Friday, July 6, 2018

Have you heard—or heard about—vocal fry?

Vocal Fry is a way of speaking in which the voice is very low-pitched and has a characteristic rough or creaking sound. This is caused by a tightening of the voice box and vocal cords.  The vocal cords compress and become relatively slack and compact. This process produces the characteristic low popping or rattling sound when air passes through.
Vocal fry is also used in some music, usually in combination with air from the diaphragm, in order to create a growl or scream sounding aggressive and harsh—think Steven Tyler!

NPR’s This American Life host, Ira Glass talked to linguist Penny Eckert. She conducted a study asking people to rate how authoritative a radio reporter with vocal fry sounded. The response depended on the age of the rater. Those under 40 thought it sounded authoritative while those over 40 did not.
Take away?  As always, consider your audience! 
Here's a link to another video with Duke University Fuqua School of Business professor Bill Mayew:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Getting in Your Customers' Way? Policies, procedures or people may be driving them away!

Take the time to evaluate the direction of your customer service and you may discover it's time to realign your compass. Policies, procedures or people may be getting in the way. You may even be losing customers because of these three crucial factors. 
  • Policies you have in place and may need to revisit
  • Procedures that create hoops for customers to jump through
  • People skills of those working with customers and those leading them
Policies are often there for the organization's convenience rather than the customers'. Focus, instead, on how to make it EASY for customers to do business with you. As Seth Godin says, “Not changing your strategy merely because you're used to the one you have now is a lousy strategy.”  Some policies:
  • Can be eliminated
  • Need to be rephrased
  • May be initiated
Many Procedures have been in place since the inception of the company or organization─or since the first person to do the job created them! Many procedures are still followed simply because “we've always done it that way." Revisit your procedures regularly and make sure you’re not simply creating hoops for customers to jump through. Review how you and your staff interact with customers:
  • Face-to-face
  • On the phone
  • Via email
  • Through your website
And, take a close look at the People Skills of those who work with customers─and those who lead them.  According to John Goodman, Vice Chairman of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, said, “…almost all employees come to work wanting to deliver great service; but the processes and policies they work under ─ coupled with insufficient managerial support ─ are the real causes of customer dissatisfaction and disloyalty." You can download the complete article at
People need, in the words of Robert Waterman, 'directed autonomy.' Why they need both—and why they often don’t get it—is rooted in our communication styles.  Many leaders are visionaries, but often forget to take people with them.  And they are lousy at answering questions—which 70% of the workforce need answered to be able to perform their tasks! 

Be sure you’re setting a compass bearing in line with your customers' rather than creating obstacles they must surmount to do business with you.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Leader as Influencer: Impression Management in the Spotlight

As we move into a new year, I ask you to think about what kind of leader you are.  Not a leader, you say?  We are ALL leaders.  Think about it.  You may lead an association, organization or company.  You may lead a team at work or your family at home.  You may coach a child’s sports team or lead their scout troop.  Maybe you’re a parent or an aunt or uncle.  All of us are leaders because someone is looking to us to lead.  So here are my recommendations—articles, books and quotations from some of the experts in the field.

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the most respected executive coaches in the country and wrote an excellent book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. To move to the next level, he suggests we constantly need to solicit feedback from our peers, reports, friends and family. At his website, you'll find directions for an exercise he calls Feedforward. And, you’ll find more about Marshall on my blog post

Daniel Goleman is the author of Emotional Intelligence.  In his article, What Makes a Leader?, he explores the five main components of Emotional Intelligence:
  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Regulation
  • Motivation                         
  • Empathy
  • Social Skill
After you read the article, ask yourself—as I ask participants in my program, “Which of the five main components of Emotional Intelligence provides me with the greatest challenge?  Which aspect of that component?  In other words, what could I focus on to become an even more effective leader?” 

As Goleman said, “People are promoted for technical, operational and intellectual reasons, but fail for emotional ones.” And his colleague, Richard Boyatzis, said, “In a study of more than 2,000 managers from 12 large organizations, 81% of the competencies that distinguished outstanding managers were related to emotional intelligence.”

You can download the article, What Makes a Leader? at for $8.95

As John Maxwell said in The 360° Leader, Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization, “You don’t need power to bring change to an organization; you need influence – which is actually a more important skill.”  

You can download the executive summary at or check out any of his books at: 

McKinsey partner Claudio Feser said in an interview, “We all can lead better by developing a better understanding of ourselves, so we can make the best of what we have. Our research suggests that leaders who are self-aware—who know themselves or, as we put it, are “centered”—are up to four times more effective in managing change than people who aren’t.”

I have heeded the recommendations of these two gentlemen as I update my Leader as Influencer program.  Two crucial factors to foster effective leadership are developing a better understanding of ourselves and developing our ability to influence.

Change is guaranteed. Here’s to a rewarding 2018 for you!