’s or trainer’s insecurity which could subconsciously reduce the perceived validity of what is be communicated or result in a loss of control of the situation by the presenter or trainer.  Examples of loss of control include: people using Ipads/ tablets / laptops /smartphones; parallel conversations, people “off-task”, etc.

–     If you are constantly moving, how can you observe the audience’s reaction to your communication and adapt your delivery accordingly? It is widely recognized that Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) is an integral and vital component in influencing other people. The main elements being posture, gaze, orientation, proximity and gestures.  It is vital that the presenter is continually reading the NVC of the audience AND controlling their own NVC, too.

–     Constant movement makes it difficult to effectively handle different elements in the group: The Powers, influencers & hot bodies (for more details on these groups please see this post)

–     There are other, more effective ways to burn-off excess adrenalin caused by the stress of presenting or training that do not provide non verbal information about the mental state of the communicator.

–     I want to avoid giving my audience members “tennis neck” by making them repetitively turn their heads to follow me as I move around the room.

As a presenter or trainer, I want the audience to link:
1.     The visual aspects of the training or presentation (me + images on-screen: focussed & peripheral vision) with

2.     My verbal language and the brief text elements written on the screen.

3.     The emotional elements that are created by the communication.

An example of spatial anchoring that I use in training sessions is that I stand for the first 10 to 12 minutes which is when attention often starts to decrease …. and then move and sit on the corner of a table near the audience to tell them an anecdote, a short story, answer a question, etc. This change of activity ensures that attention will rise once again when we return to the presentation or training. Once this has been done a couple of times, the audience will have learned subconsciously, that when I go to the corner, they can put down their pens, kick-back and relax a bit and know that what is coming is not “pure” content. Once I stand up and move back to my presentation point, they know that some form of “content” is going to follow so concentration and note taking will probably be required. The same applies to the use of a flip chart: when I move to the flip chart, the students learn that what I am presenting is something that is not contained in the training manual and requires them to take special note of the information.

Another example of spatial anchoring is that of having one specific place where only BAD news is given and another place where only GOOD news is given. If you are sacking a group of people give the bad news from one specific place and then move to a totally different place to talk about the “good” (?) news such as out-placements, support, etc.

One of the greatest problems that many speakers have today is that of the lectern: That horrible (usually) wooden thing that stands between the presenter and the audience so that the presenter looks like they are in a trench with only their upper body sticking up and the rest of their body safely protected from the audience. Another problem with lecterns is that they are usually fixed in place which means that all type of news – good or bad – are given from the same point which means that if the same audience has received presentations in the same place, they probably have subconscious anchors (either positive or negative) based on previous experiences. I prefer to use a low table placed where I decide is the best place to hold my laptop instead of the lectern. in this way, I avoid all the problems indicated above. Also, I refuse to let someone or something determine the success or failure of my task (presentation or training) as my reputation and future depends on my success.

In summary, It is time for trainers and presenters to pay much more attention to the importance of their non-verbal communication with groups by using all of the available techniques to ensure that their message arrived elegantly, effectively and memorably. The elements dealt with in this article will, I am sure, cause many inflexible or traditional trainers / presenters to feel threatened as it required them to consider – and maybe break – the habits of a life time. As a famous, and true, NLP presupposition says:
“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten!”
Is it time for YOU to change?

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, September, 2013.

Interesting note:
Spatial anchoring is also used in other contexts, too:
In infant & junior schools where teachers tend to have “punishment” locations such as “The naughty chair” or standing in the corner.
By many parents who tell their children to “Go to your room” when they have been naughty.
In some Asian countries, in a business context, spatial anchoring is used to show an employee’s relative position in the company hierarchy. Desks near the door or front of the room = lower status. The Director at the back of the room and far from the door.

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The Three Key Structures of Effective Communication.

“A genius is capable of making the complex simple.
An idiot is capable of making the simple complex!”

Having been involved in communication skills training for many years, I am constantly amazed at the general lack of knowledge about how to logically structure communication, whether it be in a presentation, meeting, negotiation, tele- or video-conferences, emails, etc.
Many people these days still think that it enough to string a collection of ideas together and then discharge them towards the audience and hope that some of them will stay in the audience’s mind at the end of the activity.

There are three basic structures that we (should) use when communicating EFFECTIVELY with others and which help determine the success or failure of our communicative endeavour:

The first, and most vital element, is the concept of: Known to Unknown.
All of our communication should be based on explicitly linking information that our audience consciously or subconsciously “know” and accept, to lead them to a clear understanding of the new, or unknown, information that we are going to communicate to them.
In a presentation context, this would involve the presenter clearly and rapidly demonstrating to the audience, from the very beginning, that they understand the audience’s actual real-world situation and are going to present possible solutions to handle the current situation or problems.
Using the structure of “known to unknown” also helps in the creation of a “Yes Set” in the subconscious mind of the audience which helps in forming a tendency to accept that the presenter’s ideas and proposals are correct!
In a more general context, I am sure that when we phone the office or family members, the first thing we do when they answer the phone is identify ourselves (providing known information) and then asking for unknown information (Has anyone called? Any emergencies? Any news?, etc). This is something that we do instinctively so why not doing in other contexts?

“Never overestimate your audience’s knowledge and never underestimate their intelligence.”  (Glenn Frank, 1887-1940)

general.specificThe second concept is that of going from “The General to the Specific”.
This could be represented visually as a funnel which serves to limit & constrain the amount of information given at each level from the wide open top to the tip of the funnel.

There appears to be a tendency for certain types of communicators or presenters to jump straight into really specific and detailed information without having considered, or used, the first concept indicated above: “Known to unknown” which places the communication within a known context. In addition, they apparently assume that (in no special order):
– The audience members have the same basic interest in this detailed data that they have.
– The audience are capable of, or interested in, understanding / analyzing the detailed data and its implications.
– The audience need to know that the presenter has the data thereby proving that they are professional, valid, conscientious and trustworthy interlocutors.
– The audience want to (waste?) invest extra time in detailed analysis of the data.

We always ask one simple question: Why not just give the key points during the presentation and put the details in support documents and hand them out at the end of the presentation?

In a marketing presentation, the presenter could start briefly with the global or general overview, move on down to the national situation and then focus down even more to a more specific geographic location such as a state or county followed by an even more reduced context such as a city. In medical presentations, presenters can take the data down to the level of a specific hospital.

The third and final concept is that of going from “The Simple to the Complex”.

Many people seem to believe that their own ideas are as easily accessible and understandable by others as they are to themselves! Unfortunately, this is often not the case. I am reminded of a case of a friend’s new born baby… to him, it was obviously the most beautiful creature even to be born on this planet. However, to friends and family, it was actually quite ugly; small, purple, wrinkled, with gigantic hands and feet and looked like a new-born frog! However, once our friend started pointing out each of the individual “beautiful” bits of his son and linked them to family members that we knew, our perceptions changed – because he went from the simple to the complex to show the overall beauty of his son.

This process involves starting with the most basic or simple elements of any idea or product and gradually adding and linking elements, step-by-step, to build up a complete pictures of what is being discussed.

PowerPoint has proven to be a very useful tool in structuring elegant & effective communication by allowing communicators (presenters, trainers, negotiators, etc) to apply the structures mentioned above in a user-controlled step-by-step sequence which takes the audience’s needs, wants and lacks into account while achieving the speakers communicative objectives.

These concepts are applicable to all of our communication as mentioned above. While it may take extra effort to prepare the material for the communication, the investment in time & effort will pay off in improved results because you are applying psychology to the structure of the communicative event.
Many people seem to feel that fast communication = effective communication. However, this is an error that frequently leads to unclear communication which, in turn, may lead to a failure to reach the desired communicative objectives.

We usually have ONLY one opportunity to deliver our message to our audience so it is of paramount importance that the message arrives EXACTLY as we intend it to. There are NO second opportunities! So a clear, logical and precisely-structured communication is one of the key factors in ensuring that we meet our communicative (business or training) objectives.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, August, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Leadership, Meetings & Teleconferences, Negotiation, Sales, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Handshake: Not Just a Greeting, more a Power Game!

Since Non verbal communication should always be discussed on the basis of three key elements: Culture, Context and Cluster, this article is written with the following areas in mind:
Culture: European, North American, Australasian and other areas that share similar cultural characteristics.
Context: Business meetings.
Cluster: In addition to the handshake, we are assuming that there is appropriate gaze; orientation, proximity and posture as expected in this context.

Please note that people usually shake hands instinctively and without prior planning or consideration of the potential psychological consequences so we have to consider other elements of the communication before reaching any conclusions about them.

Nowadays, in a great many cultures we use the handshake as a way of welcoming or greeting a person. This handshake comes from the old tradition of showing ones strength via the use of arm-wrestling where the winner is the person who has their hand uppermost – in other words, they literally have “the upper hand.”
how-to-arm-wrestleWithin the business context, when shaking hands there are six main ways of offering the hand and each one has implicit psychological meaning & interpretation:

somos21.     The “normal” handshake where the hand is offered at 90º to the body and is subconsciously perceived as a handshake between equals. It is a neutral interaction where neither person presumes to be superior to the other or seeks to dominate them.

2.     The spear: This is when a person offers their hand palm down towaHorizontal handshakerds the other person – like thrusting a spear towards them. In Spain, it is like the final thrust used to kill the bull in a bullfight. People who use this type of gesture tend to be somewhat egotistical and like to dominate others. If the other person accepts this style of handshake, it means that their palm will be face upwards and they are subconsciously accepting that the other person literally has “the upper hand” and that they are subordinate to them! The solution to this behaviour is to take the hand and IMMEDIATELY turn it into the “normal” handshake position.

glove handshake3.     The Glove: This is where one person puts their left hand on top of the “normal” handshake thereby trapping the other person’s hand. It is another way of showing who actually has “The upper hand”!

4.    The double glove: This is the response to the previous item (the glove) The Double glove handshakeperson who has their hand trapped places THEIR left hand on top of the other person’s left hand and thereby assumes the status of the person with the upper hand!

hand on upper arm

5.     Hand on bicep: Some people, especially kinesthetics, like to shake hands with their right and, at the same time, use their left hand to firmly grasp the right biceps of the person they are talking to. This action allows the kinesthetic to actual feel, and share, the physical power of the person and also indicates that they have the upper hand as it is, literally, above the hand of the other person.

6.    Hand on shoulder: The final category is when one person places hand on shouldertheir left hand on the right shoulder of the other person. It may, in certain situations, be perceived as kindly or paternal however in business it may be perceived as indicating that this person literally has the upper hand.

Frequently, this converts into a power game. People start at, for example, number 2 and then each participant may escalate the “game” to the next level.

NEVER shake hands with anyone that you do not want to interact with such as door-to-door salesmen, beggars, Religious fanatics, etc. The mere act of shaking hands with someone instantly personalizes them and makes it psychologically much more difficult to break off the conversation.

It is vitally important in today’s competitive world that business people are aware of the psychological implications of their non verbal communication – from the VERY beginning of their interaction with other people. Remember: You NEVER have a second opportunity to create a first impression!

(C) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, July, 2013.

Some images have been supplied

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Istanbul: Touts, Tips and Levels of Rapport.

turkish rest tout

Turkish Restaurant Tout

This article was written during a working visit to Istanbul, Turkey. in June, 2013. There is a mixture of topics that I hope you find interesting & useful.

Definition (verb) : To describe or advertise boastfully; publicize or promote; praise extravagantly.
E.G., a highly touted restaurant.
Definition (noun) : A tout is any person advertising, promoting, or otherwise discussing a commercial business (often without disclosing that they are being paid to do so).

In this brief article I intend to discuss six different areas:
1. Dealing with touts.
2. Levels of rapport.
3. Avoiding being ripped-off with a common technique.
4. Tipping.
5. Turkish wine & beer.
6. The Grand Bazaar.
7. Foreign exchange.
8. Public Transport in Istanbul

One of the things that I love about being an international consultant is that I have the opportunity to travel to different countries and observe & study, at first hand, the different communication styles in a wide range of both business and personal contexts. I have just had the experience of working is Istanbul, Turkey,  after an absence of more that 35 years. It is still a fantastic, fascinating and complex city which combines the old and the new. However, I have seen an interesting and yet disturbing change in the communication styles with foreign tourists which may adversely affect the overall perception of the city.

1) Dealing with touts:    

Galata Bridge Restaurants

Galata Bridge Restaurants

In the main tourist areas of Sultanahmed and the Galata Bridge, there is a great deal of pressure to sell and a vast range of competitors selling the same products so there is now an un-ending stream of shop & restaurant touts (all male) pestering tourists with one objective: get you into their shop or restaurant and spend money. There are also street vendors who try to sell you their products. They all possess a whole range of tactics that tend to “violate” our culturally imposed “Levels of Rapport” (see below). Many people find it difficult to respond appropriately to the often relentless pursuit of these touts & sellers – especially if you appear to be an easy “victim”.

The tactics that these touts tend to use vary depending upon their foreign language skills. Many of them in the main tourist areas appear to be multilingual while those in less popular areas tend to rely on a very basic vocabulary to try to “sell”.

In general, the steps the touts use tend to follow these basic stages:
Step 1: Identify your nationality (often based on stereotypes) & language used.
Step 2: Pretend previous contact via the use of first names: In rapid fire succession, they use the most common first names used by your nationality to try to get you to respond on a personal level!
Step 3: If the previous steps do not detain you, they move on to the “Direct body block / confrontation” they will physically block you passage to try and divert you into their shop or restaurant!
Step 4: They try to shake hands with you. This physical contact is used to personalize & humanize the tout and makes it much harder to resist their spiel.
Step 5: The penultimate stage is the “Hand in front of your face”: they will approach the potential client and (aggresssively) raise their hands, palms towards you in an effort to stop your progress, make you pay attention to them, and follow their instructions!.
Step 6: The action of last resort is for them to physically take your arm and literally try to pull you into their restaurant or shop! What would you do in your country if someone tried this technique on you?

Techniques to use against them.
– The best & easiest technique is to totally ignore them.
– If with someone else, continue talking to them.
– Avoid giving ANY verbal response: (no jokes or “smart” comments) as it encourages them to apply greater pressure.
– Continue walking without deviation from your course.
– Avoid reading the menu / taking a flyer or business card, etc.
– Never shake their hand or have any physical contact with them as this personalizes them in your subconscious mind.
– Do NOT look back at them afterwards.
– in summary, keep them at 0% rapport (see below).

NOTE: Many of these techniques can also be used against door-to-door sales people (mobile phone service providers, energy suppliers, etc)  or anyone else that you do not want to interact with.

2) Levels of Rapport.
There are various methods of classifying the levels of rapport that are possible. This is the model that I feel is both simple and accurate.

Sample situation: We are at a bus stop early in the morning, other people join the queue waiting for the bus. We do not know anyone and no one knows us. There is no rapport with anyone.
(Other situations might include our first day in a new gymnasium, the first time we use a local swimming pool, etc.)

At the most basic level we have 0% Rapport:
– We do not look at them or acknowledge them in any way. For us, they do not exist.

At the next higher level we have minimal rapport (which might occur after a couple of days of seeing the same person every day)
– We look at them and possibly nod our heads &/or smile: we recognize that they exist and that we are sharing a similar space. We probably do not talk to them.

The third level of rapport may be reached after a few more days of “contact” with the person.
– At this stage we initiate, or respond to, non-intimate & neutral verbal communication: the weather, the delay between buses, or any other topic which does not include intimate personal information, just facts & information. We might exchange names at this level.

The fourth level of rapport can occur after a period of time at the previous level.
– At this level we start to open-up a little bit more. We subconsciously feel that we have a “connection” with the person and we tend to reveal more personal information and expect to receive the same kind of details from the other person. This might include ideas & opinions (both positive & negative) We tend to look for similarities between us and them.

At the fifth level we have rapport that includes the expression of feelings & emotions. I am like you. we are similar.

The sixth level deals with authenticity & congruence: I am being sincere & honest and I accept you and am being myself when we interact.

Full 100% rapport occurs when we have a close & harmonious relationship; a high level of trust & empathy and mutual understanding.

3) A common rip-off technique so Beware!
One of the most common tricks used to rip-off tourists is called “The Confusion technique” and consists of the salesman talking about prices in Euros (or any other currency) and then suddenly changing to Turkish Lira and talking about, for example, 50 TL vs 15 Euros (fifty vs fifteen). There are many words that, (especially when mispronounced by non-native speakers of English,) may sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things. In addition, the sellers tend to have strong accents which adds to the difficulty of understanding them. Finally, to top it all off, they start using a calculator while talking to the potential buyer. There is so much going on visually, verbally and physically that many people get confused and end up paying too much for their purchase. It is a joy to observe from afar but hell when you are involved in it!
Recommended Solution: As soon as the charade starts, leave or accept the consequences.
Alternative Solution #1: Recognize the game and play by YOUR rules and only work in one currency.
Alternative Solution #2: Stay and play mind games with the salesman and “may the best player win”.

4) Tipping in Istanbul:
Many restaurants are now adding a 10% service charge to the restaurant bill without informing the client until the bill comes. Pay it if you feel the service has been worth it. If it has not, don’t!
There is too much competition for clients for the restaurants to become upset if you do not want to pay the service charge.  Normally, people leave what they feel is appropriate. Only Americans leave 15% or more. It appears most other nationalities leave much less.

5) Turkish wine & beer: 
Wine and beer are available in most restaurants that cater to tourists. However, in restaurants close to religious buildings alcohol is not usually available.  Turkish beer is very good. Turkish wine is  expensive for the quality provided. A “Cheap” bottle of wine costs around 40,00 euros. Most wine is a mixture of different grapes which produce some interesting taste sensations. There is a drinkable Merlot (called ANGORA) available for around 40,00 – 50,00 euros! If you are a serious wine-lover, we recommend that you buy your wine in the duty-free in the airport before you leave.

6) Avoid The Grand Bazaar:
It is one of the worst places to be besieged by touts and all of them promising that they “don’t haggle” as their prices are fixed and fair!  If you enter the bazaar at door 7 and walk straight through it and leave at door 17, in the shops in the street in front you can find the same products much cheaper – with little or no haggling.

7) Buying Foreign exchange.
Buy your Turkish currency when you arrive in the country. Buying it before you leave your own country can cost you a lot of money: in Spain, for example, the bank exchange rate plus commission can cost you up to 18% of the money you change! In Spain, avoid Bankia! The rate in Istanbul airport is NOT the best one available so wait until you arrive in the centre of the city and then use an authorized money-changer.

Public Transport in Istanbul is Great Fun!
We took taxis twice in Istanbul. The first time was organized by the Hotel and both the trip and the price where as agreed. The price was based on the taximeter which showed 15 TL and that is the sum we paid. However, on the return trip, we decided to catch a taxi at the taxi rank in front of the museum we had visited, we asked the first taxi driver for a price and he quoted us 30 TL. We then asked the second driver who quoted us a price of 25 TL. We then approached the third driver and offered him 15 TL as that was what we had paid to arrive at the museum. With an expression of disgust on his face, he agreed to take us back to our hotel for that price. However, when we arrived back at the hotel, he rudely told us to get out and sped off. Obviously, he did not like haggling (& losing)!
However, in the city there is a great network of trams that are excellent: clean, rapid, and reasonably priced. (3 TL per trip). We recommend that if your hotel is a bit outside the main tourist areas, you find out where the closest tram stop is and that you use the tram network in your trips around the city. They are a great way to see the city!

I hope the tips given here help you to enjoy Istanbul and avoid some of the inconveniences & problems of the city.

Your feedback would, as always, be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, July, 2013.

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I say “Yes”, you say “No”. I say “High”, you say “Low”: Dealing with a Polarity Responder.

negativityMike is the new leader of an international virtual team and in his first meeting with team members, he discovered that he had a team member who appeared to resist every suggestion made by other members of the team: this person either flat-out rejected the ideas; pointed out the potential problems as being unsolvable; presented a list of reasons why they would not work and generally showed how smart he was (in his opinion). Mike hoped that this would not be an on-going situation. However, in a video conference a month later Mike discovered that the team member continued behaving in the same way. Afterwards, Mike spoke to some of the other team members and the team member’s ex-boss & discovered that this was “normal” behaviour for this person.  Mike decided that things had to change so started researching ways to deal with this situation. This is what he discovered: He had a Polarity Responder in his team!

What is a “Polarity Responder” (P.R.) or “Mismatcher”?
1.  A P.R. is someone who tends to disagrees with everything that you, or other people, say.
2.  They often do exactly the opposite of what you want or ask them to do.
3.   In meetings they always present reasons for NOT doing something instead of looking for reasons to do it!
4.  Frequently, their first response will be to produce an exception to the rule.
5.  Often they see their response as an opportunity to show how smart they are.
6.  They tend to be analytical and very intelligent.
7.  They can destroy a great idea with a single syllable.

In order for them to be “successful” in their opposition, they need to break rapport with the other person / people and the easiest way to do it is by using “BUT”:
E.G.,     “I totally agree with you. BUT …(followed by arguments against it)”
“I love your product, BUT…(followed by arguments against buying it)”

As I am sure you all know, subconsciously, the word “BUT” invalidates everything that has been said before it. It should only be used when you CONSCIOUSLY decide that you want to use this form to achieve a specific communicative objective.
For example: “I love the idea, BUT there are some problems…” (In other words I don’t really love the idea!”
As an alternative to the use of “BUT” in general, I would like to propose that you use alternatives such as those indicated below:
“I love the idea and there appear to be some problems…” (Both elements are valid)
“I love the idea. However there seem to be some problems…” (Both elements are valid)
“I love the idea, nevertheless there are some problems…” (Both elements are valid)
“I love the idea. On the other hand there are some problems…” (Both elements are valid)

Specific techniques for dealing elegantly with Polarity Responders:
1. Use the “Polarity Twist” – put everything you say in the negative (+ BUT).
“I think that you will probably not agree with me, but…”
“You are probably are not going to like this, but…”
“This may not be the best idea that I’ve ever had, but…”
“I don’t know if this is something you’d like to be involved in, but”
“I have an idea that probably won’t work, but I wanted to see what you think.”

When phrases similar to those indicated above are used, a common response to the “Polarity Twist” is a positive reaction to the negative: psychologically you are asking them to respond to your negative which, in their mind, requires an opposite response. The opposite response to a negative is, obviously, a positive!
Example: “ Well… no. I do actually agree with you.

An example close to home is that of putting young children to bed. Many resist when older siblings are allowed to go to bed later. A direct order often results in an argument. Use the polarity twist and avoid the problems!
Tell young children: “You can’t go to bed and you have to stay up all night!”
Common response:     “But Mummy, I’m tired. I want to go to bed.”

The reason this technique works is that is based on how the human brain processes negative orders. When our brains hear a negative, in order to understand it, it has to process the positive first.
Do NOT think of a pink Elephant!
What are you thinking about?
Probably a pink elephant!
I told you NOT to think about a pink elephant so why did you disobey my instruction? You couldn’t help yourself, could you?

2. Recognition & Limitation.
In a meeting where a P.R. is present, openly recognize their special skills and then limit their contributions to specific topics and moments. Frame their responses within special tasks or jobs most fitted to their skills & abilities:
E.G., “John, you have a special skill in identifying the little things that might prevent the project from being successfully completed. I would like you tell us, in the last five minutes of the meeting, what these could be. Until then, I would like you to listen carefully and note down each one for your part of the meeting.”

3. Identify the negative points before they do.
“I think we could do this, and I can see it has certain problems such as…”
– The fact that you have identified the negative points will often lead the P.R. to consider positive ways to resolve these problems.

4. Exageration of negative effects.
– Take the bad or negative points that they bring up and exaggerate them to an extreme level.
“O.K., if the problems have no solution, let’s just fire everyone, sell off all the stock, close the building, go home, explain to our family that we can’t pay the mortgage and that we will be soon living under a bridge….etc”

5. A hopeless situation:
– Tell the P.R. that the situation is hopeless and that not even they would be capable of finding effective solutions to solve the problem. Then stand back and watch them tell you how it could be done!

While Polarity responders can appear to be a nuisance in meetings, presentation, team activities, etc., they are normally very intelligent and, when redirected properly, their skills and ability can greatly enhance the results obtained. When you apply the techniques indicated above you are clearly demonstrating your communication and leadership skills to your companions which can positively influence your future career prospects!

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid Spain.  June, 2013.

Bilingual web page:

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What Do I do with my Hands while I’m Presenting?

For many thousands of years, human beings have looked at the hands of people approaching them to see if they are holding any kind of weapon or instrument that could possibly cause injury or death. It is instilled in our genes to perform this subconscious act of self protection whenever we meet someone.

This has implications for us in our daily communication with both groups and individuals. It is especially important when doing training, making presentations within our own organizations or to external audiences such as potential clients where we need to project an image of honesty and non aggression or in other communicative activities such as speaking in public generally whether you be a “company spokesperson”, politician, a speaker at a conference, etc. This means that if we wish to be perceived by our audience as an excellent and congruent communicator, we need to be able to consciously control our non verbal communication to ensure that our subconscious does not transmit unintended or incongruent messages.

Possibly the most important points to remember in any presentation, training or public speaking context are:
Always : 
Keep your hands in full view of the audience:
Since we always look at the hands of people approaching us it is imperative that in any communicative situation, our hands are in full view as a clear sign that we are not planning to do harm to the other people present. Hiding your hands implies that you are hiding something or not being totally honest. This recommendation applies equally whether you are sitting behind a desk or table or standing up.

Keep your hands above the waist:
Since we look at other peoples’ hands, when communicating, our hands should always be above our waist in a relaxed way.

The Ideal Posture

The Ideal Posture

This photo shows you the ideal position.

This posture shows the audience that you are in control of yourself  and your non verbal communication. It allows you to gesture naturally and easily. We recommend that you use a presentation pointer to show your PowerPoint deck to the audience in a presentation or training course and this posture allows you to use it naturally. You can also use a sign pen if working on a flipchart or whiteboard, etc. Do NOT hold sheets of paper in your hands as this often leads to what is known as a “Pase” in bullfighting: sweeping the sheet of paper from one side to another as if fighting a bull which distracts the audience’s attention. It is fine to hold, & use, small index cards in your hands.

Use your hands to gesture and burn off excess adrenalin.
Many people produce excessive amounts of adrenalin when required to speak in public due to the psychological and physiological responses which this activity can produce: fear, stress, nervousness, sweating, etc., which can have a range of unexpected and undesirable consequences for the speaker. The best way for us to burn-off the excess adrenalin caused by the stress of presenting or training is to use our hands to help “illustrate” our communication by the use of drawing pictures with our hands; expressing emotions or relationships between elements. There is a school of thought that posits that gestures should NOT be used in presentations, training, public speaking, etc., as it “distracts” the audience from the main message. We propose that if the gestures are rehearsed, forced or incongruent, then, and only then, will the audience be distracted.

Gesture naturally.
One of the most basic forms of communication is that of gestures. It is one of the first forms of communication that we use as babies and, as adults, when we are in a situation where we do not speak the local language we often resort to gestures to communicate – usually with a certain degree of success! Gestures add a visual reinforcement to spoken language which is invaluable in effectively communicating our message.

Note: Many politicians tend to “learn” certain gestures that they believe add credibility to their spoken language, however they tend to overuse these gestures and they often become objects of ridicule by comics on television and in the mass media. An excessive or exaggerated use of gestures is obviously to be avoided. Just be natural!

Another point to remember is that the physical placement of the hands can carry an often unexpected and unintended meaning. Whenever we look at something there is always what is known as “The Center of Gaze” that is the specific object that we are looking at and is often the trainer, presenter or speaker, etc. There is also what is known as “Peripheral Vision” or “Outside the Center of Gaze” which can be up to 130-135° vertically and 200-220° horizontally of all that we see and that enters into, and influences, our subconscious memory.

The following are examples problems with the placement of hands so it is recommended that you avoid the following posture / gestures:
– Hands in front of the groin area: (below the waist & “Center of gaze” ).
– Hands behind the back: (Hidden hands)
– Hands in pockets: – Often a part of the cluster of non-verbal indicators used to identify if a person is telling lies. (Hidden hands)
– Hands hanging loosely by side: (below the waist & “Center of gaze”).

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, our hands play an important yet often undervalued part of our communication with individuals and groups and it is time for us to pay much more attention to this often neglected area.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates S.L., Madrid, Spain.

May. 2013

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Leadership, Meetings & Teleconferences, Negotiation, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Sales, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 8 Principal Problems of Effective Listening.

hand.earOne of the most important skills required of anyone who wants to be an excellent communicator is that of being able to listen effectively. However, there are many people who seem to lack this powerful and vital resource which results in a less than perfect communication. It is interesting to note that our studies over the last 10 years indicate that many people believe that they are good or great listeners – until they do our test! While there are many factors that can influence the efficacy of listening in this brief article I intend to focus on the most important eight principal problems. We believe that the elements are all of equal importance.

Definition: Listen. (intentional)
To make an effort to hear something with thoughtful attention; To pay attention; to heed; to take notice of and act on what someone says.

Whenever we talk with someone else about an experience, usually our verbal description will delete a great deal of that experience – often because we assume shared knowledge &/or experiences about the topic. Our words take a very complex & richly detailed experience combining visual, auditive & kinesthetic elements and summarize it so what is left is a brief outline of the total experience. Whenever we are involved in conversation, we gather information from the other parties involved. However, we also draw on our own experience in making an internal representation of what the other person says in order to:
a) understand it.
b) know what we lack and need to know in order to complete our internal representation.

Frequently, there is a tendency for both us and the other parties involved to use internal filters that delete, distort or generalize the information being given and it is these elements which can adversely affect the efficacy of our listening skills. Some of the most common problems that can occur from these filters are:

Problem 1: The Law of Closure.
When we are involved in oral / aural communication, it is impossible for us to give /receive all of the information required so as senders / receptors, we have a tendency to make certain assumptions about what is being said based on the context, the content, the other participant(s), etc. When certain elements are missing, we instinctively tend to fill-in the “blanks” with information drawn from our own experiences so that instead of having partial information, we need to feel that we have “all” of the information – even if it is wrong! – This, in turn, can lead us to draw inappropriate or incorrect conclusions about the message being delivered and respond in an erroneous manner.

Problem 2: Law of Field.
In order to listen effectively, we need to be able to focus on the person we are communicating with and concentrate on what they are saying (and NOT saying) and any distractions such as the movement of people in the same area, ringing telephones, etc., are things that may prevent us from effectively completing this task. This is noticeable during presentations & meetings when someone stands up during a presentation and leaves the room – the audience gets distracted, stop listening to the presenter and focus on the person moving thereby possibly missing an important part of the message from the presenter. The same result occurs when a mobile phone rings or a person starts using a tablet or laptop. People usually focus on the moving object instead of the static one!

Problem 3: Prejudice
A common problem that occurs in listening is that of prejudice; either conscious or subconscious. This might be related directly to the other participant(s) based on our previous experiences with them either directly or indirectly or based on the topic being discussed, the environment, our own emotional or physical state or other factors. A frequent example of this can be found in the treatment of politicians by people opposed to their views. We need to be aware of our prejudices and learn how to separate the person we are communicating with from the topic of conversation (separate the person from the problem!).

Problem 4: Selective Listening
Unfortunately, we often enter into a conversation with either our own “game-plan” about how we are going to control the conversation in terms of topic(s), structure, duration, etc., or preconceived ideas of how it will develop instead of actually listening to our interlocutor. This means that we tend to listen for what we want to hear instead of what is actually said and filter out anything which does not fit into our plan of the communication or our own ideas.

Problem 5: Time
To listen effectively, we need to be able to dedicate time to the task. Any conversation where one or both parties are worried about the time available is bound to suffer from listening problems. In a business context, we have to ensure that we have programmed sufficient time to be able to communicate effective with the other parties involved.

Problem 6: Logical structure / Congruence
Most people generally have a tendency to expect, and look for, logical sequences or structure in their communication. In an aural / oral conversation, if we believe that “A” is true, and “B” is also true, then “C” and every following element must logically fit with the information preceding & following it. If this does not occur it conflicts with our expectations and frequently creates incongruence which leads to a block in the communication.

Problem 7: Presuppositions (Going beyond)
Some people have a tendency to extrapolate or go beyond what they hear while others tend to remain constrained by the actual “data” that they have obtained during the conversation. It is important that we are aware both of our own tendencies to do this as well as that of our interlocutor(s) and ensure that if we have a tendency to go beyond the information given that we communicate this to our interlocutor(s) and check if they are in agreement.

Problem 8: Questions
In order to resolve many of the problems indicated above, we need to be able to elegantly ask questions to clarify the unclear elements in the communication. While the traditional “open” and “closed” questions serve some purpose, an excellent model to follow is that of the “Meta Model” which is a set of questions that allow you to gather information that clarifies someone’s experience, in order to get a fuller representation of that experience.

Effective listening can only occur when there is an understanding about how experiences are stored in memory and communicated to other people. The concept that “What goes in is what comes out” is incorrect and to be an effective and elegant communicator, it is necessary to know how to listen properly and ask the right questions to uncover the elements dealt with by the filters of deletion, distortion and generalization.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain.

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Dare to Find Out if You Are a Bad Boss!

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation(18 Indicators of a bad Boss)

This article was initiated by comments made in a series of meetings and interviews conducted with different groups of highly qualified professionals in various types of organizations including hospitals, health care organizations (Pharmaceuticals & medical devices) and other multinational organizations in such diverse areas such as banking, information technology, food & drink, consumer products, etc., in Spain, France and Italy over the past three years. It is not a comprehensive list as I have only listed the most common elements.  

Some of the information comes from Health Care Professionals exclusively and have been included as similar behaviour has been identified in other organizations and contexts.

My reason for publishing these comments is to enable managers to consider how their actions  are perceived by members of their team and how they affect the motivation, productivity and interpersonal relationships of the group. Continual introspection is a key part of becoming and maintaining the role of a leader and yet is often missing from those who desire to be perceived as a leader.

These elements are in no specific order

–    Volunteers an over-worked, under-staffed and under-paid team for extra work without prior discussion in order to gain “brownie” points with management. E.g., the introduction of T.Q.M. and then gets angry when there is a negative reaction from the team members.
–    Refuses to use and/or institute new protocols to streamline & improve efficiency while simultaneously promulgating the introduction of areas such as Total Quality Control.
–    Wants to DO everything in every area of their department without being requested to by team members and without informing them of what has been done without their knowledge &/or permission within THEIR area or responsibility.
–    Has worked for many years in the same organization and explicitly considers it as being more important than their only family.
–    Shows clear favouritism by automatically protecting / defending old “friends” and refuses to correct these friends inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, irrespective of their obvious lack of professionalism, etc.
–    Refuses to see all the manipulation & the power games being played by the “favoured few” and is therefore incapable of preventing or resolving it.
–    Threatens line managers who wish to discuss their behaviour or disagree with decisions/actions taken and want to analyse the effects on motivation, perception, communication & interpersonal relationships.
–    Gets angry & abusive with team members without having all the information available & instead of investigating what really happened using independent witnesses, just relies on what the “friends” have told them without considering their possible bias or hidden agendas.
–    Takes unexplained absences without advising other senior staff members where / how she/he can be contacted in case of an emergency.
–    Makes decisions about the working practices of other professional with equal or better qualifications & experience than them without prior consultation or advice.
–    Is totally oblivious to the fact that motivation is very low in their team due almost totally to their inappropriate / unprofessional behaviour.
–    Has a work philosophy that is: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
–    In a hospital context, holds “meetings with, and listens to, only the chosen “elite” 3 or 4 specialists or juniors who did their residency in the hospital &/or had their dissertations supervised by them without advising / convoking the rest of the senior staff who do not have such a close relationship with them.
–    Totally refuses to accept that there is the slightest possibility that they might have any flaws, defects or lacks. However, their most common phrase is “Sorry, I forgot!”
–    Asks for written evaluations from senior staff and then, when they do not like what has been written, changes them – without consultation or permission – and then passes them on to senior management thereby making sure that management gets what it wants and NOT the truth!.
–    Focus on protecting and advancing their own careers and those of their “special friends” and are interested in other people – excluding their own coterie – only as a means to achieving their own objectives.
–    They automatically assume that other professional, dedicated people are a personal threat to them and do all they can, covertly, to ensure that they do not reach positions of power or influence – especially over them.
–    In summary, a bad boss can be defined as one who working principally on their own emotions & feelings and tends to have great problems with people who are more logical, unemotional and objective – However, Bad Bosses will NEVER recognize or admit that they function in this way! They have the Ostrich Syndrome: heads in the ground.

I sincerely hope that these points will be considered by senior managers who will then honestly evaluate how many, if any, of the points indicated above could be applied to them. Any manager who aspires to be considered a leader needs to be actively and continually evaluating their own behavior in the workplace and how they are perceived by other employees and adapting their behavior accordingly.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., March, 2013.

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World-wide Presentation Skills Survey.

notebookglassesI would be grateful if you could dedicate 5 minutes of your valuable time to answer this survey. The objective is to find out what makes us stop paying attention during presentations so that appropriate solutions can be found and implemented by the presenters.
The results will only be shared with those who participate in the survey.

I realize that it is a lot to ask, but your cooperation will be really appraciated.

Please feel free to send this to anyone else who might be interested in participating. The more responses, the better.
Thanks in anticipation
Ian Brownlee

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Presentations or Training: “Know” your audience first.

presentation.audience2Whether we are going to make a presentation to colleagues or potential clients, preparing for a training course, about to enter into a negotiation or start an international meeting, one thing that they all have in common is that there is going to be an audience. One of the key elements in achieving successful communication is having as much information as possible about the audience BEFORE the activity.

We recommend that before any activity – whatever if may be – the trainer / presenter contact the organizer or “owner” of it (the secretary of the MD, the Training Manager, etc.)  to obtain the following relevant information. If possible, via face-to-face communication as it is normally easier to obtain the information this way. If it is impossible, by phone. Email tends to depersonalize the exchange of information thereby making it more difficult to obtain!
Whatever method is used, the explicit emphasis must be on obtaining the information so that the ATTENDEES needs, wants and lacks are covered in the most appropriate and effective manner thereby ensuring an efficient use of THEIR time.

Information required:
Who are they?
– What are the names & positions of the attendees?:
– This knowledge makes it easier to personalize the communication.
– It helps to identify “Powers”, “Influences” & “Hot Bodies”. (see below)
– Enables us to identify possible Needs, Wants and Lacks of each attendee and/or  the group as a whole. (See below)

How many people will be attending the activity?
– A small group: 3 – 9 people = more participation expected and more difficult to control.
– A medium-sized group: 10 – 20 people = less participation expected & easier to control.
– A big group: 20 +  people = less active participation during event, the audience expect a Q&A session at the and are normally easier to control due to cultural norms for this type of activity.

Information about this area ensures that:
– the correct quantity of support documents are prepared.
– The logistics are appropriate for the group.
– The speaker / trainer is psychologically prepared to work with this size group.

Are they all from the same organization or from different ones?
Knowledge about this are helps to identify:
– potential areas of conflict / agreement among attendees and the presenter / trainer..
– shared or different knowledge.

Unity: Their level of knowledge?
This information helps us decide on the appropriate starting point of our communication for THIS audience. As C.P. Snow once said” Never overestimate your audience’s knowledge, never underestimate their intelligence!” :
– How much do the audience know about the topic?
– Nothing?
– A lot?
– Somewhere in between the two extremes?
– Would two presentations be more effective than one?
– Should you provide discussion documents to all attendees BEFORE the activity so that
everyone has the same basic knowledge?

This information helps us to ensure that the norms and conventions governing political correctness can be properly observed. In addition, it helps to ensure that the material being dealt with is appropriate in terms of content (complexity, structure, method of delivery, etc) for THIS audience.
– Ages of the participants?
– Gender?
– Cultural level?
– Education? etc.

– What is their Motivation for attending this activity?
–  Intrinsic? – from self interest: they want to attend the event.
–  Extrinsic? – Having been told to attend the event by a boss.
This information often provides an indicator of the potential degree of involvement and participation of the attendees.

Environment: Room set up?
– Natural light?
– A room size appropriate for the number of attendees and the activities planned?
– Are the necessary materials available: flipcharts, pens, paper, projector, screen, etc?
– Are there any physical barriers such as columns in the room which could impede communication?
– Is there easy entry and exit?
– Is the furniture appropriate?
– Is the room set up as required?

Are the Needs, Wants and Lacks of the audience & the speaker covered:
– Water, hard sweets, beverages, knowledge about breaks, lunch, etc?

Time available.
– Are there any cultural norms about punctuality.
– Do the attendees tend to be punctual?
– How much time has been allocated for the activity?

Effects: Should the communication be:
– Threatening?
– Remove worries & fears?

We believe that if the objective of the communication is to convince, the first step should be to create a certain level of fear or uncertainty in the mind of the audience which the communicator then removes though his detailed proposal.

Additional possible sources of information about the attendees.
– Social Networks:
– LinkedIn,
– Facebook,
– Twitter, etc.
– Organization’s web page

The more information the communicator has about the audience members, the more precise and elegant they can be during the event.

Additional points to Consider:
In every organization, no matter its size, you will always find three basic groups of people:
“Hierarchical Powers” – Senior management: President, Country Manager, General Manager, etc.
“Social Powers” – The workmate that everyone follows and “obeys” (the joker, the “rebel” , etc).
“Influences” – Those who influence the powers directly or indirectly (friends, family, colleagues, specialist, etc)
“Hot bodies” – Those who have no power or involvement in any decision-making process.
It is of immense help if the audience members can be categorized into the appropriate category before the activity begins so that appropriate attention can be paid to each one.

Note: BLOG article: What are “Needs”, “Wants” and “Lacks” and Why are They Important?

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, March, 2013.

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What are “Needs”, “Wants” and “Lacks” and Why are They Important?

NWL1.EngIt is common in many marketing, sales or training courses and in most businesses to hear people talking about how to meet the Needs and Wants of the customers / clients / learners. However, if we focus only on these two areas we are omitting one of the most important, and fundamental, elements of any communication: the Lacks.

We believe that any successful organization has to understand and deal with three different sets of  NEEDS WANTS and LACKS. These are:
– Of the organization.
– Of the employees.
– Of the actual / potential clients.

These three areas form part of what is known as the “Buying Process” which is subconsciously in all areas of interpersonal communication whether it be concepts or products. Any organization, product or service that can cover ALL three of these areas is able to provide satisfaction for the client which results in extra sales and loyal clients.

Examples of Needs, Wants & Lacks:

Needs for the Buyer:
The NEEDS part of the system refers to the basic, logical component of the “buying” process: be it a product, service, or idea. This area occupies approx. 30% of the reason for buying what is on offer. It consists of a simple, basic, possibly generic, description of the need identified by the person/organization:
– I need a shirt.
– I need a new car.
– I need to sell 5.000 units of the new product.

Notice that there are no specific details included in the NEEDS.

Wants for the Buyer:
The WANTS part of the system is where the required details emerge. This is the emotional element of the system and has a value of at least 35% in the “Buying Process”. The WANTS give much more information about what the client or individual seeks and defines more clearly what they are willing to pay for. The more of the WANTS that can be covered, the greater the possibility that the client will buy your product, service, or idea.

If we apply this to the first example above:
I NEED: a shirt.
I WANT: Light blue; Long sleeves; 100% cotton; 1 breast pocket; Buttons on the cuffs; O.K. with a tie; Made in Spain; Cheap; Famous brand; compatible with my favourite suit; My wife likes it; Not too outrageous, etc.

Note: all of these elements are emotional and most are very difficult to define or quantify logically. Obviously, some will be of more importance than others. However, If the product, service or idea can cover ALL, or most of, the WANTS mentioned above, there is a very high possibility that the person will buy it. If some elements are not covered, but they are of secondary importance, the purchase could still happen.

Lacks for the buyer.
The last element of the system is the area of LACKS. These account for the remaining 35% of the  reasons for “buying” the product or concept. This area can be composed of both logical and/or emotional. However, we have found that usually emotion is the strongest element. The LACKS ususally define why the person or organization is having problems covering their NEEDS / WANTS.

Using the examples given above, the LACKS would be as follows:
I NEED: a shirt.
I WANT: Light blue; Long sleeves; 100% cotton; 1 breast pocket; Buttons on the cuffs; O.K. with a tie; Made in Spain; Cheap; Famous brand; compatible with my favourite suit; My wife likes it; Not too outrageous, etc.
I LACK: Time to go to many different shops; a lot of money; “good” colour coordination; knowledge of my exact size; interest in buying clothes; Good taste in shirts, etc.

A business example would be the following:
I NEED to sell 5.000 units of the new product.
I WANT: People talking about the product; Perception of elite product; Publicity; Perception of value for money; Market leader; Head office happy.
I LACK; A big marketing budget; enough sales staff; time; knowledge of the competition; updated  Sales/marketing techniques; support from head office, etc.

One key point to bear in mind is that once one NEED is covered, all the other elements change. No one person or organization is capable of covering all our NEEDS, WANTS & LACKS at the same time. The intelligent communicator is one who covers the overlapping areas of one set of NEEDS, WANTS and LACKS today, another set the day after, and so on. Covering Needs, Wants & Lacks in this manner help to maintain customer loyalty through the conscious dynamic application of progressive and evolutionary skills and techniques. 

NWL3.EngIn Summary: 

At an organizational level, Needs, wants and lacks are should also be considered, and applied, for example:
Needs: Increase sales by 7% this year.
Wants: Keep share prices high: keep shareholders happy; No problems in the organization; staff happy; maintain productivity, etc.
Lacks: Funds for expansion;  liquidity; future contracts, etc.

At an employee level,  Needs, wants and lacks are also applied, for example:
Needs: My monthly salary.
Wants: Pay my mortgage; feed, clothe & educate my children; Job security;  interesting work;  appreciation from my boss; training, etc.
Lacks: information from the organization; feedback; support from the org, etc.

At the client (internal or external) level,  Needs, wants and lacks are also applied, for example:
Needs: what does the client really need: NOT what do I want to SELL them?
Wants: what does the client really want?
Lacks: what does the client really lack? What DON’T they know or have that would help them make the correct decision for THEM?

Note 1:

The “Needs” are a basic statement of the perception of the person at this time. The degree of negotiability depends on the context, situation and person. The “Wants” are normally a list of requirements to be satisfied in order for the person to choose a particular product or service. The more “Wants” that are covered by the product or service, the greater the possibility that they will choose that product. The “Wants” are normally listed from the most important (in decending order) to the least important. The “Lacks” are what the person does not know, have, etc., and if they are covered appropriately, change the perception of the person which may influence their “Needs” or “Wants”.

As one can see, both individuals & organizations have NEEDS, WANTS and LACKS: We believe that it is only by covering the Needs, Wants & Lacks of the client, whether it is an individual or an organization, that one can achieve one’s communication or business objectives.

All of our training & consultancy services are based on the real-world application of these areas in such away that our organization, our clients, and in turn, their own clients achieve their common objective: SUCCESS

Note: The data comes from various studies done by the author in various universities & organizations worldwide. The initial studies dealt with different groups of English as a Second Language learners such as Doctors, Engineers, and other specialists, etc.,  and was then extended into other areas such as sales & negotiations, etc.

As can be seen from the content of this article, it is time for us all to start thinking about how to elegantly & effectively cover the THREE areas necessary to convince our audience of the real value of our products, services and/or concepts.

Sources: Hutchinson, T., and Waters, A. (1987), (Rev 1996). English for specific purposes: A learning-centered approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.; Mehdi Haseli Songhori, Introduction to Needs Analysis, in English for Specific Purposes world, Issue 4, 2008. pp. 11-15.

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, January, 2013.

Bilingual web page (English & Spanish):

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Why don’t HR Managers assess R.O.I. on Training and Development? (ROI Revisited)

notebookglassesIn moments of economic crisis, the first thing that senior management does is to slash the training budget because they frequently do not see the Return on Investment provided by this “expense”. Surely it is the role, if not the obligation, of the HR manager to prove to senior management that training is an investment in ensuring the future of the organization.

HR departments often spend a great deal of money every year on training & development in “soft skills”: communication, negotiation, leadership, etc., where it is more difficult to assess the contribution to the results of the organization. However, the fact that it is difficult does not mean that it should be ignored  The money invested in “Hard skills “ is  much easier to evaluate: Are the new skills that have been taught on the course being used? The answer is a simple – Yes or NO?

When an organization makes an investment to increase production, there is usually a system designed to critically evaluate the R.O.I. so that management know the “value” of the investment to the company. However, in very few companies are there similar systems to prove to management that the training is contributing to the growth of the organization.

I would propose that there are four main areas that HR managers need to urgently attend to in order to ensure that any training done contributes to the continual development of their organization in a way which enables the senior management to see and understand why training is an investment and not an expense.

1. The HR Manager should demand that K.P.Is are provided by the training provider or, alternatively, provide the trainers with a list of K.P.Is that need to be covered during the training.  The training organization should provide the K.P.Is FREE to the client as a part of the training package. It is also helpful if the training provider provided FREE post-course support by email, phone or, in certain cases, by personal visits so that the trainees know that they have additional professional support afterwards.

2. The HR Manager should inform the employees that:
– The K.P.Is will be put in their job description upon completion of the course.
– The K.P.Is will become part of an on-going & continual performance appraisal system.
– Non-compliance or non application of the K.P.Is will affect their performance bonus.
– There is no point in getting angry about being required to apply the new techniques or skills. They are NOT optional, the organization has decided that the new skills are a part of the job requirement and have invested a lot of money to help the employees gain these new skills. So, as we say in the U.K.: “Like it or lump it!”.

3. The HR Manager should ask/tell managers that they are the ones best positioned to see if their employees are using the new skills and to identify whether the K.P.Is are being applied properly. Frequently, the costs of the training courses are divided among the cost centers (departments) that send attendees to the course. Any manager who doesn’t ensure that his budget for training is not used effectively is not acting professionally!
The HR manager could facilitate this task by:
– Providing managers with the K.P.Is for each training course.
– Ensuring that, within reason, the managers do the same training course (in a group composed of other managers) – as their employees or a course at a more advanced level which includes practice in evaluating the application of K.P.Is.
– Organizing a specialized course in the evaluation of K.P.I application.
– The HR department cannot be the only part of the organization that does follow-up on the application of K.P.Is, the managers are the ones who must share the responsibility, too.

4. Many HR managers understand the importance of identifying & proving the R.O.I. on training & development, however, frequently there are other projects / tasks that are more important and are considered a greater priority, which means that they get attended to first. This attitude is understandable because K.P.I / R.O.I. control requires:
– Extra work initially: modifying job descriptions, negotiating with training providers, managers, employees, unions, etc.
– Developing & implanting K.P.I control systems into the performance appraisal programme.
– Ensuring compliance from ALL parties involved.

In these days of financial crisis, any organization with a highly-trained & skilled workforce will not only survive but grow. The use of K.P.Is and their incorporation into job descriptions, performance evaluation processes and the compliance of everyone involved is one way to ensure an effective Return on Investment.

Related article: Applying “Return On Investment” (ROI) to Training & Development.
Short link:

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., January, 2013.

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Precourse Expectations vs Post-course Feedback.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationA common problem for many trainers is how to get valid and useful feedback from the trainees about the different elements of the course: objectives, speed of delivery, good points vs those that need to be improved, usefulness & relevance of the material taught, etc. Since this is an integral part of the training process and a way of assessing training & training providers, it is usually a part of the training & development policy of the organization. Since it is policy, it should be applied to everyone who receives training – without exception!

The traditional solution has been to give the trainees and “end-of-course” evaluation sheet immediately before closing the course. However, this has the disadvantage of being suscuptible to the “Halo vs Horns” effect: If the last activities have been light, fun, participative and entertaining, there is a tendency for the results to be skewed in favor of the trainer. This is known as the “Halo effect” and is is caused, in part, by the “Recency effect” – people tend to remember most clearly the most recent activity or input – which can cause doubts about the “face validity” of the results. If, on the other hand, the last activity has been a difficult test or some activity which might be considered, by the trainees, to be “heavy”, boring, etc., the opposite might occur: the “Horns effect” which is once again based on the “Recency effect” and often results in a greater number of negative evaluations.

Nowadays, there is a growing tendency to (try to) have on-line feedback from the trainees however, there appear to be many trainees who, for one reason or another, do not complete the on-line evaluations. In fact, some organizations and/or trainers have even gone to the extremes of try to bribe trainees to complete the assessments by offering different types of rewards or inducements. This is, to our way of thinking, totally incorrect and creates a bad precedent in that if feedback is part of the training policy, the trainees are obliged to comply with it like any other company policy.

In order to provide alternative solutions to the problem of obtaining useful trainee evaluation of content, applicability, relevance, etc, at the end of the course,  I would like to propose using one of the two following systems:

Initial steps: Alternative 1.
– Ask the trainees to individually write down on a sheet of paper 5-7 things that are important for THEM and that they want, or expect, to get from this training. Tell them that the course will be evaluated on the elements that they write down. The should limit themselves exclusively to the area of the training course. Give them 5 minutes to complete the task.

– Then, tell them to work with the person sitting beside them and standardize & unify their answers to ensure that there is no duplication. Give them another 5 minutes.

– Select each pair, but NOT in turn, to read out their comments and then you, the trainer, write them all on a flipchart. (We recommend starting with the most junior member of the group and work your way up to the more “powerful” people in the group.) You can also ask for a volunteer from the group to act as the scribe and write the results on the flipchart for you!  If there is something that is unrelated to the prepared course content or is otherwise inappropriate or unexpected, the trainer can tell the trainees that this area will not be covered during the course. On the other hand, if there is something that the trainees are interested in that CAN be easily fitted into the course, why not include it, if possible?

– Take each flipchart sheet and use “Blutak” or sellotape and stick them on the wall so that the students can see them. Tell the trainees that they may amend (delete, add or modify) these elements during the course. These are now the trainees course objectives and become the way that they will evaluate the course at the end of the training.

Initial steps: Alternative 2.
For this activity you will need one flipchart and pens (that write!) For every four or five trainees.

– Form groups of 4-5 trainees and assign each group to a flipchart. Do NOT name a group leader!

– Tell them that they have 15 minutes to write down on the flipchart the group’s expectations, needs and wants from this training session – these areas can include content, techniques, behaviour, etc., within the context of the training topic – and that you expect a minimum of 20 items per group. Also tell them that the results from this activity will form the basis for THEIR evaluation of the training.

– Ensure that each group stays “on task” and keep them informed about the time remaining.

– Once the time has expired, ask each group to choose a representative or representatives to present their work to the other participants. After each presentation, take the flipchart sheets and fix them on the wall so that the students can see them. Tell the trainees that they may amend (delete, add or modify) these elements during the course. These are now the trainees course objectives and become the way that they will evaluate the course at the end of the training.

Final steps: both alternatives:At the end of the course, the trainer should go through each of the elements indicated on the flipchart sheets and check that the trainees agree that each once has been covered appropriately during the course. The objective is to obtain feedback from the trainees about whether their expectations had been covered. This activity is normally perceived as having “face validity” by both the trainees an other trainers.

If desired, the trainer can then distribute a paper-based evaluation (after the previous step) which the trainees are required to complete. These are then placed in an envelope which is then sealed and sent to the sponsor – possibly via one of the attendees.

We have found over many years that these activities motivate the students because they become aware that their opinions & expectations count. Obviously, this creates interest and leads to buy-in. The first exercise is a “Primacy effect” activity – it isn’t feedback. It could, however, be defined as “feed-forward” in that is taking the learners into the future and not looking back at past activities.

Additional activities.

Pre course Email:
The trainer can also send out pre-course emails about 2-3 weeks before the course (when possible) to find out about the attendees experience, needs, wants and lacks. We use a maximum of 6 items so that it is fast and easy for them to complete. We tell them in the email that the reason for the email is to ensure that the course meets their expectations + Needs/Wants/Lacks, If they don’t respond, it is their problem, not yours so they can’t legitimately complain afterwards. Our policy, and that of our clients, is to ALWAYS send out a pre-course notification with a basic guide to course content and a list of learner-centered objectives: What they will be able to do after the course. If their concerns are different from those agreed with the sponsor (the person who pays) and listed in the email then something has gone wrong! Best to contact the sponsor immediately and sort it out. However, the world is not perfect so try to build in a certain agree of flexibility when possible.

Verbal feedback session (Based on Alternatives 1 / 2):
– The trainer could invite a training colleague or H.R. representative to join the group for a live feedback session where the trainees are asked to verbalize their feedback and the “guest” takes detailed notes about the feedback. We recommend that the course trainer(s) leave the room so that the trainees can give honest, confidential feedback.

Post-course report:
– In Brownlee & Associates we always prepare a post-course report for the client / Sponsor containing details of :
– Who actually attended the course (logistics: where, timetable, etc.)
– What was done & how (pedagogic details).
– Any special activity or occurrence, etc. (Problems, high-achievers, unexpected incidents, etc.)

We do NOT normally provide confidential individual reports on each student. However, if the sponsor requires this type of report we will comply with their request. In these cases, we usually give the trainee the same feedback in a face-to-face session so that they know, indirectly, what is going to be conveyed to their course sponsor.

This report is usually sent to the client as soon as possible after the course has finished (not later than five days).

I hope that the points covered in this article help you to obtain the desired feedback from your trainees in an interesting and elegant manner.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. December, 2012.
Bilingual web page (English & Spanish)

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How to choose YOUR negotiation training.

You have been asked to organize an in-company negotiation skills training programme for your organization or are looking for a course for yourself and have discovered that there are many providers all offering courses that appear to be exactly the same. How can you choose which is the best one to choose? I hope the rest of this article will help you make the right decision.

I lived and worked for many years in Asia and the Far East and during my time there became involved in numerous negotiations in nine different countries and cultures. Having also taken many negotiation skills courses, in my youth, designed to teach me how to win – at almost any cost – which frequently went against my personal & professional ethics and my belief in the importance of interpersonal relationships, I finally studied with the P.O.N. at Harvard University and found that the logic & philosophy of the programme was much more adaptable, realistic and ethical – for me! It is a process & style that I have continued to use, and polish, successfully in negotiations ever since. The following article is based on following the Harvard Model.

In Brownlee & Associates we believe that the key points of any “In-House”* negotiation skills training course, whether it be international or local; Commercial; Human Resources, etc., and given via English, Spanish or any other language should focus on covering the following key points:

Foreign language vs English language negotiation
There have been many scientific psychological & sociological studies done from those of B.L.Whorf in the 1930s to the study done by Oludamini Ogunnaike et. Al., in Harvard University (2011) that indicate that when someone is negotiating in a language that is NOT their mother tongue, the speaker adopts many of the attitudes, values and characteristics of the group that correspond to the language being used. If the language being used is English, the participants will behave in a more English / anglo-saxon cultural style without losing SOME of their national characteristics. There are some courses that focus on negotiation with one specific national or ethnic group. This in our opinion is too focussed on the use of stereotypes and does not take into consideration that the most important elements in any negotiation are, by far, the people involved.  There are obviously general characteristics that one should include in an international negotiation course; polychronic vs Monochromic cultures, etc. However, whatever the culture or language, people are still people and the best negotiators know that knowledge of how to read and understand the other actors in the negotiation is the key to success – NOT a theoretical & stereotypical knowledge about “their culture”.

Let’s be realistic & practical: Are you going to do a course on negotiating with the Chinese this month and then another course on how to negotiate with the Germans next month and yet another course on negotiating with Argentinians a couple of months later? Imagine how you could justify the cost in time, energy and money of this type of repetitive activity!

The difference between hard-bargaining & negotiation.
It is of vital importance that the trainees clearly understand the differences between hard -bargaining (Distributive negotiation: I win, you lose!) And Collaborative Negotiation (mutual gains) and the significance & implications of each type. It is also important that the trainees learn how to respond correctly to the blocks and problems so that the negotiation keeps moving forward. In my experience, many negotiations fail because of the way it is carried out and NOT because of the content.

A model of negotiation that has been proven to work.
The use of the generic model of negotiation developed by the Program On Negotiation of  Harvard University, Boston, USA., combined with a wide range of additional exercises designed to practice and reinforce every step of the process is vital for the trainees to learn how to apply the material in a range of contexts and situations. Far too often, clients ask for a negotiation course to cover only one area such as selling a specific product or service.  In B&A, we believe that this a dis-service to the company & the trainees because the trainees should be asked to apply the techniques to not only their needs today but also to other, possibly unforseen, future needs.  It is also vital that the trainees be asked to apply their learning during the course to real negotiations that they have participated in, are actually involved in or are about to enter into.  This is the ONLY way that the trainees can actually see the application of the training to their real world needs and receive feedback from their course companions. Training without a real world application is, in our opinion, a waste of time, effort and money.

How to structure the preparation for the negotiation.
Once the trainees have a clear model to use, it should be easy for them to identify, collect and prepare the information that they need to negotiate successfully and how to prepare it for it’s use during the negotiation.

How to structure the negotiation using psychology.
There are psychologically effective ways of structuring the negotiation & behaving from the very beginning of the negotiation. The best prepared and flexible negotiator is the one who (usually) controls the system. Any negotiation without proper preparation is condemned to disaster.

There are certain areas that should be dealt with at the beginning, others later on, some postponed (elegantly!), etc. A badly structured negotiation (psychologically) can have unexpected consequences and result in less successful outcomes – for both sides!.

Teach “the other side how to negotiate”.
An effective negotiator is capable of subtly teaching the other side how to follow his negotiation system instead of letting them blindly follow theirs. While at the beginning, there may well be a certain level of distrust, there ARE ways to help them beat this fear of changing their negotiation style. Obviously, two negotiators (or teams) using the same negotiation style should reach better agreements that using different or confrontational styles.

Practice & value teamwork in Negotiation.
While one person or a team actually negotiate, normally there is a team supporting the negotiator by investigating, collating & helping in the preparation. Any negotiation training course should involve the participants in a great number of team activities to generate a “team spirit” while stimulating understanding of the task and the value of the activity . In addition, giving the trainees the opportunity to stand up and present the results of their team’s activity to the other teams, using specific flipchart techniques, help to break various psychological barriers & fears and provides a useful skill for future negotiations.

Risk Sharing.
It is imperative that negotiators learn and apply techniques to ensure that any and all risks are shared by all the participants in the negotiation and NOT just by one party. When risks are shared, it is in the best interests of all the participants to ensure compliance with the agrees terms and conditions.

A fair & just outcome.
All negotiators want to achieve a fair & just outcome – from THEIR point-of-view however that does not necessarily mean that it is a win-win agreement. The truth is that as a negotiator in the real world  which is very competitive, I want the other side to THINK that they have achieved a great & just outcome while I KNOW that I have achieved a better outcome than them. A great part of any negotiation is the perception of the negotiators.

Two vital elements is any negotiation are creativity & flexibility of thought and action. If the negotiator is not flexible, one of two things usually happens: the negotiation becomes a hard-bargaining situation where one wins and the other loses or there is no agreement reached. One way of using this flexibility and creativity is by increasing the size of the “pie” by adding more elements to share between the negotiators. In commercial negotiations, the salesman in the street often has a limited range of flexibility, if any and this means that they need to be creative & flexible using whatever  resources they have available.

Verbal & non-verbal Communication.
There are certain words & phrases, etc., that should NOT be used during the negotiation – except in very specific situations and with more-or-less predictable results – and others that can help to facilitate it and it is important that the negotiators are aware of these elements and have the linguistic competence necessary to control their verbal language. Also, since Mehrabian’s research indicates that in face-to-face communication the verbal channel carries 7% of the content, the paralinguistic channel carries 38% and the non-verbal channel carries 55%, it is vital that negotiators are aware of, and capable of reading & interpreting, the non-verbal communication of their interlocutors. Any course of negotiation should sensitize the trainees to these elements and provide sufficient activities to practice them.

Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Over the years, In Brownlee & Associates, we have discovered that the real world application of Neuro Linguistic Programming to negotiaton training permits our trainees to be able to understand their own thought processes and those of their interlocutors and thereby communicate much more effectively & elegantly with members of the other team and their own. Fot that reason, we always advise our clients to include our module of applied NLP training in their negotiation skills training.

In Brownlee & Associates, we whole-heartedly believe that everyone can negotiate successfully when they receive the correct training that encourages structure, creativity, legitimacy and enpowers negotiators so that they can trust in their own knowledge & skills in any context.

* “In-House” – Given within an organization to their own employees.

Open courses need to be more generic and somewhat different due to the confidentiality of the material often covered in “In-House” or “closed” courses.

Please feel free to contact Ian Brownlee at Brownlee & Associates for any additional information about the negotiation skills courses that we offer or a more details about the elements dealt with in this article.
Bilingual web page (Spanish & English)
LinkedIn: Ian Brownlee

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PART 2: Linguistics, psychology and a humanistic perspective of change management: 6 Common Errors.

In the previous article I outlined the linguistic, psychological and humanistic elements of change management and I now plan to investigate six of the most common errors that occur in “Change Management” that I have encountered in over 30 years involvement in this area.

I propose that the application of Neuro Linguistic Programming to the process of “Change Management” can enhance the inplementation & compliance and greatly reduce, if not totally eliminate, resistance.

Very briefly, Neuro Linguistic Programming posits that:
– Everyone has three “Representation Systems” (R.S.) which dictate how we interact in, and with, the world that surrounds us. These R.S. are named : Visual, Auditive & Kinesthetic (also known as: V.A.K.)
– We all also have a preferred, subordinate and less-developed R.S. system that we use as appropriate either in our work environment or, alternatively, outside of it. No one is ever 100% V, A or K. – we use each system as, and when, we need it.

Note: In this article the term “Visual” , “Auditive” or “Kinesthetic” refers to people who appear to have this as their preferred Representation System.

A brief, and general overview of the characteristics of each Representation Systems as applied to “Change Management”:

– Visuals: – considered to be around 78% of the population – This is due to the prevalence of visual input nowadays: Television, video, internet, etc. In general, they are not too worried about change as they live with it every day. They have the capacity to adapt to new ideas & methods more or less rapidly. They do, however, tend to have problems following all the detailed elements required in the implementation of the change; new systems, internal & external compliance, etc. They tend to use visually-oriented language: Look, see, visualize, etc. Frequently they are in jobs such as marketing & sales or positions which require creativity. They tend to make decisions rapidly, often without having all the data.

– Auditives, approximately 12% of the population, tend to have the greatest resistance to change. They love structure, systems, rules, checklists, etc. If it has worked for years, it is difficult to convince them of the need for change. They usually have jobs that require detail, analysis, data, etc. The tend to use auditive- oriented language: Examine, discuss, analyse, study, etc. They tend to have great problems making decisions because they always seem to need one more piece of information. They also tend not to trust their emotions. They greatly appreciate the opportunity fo discuss the planned changes before they begin. In this way they feel that they have been consulted and “listened to” – even if the result is different from what they wanted!

– Kinesthetics (considered to be about 10% of the population) generally need time to adapt to, and accept, changes. The word “kinesthetics” includes emotion, touch, taste & smell. They need to feel safe with the planned changes. Everything is black or white, love or hate! For them, the most important part of their work, for them, involves their contact with other people. Everything is evaluated on how it feels to them. They take a long time to make a decision and will not do so until it “feels right”. They tend to use more emotive language: feel, rough, soft, bitter, etc. They are often in people-centred jobs such as nursing; the caring professions such as psychology, physiotherapy, etc. Many sport people, professional chefs, sommeliers, hairdressers,  Perfume “noses”, etc., also have a kinesthetic preferred system.

(For more information about NLP, please Google it!)

(1) The Change leaders or “managers” have NO knowledge or training about techniques that can be used to identify possible resistance or facilitation.

Once senior managers or “Change Managers” are aware of, and/or trained in, the basic elements of NLP, they should ensure that this knowledge is applied to the process – from the very beginning. This requires preparing strategies, tactics and material to reach 100% of the audience, not just some of them. This may well require extra effort, expense or time however it ensures that the required results are achieved more rapidly, effectively and more importantly, with 100% compliance and 0% resistance.

(2) Imposing change instead of making a compelling and urgent case for it that is communicated in different ways according to the three Representation Systems indicated above.
When something is imposed upon us, there is a tendency to react, or overreact, against this imposition either overtly or covertly. A graphic and real example of this overt resistance is what is happening in Spain & Greece where there are daily demonstrations against the government’s anti-crisis measures. An example of covert resistance might be subtle sabotage or non-compliance with the imposed change. People do NOT like imposition and will fight it! It is much better to anticipate what elements of change should be communicated to the people involved – bearing in mind the points mentioned in item # 1 (above).

– Visual need graphics / visuals to help them to rapidly understand what is happening & how. The details are not important to them. A visual overview and a rough implementation schedule is all they really need. If you can provide them with specific benefits for them, even better!

– Auditives need references, detailed plans, schedules, lists, etc., and a detailed analysis of WHY the change should be implemented and exactly HOW they would be affected!

– Kinesthetics need to know the specific problems from a “humanistic” point-of-view and the specific BENEFITS of the change for THEM. They need to know how it is going to affect their interpersonal relationships, their professional & personal lives, etc. Ideally, they need to be treated individually in a personal interview and with plenty of time for them to get in touch with their feelings.

This means that instead of having just one set of standardized documentation or “sales” plan, there is a need to allocate sufficient resources in the different types of material and activities required for the three Representation Systems.

(3)Moving too fast too soon:
The ideal way of introducing change for auditives and kinesthetics is to start slowly, make one small change, cement it in place, then make one more bigger step and, once again cement it in place and so on to get the ball rolling. Once the ball is rolling, it is like a snowball rolling down a hill: it gains momentum and size as it moves forward and becomes difficult to stop! The time “lost” by going slow initially is regained by the gradually increasing momentum of the process which can, in some cases, be increased by the affected employees themselves.

If in doubt about this, we recommend that you start small and try out each element and analyse the result before making a 100% commitment!

(4) An over-reliance on structures/systems or models instead of understanding that it is people who are the most important element of change.
Many Change Managers &/or their organizations seem to believe that with “their” system / structure / model / book or video, etc., the change will magically happen: “Pay us and we’ll make the change happen!” However, The key to effect change management is knowing how to elegantly take the people to where you want them to be of their own accord – not by force or threats, but by convincing them in the most appropriate ways for them to process mentally.

(5) leaders’ inability or unwillingness to confront how they and their roles must change.
It appears that many senior managers tend to feel that they don’t have to change because they are the boss, however, others have to change because he/she has decide for them. Change affects everyone and no-one should be exempt from making the changes require solely because of their position. Employees generally do what their bosses do because the boss is usually a role-model of how to survive & progress in the organization. If the boss doesn’t change, why should they?

(6) A Failure to mobilize and engage the social powers & influences.
In every organization, no matter its size, you will always find three basic groups of people:
“Hierarchical Powers” – Senior management: President, Country Manager, General Manager, etc.
“Social Powers” – The workmate that everyone follows (the joker, the “rebel” , etc).
“Influences” – Those who influence the powers directly or indirectly (friends, family, colleagues, etc)
“Hot bodies” – Those who have no power or involvement in any decision-making process.

Normally it is the hierarchical powers” in the organization who make the decisions about “Change Management” assisted or guided by the people who have influence over them.
The “Hot bodies” are those who are merely expected to comply obediently with the planned changes.
The “Social Powers” are the ones that are often overlooked or ignored in the Change Management process. These are the people that should be involved, if possible, from the very start of whatever process is going to be used. Once they are on-board, they can be used as white knights to champion the changes using their often considerable influence over the other employees.

We believe that it is vital that instead of talking about “Change” it is much better to use the word “improve”. Implicit in the word “improve” is that what is being, or has been, done is good but can be done more effectively or better. Psychologically, there are little, or no, negative connotations to this word which with the word “change” there are many (see the previous article).

One practical technique which we always recommend is the following: when talking about the proposed changes, don’t focus on what will be different or new. Instead, place the emphasis on how many things will stay the same and give a minimum of three examples (the rule of three). Then discuss the improvements that will be made – once again give three examples and the attendant benefits. Finally, provide details about HOW the people involved will be trained in the introduction of the new improvements.

I would like to propose that we forget the term “Change Management” and use “improvement implementation” instead!

It is hoped that the points outlined in this article will help you introduce more elegant and effective techniques to achieve your desired outcomes.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. November, 2012
Bilingual web page (English & Spanish):

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Tips on avoiding rip-off trainers

Not all trainers or courses are the same!

You can’t buy a Rolls Royce for the price of a bicycle.

In these days of reduced funding for training & development, it is vital that organizations invest their training budget wisely. With the number of “trainers” increasing every day due to the economic crisis and massive lay-offs in most industries (at least in Europe), it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a cheap trainer can do as good a job as a more expensive one. This is an error that can have unexpected and undesirable consequences for the organization, the trainees and the training manager / HR department.

All training courses & trainers are NOT the same. Soft-skills training has progressed amazingly rapidly over the last few years and while many trainers are updating their knowledge, courses and skills many are not.

There are thousands of freelance trainers & small training organizations who exhibit exceptional knowledge & skills and do a fantastic job. This article is about the other kind….

We believe that there should be total transparency between training provider & clients so, to help ensure that organizations do not fall victim to some of the more common tricks used to bring in new & unsuspecting clients, I would like to propose to Training Managers or HR Managers that the following points be considered when choosing a training provider.

While they might seem obvious, I hope they serve as a refresher!

– Does the training provider have a web site. If it does, does it contain the following information?
– The address & physical location of the office? If not, why not?
– Is there a land line telephone number or only a mobile number?
– Is it possible to visit the office(s) to see if it looks professional?
– How long the organization has existed.
– What is it’s business philosophy?
– What is it’s training philosophy?
– Is the organization dedicted to business skills training or is it a language school trying to move into the business training area?     Would the expectations about results be the same?

– If you have a complaint or problem, how can you resolve it personally without contact information?
– The longer it has existed, the more likely it is to be proficient at what it offers.
– A clearly stated business philosophy helps the potential client to see if the organization is compatible with their own philosophy.
– The training philosophy should show how it views the overall role of training in helping client organizations achieve their business objectives.

– The amount of detail provided on the web page about the following areas is of vital importance:
– Course content: 
– Is the material covered in each course clearly outlined on the web page?
– Are the learner-centered objectives clearly identified?
– Is the material presented in a way which shows that it is relevant to YOUR needs?
– Is the material original & copyrighted by the provider or is it based on a book or other source?
– When, and by whom, was the material written & copyrighted?

– If the material is easy to understand, it makes it easier to decide IF it might be right for you.
– You want to ensure that you are paying for training based on research & material from the 21st century and not the last century.
– It is vital that you know what the learner-centered objectives are to ensure that they are what you want them to be able to do after the course.
– If the material is original and copyright, it is probably a sign that the provider is actively searching for ways to improve.

– Prices: Transparency.
– Is it easy to find the prices for courses on the web page or are prices “negotiable”?
– Are their “Terms and conditions” clearly stated, understandable and acceptable?
– Do they charge the same per course irrespective of the number of attendees in the group?
– Do they have a sliding price scale for different size groups?
– Are there minimum or maximum group sizes recommended?
– Does the price include “after sales support”? If yes, what?
– What “Added value” elements are included in the price?
– Is the price of all the training material included in the price?
– How many trainers work with different size groups?
– Do they ask for pre-payment before the course?
– Does the provider include guarantees about the trainer’s experience & qualifications?

– If prices are negotiable, How do you know whether you are paying more or less than other clients?
– If they charge the same price irrespective of group size, What could that signify about the quality of the training?
– If there is NO free post-course support, how can the trainees resolve doubts, problems, etc?
– Always find out if everything is included in the price or if there are additional, and expensive, “extras” to be paid for.
– Any qualified trainer should be willing to provide documentary evidence of their training path.

– Clients:
– Is there a list of satisfied, & verifiable, clients listed on the web page?
– If not, Will the provider give names, phone numbers or email addresses of other satisfied clients?
– If not, why not?

Does the provider have a blog? If yes…
– Is the content original (written by one of the employees of the organization)?
– Is the content merely a “Cut and Paste” from another blog or magazine?
– How frequent is the BLOG updated?
– How useful are the articles posted on the BLOG?
– Are the posts just “tasters” or do they provide useful information for free?
– Does it appear to be another channel to sell their courses or services?

Qualifications offered by the organization.
– Does the provider offer course with some kind of validation?
– If yes, is it an external organization recognized as an officially authorized training validator?  (A university, ASTD, IPM, or some other internationally recognized organization, etc., or some other type of professional organization?
– Is it validated by the provider themselves?
– Who are the validated qualifications recognized by & for what?
– How are the learners tested and can they fail the course?

– Who are the trainers?
– What are their academic qualifications?
– What experience have they had in the real world?
– What is their speciality?
– What additional training have they had?
– What trainers would be giving the course for you?
– Would they be prepared to give a short demonstration lesson – free – to show their “Stage Skills”?
– Will they let HR or training staff from the client company audit (sit in on) the course?

A brief note about cheap or free courses!
– These types of courses can often result in a situation where the attendees see the training as being an easy way for the organization to merely “do the minimum” necessary to use whatever funds or subsidies are available instead of actually investing in something with real value.

– Many organizations tend to keep using the same training provider, with very cheap prices, over many years. However, the courses have remained more or less the same since the beginning and the provider has little incentive to update them. Organizations MUST understand that the world, the people, the way of communicating and the techniques being used have changed, and advanced, since the last century: The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t!

– Do not be tempted to use a training supplier just because a competitor or friend uses them. You may never know the reasons for this supplier being chosen!

Having seen various organizations being taken for a ride by cheap, untrained and unprofessional training providers and freelance trainers , I feel that this type of activity affects all professional trainers and training providers.

Remember: If you pay peanuts, you buy monkeys.

Your feedback would be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. November, 2012.

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One serious problem with Innovation.

If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist!

These days there is a tendency in many organizations, both national & international, to talk about “innovation” and how they are implementing it. It appears to be essential that any “quality” company can proudly state in its internal & external communication that it is an “innovative” organization. Where ever you go, everyone seems to be talking about it. There are even organizations that have created entire departments dedicated exclusively to the search for “innovation”. However, they are looking for “innovation” only in the development of their products (both old and new); in the opening of new markets; finding new niches for their products; new marketing techniques to stand-out from their competitors, etc. They do, however, seem to have forgotten one key element of “Innovation”: Communication.

Many senior managers seem to suffer from the “ostrich syndrome” (burying their head in the sand) and prefer not to think about innovation in other areas of their organization. Obviously, it is much easier to leave the rest of organization as it is – especially if it is functioning “O.K.” – after all, if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it! – than to make improvements which might annoy / confuse employees,  make people uncomfortable or end the “quiet life” in the company.  The fact that the organization could function more effectively, with greater profits with (possibly) less costs and with the future (almost) guaranteed with an honest introspection to see where the rest of the organization could improve – or “innovate” – is either forgotten or passed over!

As a consultant & trainer in interpersonal communication, it seems illogical to me that an organization could begin the search for “innovation” without thinking seriously about how to “innovate” their own, often outdated, internal & external communication systems. As we all know, the communication inside and outside the organization is one of the most important elements in it’s success. However, it is an element that many senior managers don’t want to change, don’t think about or are afraid to.

There are many directors who reject tried & tested communication models of proven efficacy solely because they do not fit in with THEIR way of communicating with other people. This resistence to change seems to go directly against the spirit of  “innovation”.  One concrete and common example are in the traditional company presentation style: frequently they are just masters’s reading classes where the presenter just reads what is written on the screen which just unconsciously insults the audience who presumably all know how to read; The presenter turns his back on the audience which is guaranteed to break the communicative link; The Presentation is in a dark room where the presenter can’t see, or control, the audience; often there is a lack of structure and an overload of unnecessary data.

In these cases, the information does not reach the audience in a clear & understandable form which results in a waste of time and energy for both the presenter and the audience.  However, the colleagues of the presenter – out of a misguide sense of loyalty – often do not give real & useful “feedback” – they prefer to pretend that it was “great” so that the presenter does not feel bad and does not realize that his presentation has been “boring, too long, or with too much irrelevant content, etc”.  It is sad that this type of presentation is still seen by senior managers as being “Serious”, “professional”, “They way we have always done it”, “ safe”, “appropriate for an organization like ours”, etc. Presentations of this type come from, and now belong in, the past but many senior managers feel uncomfortable with presentations which are done in a different (and modern) style. The truth is that the world has changed a lot from the last century and frequently this is forgotten by senior managers – What functioned well 10 or 20 years ago, is less effective today because our communication systems have changed. Our clients have new ways of thinking; receiving & processing information; and what THEY need in order to learn or understand. Presentations should be made for the audience and not the presenter  – or his boss -who still live in the last century.

Thankfully, this situation is changing. There are now many leading companies & organizations where senior management ha had the wisdom & intelligence to examine the efficacy of their internal & external communication & have decided to standardize and “innovate” their communication style, both formal & informal, so that different divisions, branches or offices have the same training, knowledge and effective & elegant communication styles. These changes always result in better communication, increased motivation, enhance company image, both inside & outside the organization which results in greatly improved results.

Changing the old-fashioned & traditional communication styles is the best investment in “innovation” that a company or organization can make because it is by using innovative communication that you can show how innovative it is!

A question for senior managers: Why invest a fortune in time, money & resources in creating & maintaining “”innovation”” teams, if you can not elegantly and effectively communicate this “innovation” to your audience in the most effective form for THEM?

(c) ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. November, 2012.

Bilingual web page (English & Spanish):

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What make an “Excellent” presenter?

There are many factors that make a presenter “Excellent” and an even greater number of discussions about this topic. Here is a brief & concise new perspective for your consideration based on over 25 years of experience & observation.

The comments in this article are applicable to all “excellent communicators” ; trainers, public speakers, etc whether they bemale or female!  

Excellent presenters:

– First and foremost, are ALWAYS prepared beforehand to deliver the best presentation possible.

– Know that Communication Channels have changed over the past 60 years and that the world is now a much more visual place than at the end of the last century. They also recognizes that it is necessary to include much more visual input carefully & elegantly linked to auditive and kinesthetic elements to reach both the conscious & subconscious brain of each of his audience members so that each person can process, and understand, the information in the way most appropriate for them!

– Use psychology to structure the presentation in such a way that they takes the audience from the known to the unknown; from the general to the specific and from the simple to the complex in a logical & structured way and ALWAYS on the basis of the needs, wants and lacks of the audience and not their own!

– Anticipate, and think deeply about, the possible doubts and worries that the audience might have and how they, in the time available, can elegantly and effective resolve them during his presentation. This is what is known a part of the “previous preparation”. Many presenter make a presentation to “Cover the basics” which is often just a fast “cut & paste” from previous presentations and obviously does not require much preparation. This is often due to a lack of knowledge &/or training or, more commonly, a lack of time (which is the most common excuse).

– Ensure that the attendees feel implicated / involved in the presentation because the topic is designed specifically to resolve THEIR problems, worries and doubts on the basis of THEIR REAL Situation today! NOT what the presenter wants to sell them! Let’s be honest, who is going to feel involved when the presentation has little, or nothing, to do with the real problems of the audience and their need to find practical and real solutions?

– Synthesize information for the audience so that no time is wasted with unnecessary or redundant information.

– Carefully, and continually, OBSERVE the audience to identify how they are responding to, and mentally processing, the presentation and adapt their presentation accordingly – while maintaining FULL control! In my experience, a great many presenters do their presentation without paying much attention to the audience’s non-verbal reactions – they do their own thing in their own way and then complain when they have problems later.

– Understand and pay attention to the very clear differences between an “Oral Presentation” and a reading lesson.

– Have a very high degree of linguistic competence and understand how the use of language, or misuse of language, can affect the reception of their presentation. Communication affects both mind & body!

– Recognize the vital importance of their Non-Verbal Communication and are able to consciously control the visible manifestations of their mental state. They are aware that their NVC can provide the audience with indicators about their degree of security, certainty vs uncertainty, truthfulness, etc., and knows that it is their responsibility to ensure that this does not happen.

– Control the audience using verbal and non-verbal techniques designed to work on the subconscious as well as the conscious levels & do not let the audience take control of their presentation.  A presentation is NOT a “round table”, discussion forum, or a chat – it is a communicative activity was a specific purpose and objective to achieve. Remember: Power is given. Control is taken!

– Always ask the audience to “keep their questions until the end of the presentation to avoid getting sidetracked and that it is very possible that their question will be answered during the presentation”. Then they ensure that there is time for theaudience membershave time to ask their questions at the end of the presentation.

– Are creative and elegant in all areas of their presentation and are capable of showing this creativity in relating the content of their presentation to the appropriate attendees.

– Are realistic about the distribution of power in the room and knows how best to use it. (See below).

– Understand clearly that there is no second opportunity to give the same group the same, possibly improved, presentation. It is one-shot, hit-or-miss! If you lose control of the group or the presentation… all is lost!

– Use psychology, N.L.P., and the latest techniques to ensure that their message arrives in the way which they intended without being diluted or changed by the behaviour of the audience. “The meaning of your communication is the result you obtain, NOT the results you want to get!” (NLP presupposition)    

– Are prepared to take “calculated” risks to achieve their objectives. They also have great abilities and are not afraid to use them. The problem is that this type of person is rare and hard-to-find. How many presenters have actually bothered to take the time to obtain, and stay up-to-date with, the necessary knowledge and skills required to give them the self-confidence to adapt to & use the constantly changing information?  From what I have seen, very few!

What a great presenter DOES NOT DO:

– They do NOT buy a book and/or course written by the current “Guru of the Month” and published by “A leading Business Publisher” and follow it blindly, without considering any, or all, of the elements indicated above.

– They do NOT do exactly the same as everyone else who has purchased the same book / course or one of the thousands of similar books/ courses all professing to be the one, true solution!

– They do not look for, or use, simplistic formulaic mnemonics to answer every situation or element in the presentation.

– They do NOT reject out-of hand anything which conflicts with what they are currently doing: They evaluate it carefully based on the ideas outlined above.

– They NEVER gives a presentation which is just a “Master’s Class” reading lesson. They knows the audience members know how to read so do not insult their intelligence by reading aloud to them

– They do NOT let the audience interrupt them verbally during the presentation because it is not important for them to be seen as “Mr. Nice Guy” and they know that questions, etc., do NOT help stimulate participation; being “politically correct” or “ likeable” is less important than achieving his objectives;  they are not worried about being seen as too “controlling”; and are not afraid that the audience will get angry or feel bad if they prevents interruptions! However, the “Power” in the room tend to interrupt the presenter whenever they want to because they are used to doing so. Since they are the principal decision-maker, it is logical that the presenter pay attention to the “Power” – what they do afterwards is important: they do not get into a dialogue with the “Power” – they postpone the answer / discussion until later during the presentation. (see my article Direct vs rhetorical question for more information).

They do NOT try to please everyone in the audience. They knows that there are “Powers” who make decisions; “Influences” who directly, or indirectly, influence the “Powers” and there are “Hot Bodies” who are there to make the room look full and have absolutely NO influence over the “Powers” & “Influences” or the decisions made later. So the pays more attention to the “Powers” and “Influences” and less to the “hot bodies”. To paraphrase George Orwell “Everyone is equal but some are more equal than others!” (Animal Farm. 1945).

They are NOT afraid to move into the 21st century using techniques designed for NOW, and refuse to stay hooked on the techniques from the last century

I realize that almost everyone feels threatened when they discover that the world has changed; the logic and reality of the world today goes against everything that they have been doing for the last few years – their perceptions & techniques are no longer as cutting-edge as in the last century (literally). Many people refuse to accept that change is necessary, for them, because it means that they will feel uncomfortable. (* See the article mentioned below) The fact that the world has changed does not motivate THEM to change so they spend more time looking for reasons NOT to change than actually doing the changes!  There are none so blind as those who refuses to see!

Each person has to make their own decisions, and accept the consequences, about how to act in a presentation; Do it like they did in the 20th century or like they should do in the 21st century!

Recommended reading:
* Language, Psychology & a Humanistic Perspective on “Change Management”: Short link:

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. November, 2012.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Agenda” slides don’t work: There is an effective and elegant alternative.

This is an example of a slide that violates many norms of effective communication.

It constantly amazes me that many presenters do not know, or choose not to use, one of the best psychological techniques available to elegantly convince their audience of the value of what they are proposing. Instead, many presenters use a common & far-less effective technique that is the anthesis of effective communication techniques: The written “Agenda Slide” in a Powerpoint presentation.

This overlooked, or underused, technique is known by many names, however, the most common one is that of “The Yes Set”

Definition of “The Yes Set”:
A “yes set” is what is known in psychology, NLP, psychotherapy & Ericksonian hypnosis as an “agreement frame”. It has proven effective in many contexts: business, family, etc.  It’s main use is to lead the other person, or people, towards agreeing with you on something big or important by getting their agreement on small, reasonable statements or questions first. The basic principle is really simple: the possibility of someone agreeing with your suggestions will rise significantly if they have immediately previously agreed with you on multiple, less important points.

Children are experts at using this technique: “Dad, do you love me?”, “Do you love me a lot?” “Do you really love me a lot?”, “Do you really, really love me a lot?” “Do you want me to be the happiest boy in the world? Will you buy me that mountain bike that costs $600?  No? Grandpa, do you love me?

Since this technique is also used by “caring professionals” such as clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, hypnotherapists and NLP practitioners. It SHOULD also be used by negotiators, mediators, sales staff or anyone who needs conscious AND subconscious agreement from their interlocutors.

Problems with an Agenda slide.
– An agenda or outline is usually part of a written document,  such as a book,; a scientific study, etc., which is controlled by the reader. A Presentation is an oral communication which is controlled by the presenter. The two communicative activities are DIFFERENT and must be recognized, and treated, as such. The presenter has two options: read the text aloud whic converts the presentation into a “master Class” reading lesson and insults the audience by indicating that they do not know how to read or the presenter can remain silent and let them read the text for themselves which means that he is redundant. If you take the last option, cancel the presentation and send everyone the “presentation” in PDF and save time and money for everyone!

People have to read, and understand, the whole transparency BEFORE they listen to the speaker. Some people are speed-readers. Others are slow readers. If the slide is in their own language they generally read faster and if it is a foreign language they tend to read more slowly.

– If you start the presentation with a reading lesson, you are setting up expectations regarding the rest of the presentation: the rest will be in the same style which might demotivate or alienate the audience.

– By providing a written guide to the presentation you are providing the audience with ways to be in possible disagreement, either mentally or verbally, with the proposed structure.

UPDATE: January, 2018.

Also, scientific studies indicate that when people are required to read and listen to the same text at the same time, it creates a processing problem for Wernicke’s Area because W.A. processes both written and spoken language. If both channels are used at the same time, it creates a bottleneck. If only one channel, such as reading, is used, it is easily processed and facilitates higher level cognition. Also, if only hearing is to be used, it focusses on the input from that channel. However, when both channels are used simultaneously, Wernicke’s area focuses more on reading than listening – especially if the information is the same. If the written text is slightly different and shown before the spoken input, both channels will be processed and better comprehension should occur.
Obviously, show an agena slide and then reading it word-for-word means that the aaudience will be focussed on the text and NOT on your particular verbal and non-verbal communication.

(Sources: Johnson, Williams, Pipe, Puppe & Heiserman (2001); Tanner (2007); Mason & Just (2007); Wise, et al (2007))

You are NOT creating a “Yes Set” which means that the audience are not being slowly & elegantly led to a psychological predisposition to say “yes” to you and your proposal(s).

– No “yes set” means the speaker is not gaining a psychological advantage by reaching the subconscious mind of the audience by setting up the “agreement frame” for the desired objective of the presentation.

– The presenter wastes valuable time preparing, and using, a slide which does not help achieve his communicative objectives.

– Many presenters waste time referring back to the slide during the course of the presentation which interrupts the flow of presentation and could prove annoying for the audience. This is the equivalent of reading a chaper of a book and then referring back to the index to see what the next chapter is! How unproductive & silly!

– The “Agenda” slide basically treats the audience like idiots: indirectly indicating that they are so slow that they can’t remember a structure presented to them a few minutes earlier.

As one can see from the points raised above, the Agenda slide is not an effective communicative technique. Even if it has been used for years in many organizations, that does not automatically make right or “best practice”. Knowledge, techniques & communication styles have changed and advanced  from the last century and the style of presentation should reflect these changes. This is what is known as innovation! 

Our recommendation; Use a verbal preface given with only the title slide of the presentation being shown.

Purpose of a verbal preface:
1) It allows the audience to “tune in” to your speaking style. Everyone speaks differently so we all need time to subconsciously adapt to the speaking style of each presenter.

2) It establishes important facts going from non-problematic areas to more problematic.

3) it provides “Neutral” information about the presenter and the structure of the presentation.

4) Provides the conditions necessary for an elegant “Yes Set”.

5) The preface should take no more than 2 minutes to cover these areas. .

Every verbal preface should contain the following elements IN THE SAME ORDER, if you wish to create a “yes set”. Starting with “yesable” elements which the audience can easily accept subconsciously leading to more problematic areas: Phones off; questions at the end, etc.
We Repeat; IN THE SAME ORDER otherwise you will NOT create a “yes set” and are wasting your time!

1. Welcoming Courtesies:
-Thank the audience for coming.

2. Self-identification:
– Name & background (if necessary).
– Why YOU are the person making the presentation.

3. The intention:
– What you are going to do / show / demostrate.
– The benefits for the audience.

4. The “Route Map”:
How long you are going to talk.
The points / areas you are going to cover.

5. The “Rules of the Road”.
Mobile phones off (Not vibrate because they still disturb the presenter & the audience).
Questions at the end and the reasons “WHY?”.
Support Documents (at the end =copy of the Slides + datos).

6. Start your presentation.

Whether or not you reach your communicative objectives depends on YOU. You can not blame the audience if they do not make the decision that you want – it is almost always the fault of the transmitter, not the receptor.

You need to decide whether you are going to use techniques based on up-to-date knowledge for the 21st century or keep using the old, much less effective habits from the last century (literally!)

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, October, 2012

Other elements to consider that are covered in other BLOG posts:
How to kill a presentation stone dead in three easy steps.
Short link:
Making presentations sitting down = Less influence & more problems.
Oh no! Not ANOTHER boring company presentation!
“An Elephant in the Room” # 2: The Hidden Dangers of Interrupting during Presentations.
Short link:
“An elephant in the Room” # 3 : Avoiding Unacceptable Behaviour in Presentations.
Short link:

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