Archive for June, 2010

What verbs describe what you get paid to do?

June 21st, 2010 Kevin 1 comment

During team building workshops I rely on an exercise that names the verbs we use to tell others what we do. Below I offer some of the key questions that will help you write out your list of verbs. If you have not done this exercise before it will be informative for you.

What verbs do people come up with during the exercise?

Folks use all kinds of verbs so it is hard to categorize the ones they use here in any meaningful way. It is easier, however, to identify the verbs they often leave out: should; could; would; ought; and might. These verbs help maintain confusion, indecision and delay. People also name these: want; need; try; hope; plan; wish. These verbs are weak, they are steps away from our goals. Finally, folks rarely write these next verbs down and yet they creep into our daily life all the time: can’t; won’t; don’t; shouldn’t; wouldn’t. Negative verbs produce negative outcomes.

Power verbs

It turns out there are verbs that power up our actions. To learn more do some research on Robert Tennyson Stevens. He studied the Hopi peoples, among other things, to arrive at power verbs that make goals happen. Here is a short list of such verbs: am; will; can; do; know; choose; have; give; love.

What questions will help us identify the verbs we use most often at work?

Here are questions you can use to do this exercise on your own:

Describe what you do with others in your company?

What do you do for your work with folks outside of your company?

Think about several recent days at work; what is happening? List the actions.

On your way to work, what verbs describe what you will do that day?

What do you get paid to do?

What do people tell you to do?

What do you tell yourself to do?

These questions should help you begin the exercise. Good luck!

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Crowd Talking: hear it at ATC/RISE Rave 3.0

June 18th, 2010 Kevin No comments

What happens when folks talk a bunch and the talk makes its way into the presentations at a crowd sourcing event? Crowd talking! Come hear how it works. Join us at ATC/RISE Rave 3.0 on June 29, at UT, Austin. “Where is it” info below.

What is ATC/RISE Rave 3.0?

The Rave series began when William Hurley, a.k.a. Whurley (a personality some have dubbed the “evil genius”), pitched the concept to Julie Huls and Brian Wong of Austin Technology Council. Whurley sought to rock Austin’s tech scene by encouraging random folks to hear ideas in an “unconference” sort of way. Two Raves later the organizers have delivered on their promise. Now Rave 3.0 arrives with a new program partner in Rise Austin, lead by Georgia Thomsen, and a new mission: crowd talking!

What is Rave 3.0 about?

Rave 3.0’s conversation is tech talent. Two standout presenters have the floor, Valerie Hausladen and Steven Tomlinson. They speak of passion and fortitude and the courage that finds careers that matter. It’s time for careers that fit our inner and outer fabric. These speakers will share practical stuff about how to get there. The good news, they’ll have 300 experts to help them!

What does Rave stand for?

R-A-V-E is Random – Access :: Various – Experts. Point blank: the event welcomes the audience and its expertise. The Rave design seeks each person’s thoughts: this event is all ears. At the event the audience helps make the night happen with questions and energy that will drive the talks forward.

How is Rave 3.0 different from other speakers’ forums?

From the start the Rave series has courted an irreverence for tradition. Initially, the crowd picked the speakers. Novel. Now, the crowd offers its voice. Really. To do that, version 3.0 brings social media to bare with Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs, “question advocates,” and yours truly, the Knowledge Advocate. All these things, and people, will move the crowd’s insights into the moment, to become part of it. The clear intent: make the voice of the people heard– loud and clear.

All right, what is “crowd talking?”

Crowd talking is what happens when a crowd truly voices its thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If the event increases the odds that the audience gets heard it is a job well done. This event leverages audience ideas with Twitter, Facebook, and old school stuff, for example, assigning folks to roam the room asking for content. Specifically, question advocates will capture the questions and thoughts of the audience. The speakers will then riff off of what gets heard as the talks progress. The crowd’s voice comes alive in real time, real fast.

Ground breaking stuff, this crowd talk?

Will this event be ground breaking? Hard to tell until it happens. One thing is for sure: the challenge of maxing out the crowd’s voice is worth it, whatever crowd you are part of. That’s because of the power of the wisdom of the crowd. Awesome stuff.

So what now?

Stay tuned. As mentioned, the event is June 29, at the AT&T Executive Education Conference Center. Search for “ATC/RISE RAVE” on line or head to Facebook for more information:

Please know there is a call to action for this event;

The organizers need your participation now and at the event;

RSVP on the Facebook page and start talking! Thank you!

Categories: Learning, Technology Tags:

Mind your Ps and Cues and Talk Better

June 13th, 2010 Kevin No comments

“Mind your Ps and Qs” is an English phrase that means “mind your language.” It may have started in bars where bartenders were careful when measuring pints versus quarts. Or it may come from old printer shops, where assistants were reminded to not confuse their ps and qs when they set the type for the print job.

How is “Mind your Ps and Cues” different from “Mind your Ps and Qs”?

“Mind your Ps and Cues” is a phrase used in the Well Talk™ system. The phrase reminds folks of the process they follow when they speak using Well Talk. The “Ps” in the phrase refers to six key words that all begin with “P.” Those words are preparation, permission, presentation, process, persistence, and promotion. They represent stages in the Well Talk process and are joined by the “Cues.” The “Cues” mentioned in the phrase represent the verbal and nonverbal cues that Well Talk relies on when improving how we talk to each other.

Say some more about these “P” words and how they fit in the Well Talk process?

The “P” words represent stages in the Well Talk process. I will discuss them in the order that they come up during our talks. They all reoccur as a talk proceeds as well.


Preparation is the first step. Even as we prepare we remain flexible; this is because we know we will adapt to the flow of the talk as it unfolds. Sometimes in the middle of talks we will take a step back and prepare the next section of the talk together. Preparation considers feelings first and then addresses the issues we intend to discuss. We prepare by considering our emotions, expectations and goals and those of the people with whom we will speak.


Permission is the most important step, and one we can easily control. Repeated requests for permission are within our control and are welcomed by those we talk with because it shows our sensitivity and respect for them. Permission is generally the first step we do with others, and when we do it well, we repeat our requests for permission throughout the talk. Requests for permission include verbal cues, “May we…”, “With your permission I will…”, or “Can I…” Nonverbal cues are helpful as well, and can include open shoulders, hands at side, relaxed facial muscles, a slight tilt of the head, a soft raise of the eyebrows, and many more. Well Talk requires that permission get reestablished every two or three minutes. You will find the easiest way to do that is with nonverbal cues, like those mentioned and others including an extended palm, a hand on the heart, or a patient use of a pause. These cues all “ask” the same thing: will we continue with what we are talking about, or move on to something else? Conscious effort to request permission builds rapport and gains the trust of others.


Presentation is a critical step. How we present ourselves is the thing that others will pay most attention to as we talk. Therefore, as with permission, this is a reoccurring step. Mostly, every moment in our talk is a presentation moment and we can train ourselves to more consciously be in charge of how we present to others. People we talk with generally will compare what we say with the expressions we use. Depending on what they sense, they will generate perceptions of us. This is true when we remain silent as well as when we share our thoughts during questions, statements and answers. Mastery of this step requires a keen awareness of our states of mind, body language, word choice and energy level.


The word “process” has many meanings. Well Talk uses the word to honor the time people need to process whatever it is we say. This step acknowledges that we all think differently and some take less time to process and some need more time. This step reoccurs as well and requires significant patience to master. During this step, we offer few verbal and nonverbal cues so as to let the other people have the space they need to figure things out. This space also allows them to ask follow up questions or take the time needed to process everything as best they can.


Persistence is the step that helps close the loop of understanding that we form with the previous steps of permission, presentation, and process. During this step, we repeat, rephrase, and refocus what we say and how we say it. The cues we use are soft, with kind tone of voice, slow speed of delivery, and the nonverbal cues demonstrate that we have an open mind, kind heart, and genuine interest in the goals and outcomes of the talk. At our best, we are holding the moment for reasons aside from our own personal needs. The talk is serving the needs of the moment more than the needs of any one person in the talk. This step of persistence ensures that what is said during the talk has a strong chance of being remembered and acted upon later.


Promotion is the step that acknowledges when a successful moment arrives in our talk. It can be a statement like “That is a wonderful way to express that sentiment,” or a nonverbal expression that let’s people know we are thinking, “Aha! That’s it!” Something like, “That is a great point and…” allows the talk to continue as the steps discussed above repeat themselves. This step lets us applaud the thoughts and ideas as they surface. During this step we secure next steps, set action plans, and confirm our commitment to a great talk.

That’s it, just six steps to great talks?

Well, these six steps, preparation, permission, presentation, process, persistence, and promotion, are the cornerstone of the process that drives Well Talk and delivers better talks. There are a couple of other “P” words as well, “practice” and “play” come to mind. By practicing the process and improving your verbal and nonverbal cues, your skills improve by leaps and bounds as well. Then, talks become play as others understand your intentions and appreciate your assistance, even when talks cover hard feelings and complex issues.

Good luck minding your Ps and Cues and may all your talks be deep and healthy!

Categories: Thoughts Tags:

Find your “flow state” and get “in the zone” at work

June 3rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

I think I know what “in the zone” means, but what the heck is a “flow state?”

“In the zone” and “flow state” are different ways of saying the same thing. When athletes like Lebron James or artists like Meryl Streep are on top of their field, living in the moment, we know they are “in the zone.” Lebron’s three pointer moves effortlessly from his hands to the hoop… “Swish,” nothing but net. Same with Meryl, she offers the screen everything she’s got, and we, the audience, live with her in the moment she portrays. Powerful acting. When they live in the moment like this, we can say they are in a “flow state.”

How can I get “in the zone,” as you say in a “flow state,” at work?

The formula is pretty simple. To get in a flow state at work balance challenge with safety. To do that, consider the following things and make sure they are present:

The safe side:                                                                                       The challenge side:

Control                                                                                                   Feedback

Clear purpose                                                                                        Movement

Maintain safety                                                                                      Encourage challenge

When we balance safety with challenge at work we find ego fades as we get engrossed in the work. Time passes without notice and it can be hard to recall specifics of what we did. These are all signs we are in the flow state. Very exciting.

Can I help folks get in the flow state, in the zone, at work?

Of course you can! Here’s how:

1) State the purpose of the work you do together very clearly

2) Share mutual control about the expected outcome so you can work on it together

3) Make sure that what ever gets done, gets done fast and with no delays

4) Along the way to getting the work done provide constant feedback

5) Reduce the need to be “right,” or “judge,” or “resist”

6) Preserve a safe sense of things regardless of what else is happening

7) Push for challenge to make sure things are not too easy

This seven step process offers you a chance to get in the zone at work. Good luck!

Categories: Learning, People, Technology Tags: