Business Digest - Aug. 2007

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Getting the Most Mileage Out of Meetings    Creating a Limitless Life

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Teen & Parent Chat: 6 Ways To Communicate Clearly With Your Teen

Hi Parents,

How would you like to have a closer relationship with your teen again? Your ability to communicate effectively with your teen is one of the most precious skills you can develop to achieve this goal. When we think of communication, we tend to think only of the way we can express ourselves. While that is certainly important, listening is the single most crucial of all communication skills.

As a mother of two teenage boys, I know that it isn't always easy to communicate well with your teen. It's particularly frustrating when they aren't talking to you. However, when I started applying these techniques to our lives, I found that we started getting along better almost immediately. With less arguing between us, our relationship became stronger.

1. Make Your Teen Your Focus

Give your teens your full attention. I know that this is a toughie, because we tend to be so busy. It seems as if we are always multi-tasking. However, it is important in clear communicating that you make a point of stopping what you are doing and really listen to your teens (rather than just hearing him).

When you give your teens your undivided attention, they will know that you care, because you took the time to listen, thereby increasing the chances that they will listen to you.

2. Get the Details

Hear what your teen is really saying! Teens tend to give terse answers to questions, leaving out details that may be important.

It's up to you to be able to get them to open up and draw them into a conversation.

Here is an example:

Teen: "I hate my teacher!" Parent: "Oh, you don't really mean that!" Teen: "Yes, I do. I double hate him!" Parent: "Well, I don't want to hear that kind of talk. I am sure you don't really hate him!" Teen: "Yes, I do so. I hate all teachers!" Parent:

"Do you think hating your teachers is going to get you a good mark?"

And on and on the arguing goes....

Here's an alternative:

Teen: "I hate my teacher!" Parent: "Wow, you don't normally hate anybody. What did he do to get you talking like that?" Teen: "A couple of kids didn't have their homework finished again today, so he decided to punish all of us by giving us a math test tomorrow!" Parent: "That doesn't sound very fair!" Teen: "No, it isn't fair at all. I wanted to go over to Rachel's tonight to hang out and listen to music. Instead I have to study for that stupid test. I am so mad at my teacher! He ruins everything!"

Parent: (Just listening.)

This teen was able to express herself, and she felt validated by her parent.

You will notice that the parent didn't argue about the feelings the teen had. The parent listened and was not judgmental. You don't have to agree with your teen's feelings. You only need to acknowledge them. There is no such thing as a wrong feeling. We can't help what our teens may feel. We should set limits, however, on behaviors that don't conform to what we consider to be appropriate behavior.

Expressing one's feelings is a healthy thing; although negative expressions of one's feelings should be avoided, such as screaming or name calling. A good way to avoid this is using time-outs--wait and continue the conversation when everybody has calmed down.

3. Open-Ended Questions

Questions can be crucial to communicating with your teens. Ask questions that they can't answer with only a yes or a no.

For example in the above scenario the parent could ask the teen, "What could you do to help your teacher change his mind about the test?"

Teen: "I am not sure. This guy is so stubborn!" Parent: "What if you talk to him and come up with better ways for him to deal with the kids that aren't doing their homework?" Teen: "Mmhhh, maybe I could give it a try."

4. Criticize Behavior, Not Your Teen

Moving from the listening to the talking part of communication, your focus shifts. When you want to see a change in your teens' behavior, using the following structure can be very helpful.

"When you______, I feel______, because I need______." This wording (known as "I" message) doesn't attack your teens' personality. Instead it merely talks about an action of theirs that you'd like to change and why.

Here is a scenario you might relate to: The chores were not done. Your teen went out instead. This example does not show the best way of communicating. It is a personal attack and makes statements you may not stick to anyway.

Parent: "You didn't do your chores! You are such a lazy slob! You never do your chores, and I always have to do them for you. Next time you don't do them, I am going to ground you for a week! Teen: (Feels pretty lousy.)

Now here is an example using the "I" technique:

Parent: "When you didn't do your chores before going out, I felt really mad. We had an agreement about chores being done before going out, and I need you to do your part of the chores, or I am stuck doing them for you." Teen: (Thinking.) "I guess that makes sense."

Remember when you start a sentence with "You are such and such," you aren't communicating. You are criticizing!

5. Let the Consequence Fit the Action

A fairly big problem that parents run into is looking for suitable punishment for broken rules. However, the penalty applied usually isn't related to the teens' action. As parents, we need to show our teens that each choice they make has consequences, but the discipline needs to be appropriate.

Parents tend to punish their teens by taking away something the adolescent enjoys, for example no TV for a week. Let's take the earlier example of the chores not being done, such as the laundry left in a heap. It would be more beneficial to the development of your teen if you base the penalty on a natural connection between his action and the punishment. A good way of showing the consequences to his action in this instance would be having him do your laundry as well as his next time, since you had to do his this time. When following such a step, you are practicing "silent communication". This means letting him experience the natural consequences of his actions. This technique speaks louder than any words ever could. It illustrates to all people that they will be held accountable for what they do.

As they grow, teens tend to receive more privileges from parents. It is important for them to realize that more responsibility goes along with the extra freedom.

6. Using Descriptive Praise

We all praise our teen sometimes. We tell them, "You are a smart kid." Perhaps you might say, "You are a good piano player." We mean well, but unfortunately this kind of praise doesn't bring the desired effect of making your teen feel good about himself.

Why is that? It is because what we are doing is evaluating their actions. With this type of praise, we aren't giving evidence to support our claims, and this makes the praise fall flat and seem empty and unconvincing.

We need to describe in detail what they are doing. As your teen recognizes the truth in your words, he can then evaluate his actions and credit himself where he feels the praise has merit.

Here is an example with evaluating praise:

Teen: "Hey, Ma, I got a 90 on my geometry test!" Parent:

"Fantastic! You are a genius!" Teen: (Thinking) "I wish. I only got it 'cause Paul helped me study. He is the genius."

Here is an example with descriptive praise:

Teen: "Hey, Ma, I got a 90 on my geometry test!" Parent: "You must be so pleased. You did a lot of studying for that test!"

Teen: (Thinking) "I can really do geometry when I work at it!"

Describing your teens' action rather then evaluating them with an easy "good" or "great" or labeling them with "slow learner" or "scatterbrain" isn't easy to do at first, because we are all unaccustomed to doing that. However, once you get into the habit of looking carefully at your teen's action and putting into words what you see, you will do it more and more easily and with growing pleasure.

Adolescents need the kind of emotional nourishment that will help them become independent, creative thinkers and doers, who aren't looking to others for approval all the time. With this sort of praise, teens will trust themselves, and they won't need everybody else's opinion to tell them how they are doing.

Another challenging problem concerns when and how we criticize our teens. Instead of pointing out what's wrong with your teen's actions, try describing what is right followed by what still needs doing.

Example: Your teen hasn't done his laundry yet.

Parent: "How is the laundry coming? Teen: "I am working on it."

Parent: "I see that you picked up your clothes in your room and in the family room and put it in the hamper. You are half way there."

This parent talks with encouragement, acknowledging what has been done so far, rather then pointing out what hasn't been done yet.

For more helpful information and examples on good communication with your child, I highly recommend a book by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So They Will Talk, published by Harper, ISBN 0380811960.

There's a teen version of the book called How to Talk so Teens Will Listen, ISBN 0060741252.

"Parents need to fill a child's bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can't poke enough holes in it to drain it dry." - Alvin Price

Another great place to find stories that support and encourage your Teen is in the Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul book series authored by Mark Victor Hansen and Debbie Reber.

Is your Teen troubled and lacks self-esteem? This article is part of the Teenacity 6-part Teen Chat Guide to help Your Teen feel better about himself and have more confidence. Get your copy free of charge at www.teenacity.com and/or have your Teen sign up as well!

About the author:
Christine McGogy, mom of two Teens, Founder and Owner of http://Teenacity.com. Free Teen Chat Series 6-part guide for Teens "Get What You Want and Break Free"!

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Getting the Most Mileage Out of Meetings

Imagine this: You're sitting in a staff meeting minding your own business when suddenly your supervisor asks you to facilitate the next meeting. Your heart skips a beat before it sinks to your stomach, which has clenched up into a ball the size of a walnut. Your mind goes blank for a second and then you think to yourself, "Why me? If there's anything worse than sitting through another meeting, it's leading a meeting." But being the team player that you are, the words that come out of your mouth are, "Sure. I'll do it."

Great. So now what? Maybe you block the meeting out of your mind and hope that it gets canceled. Maybe you show up to the meeting with the hope that everyone will discuss what they need to discuss and do what they need to do...they're all adults, right? Or maybe you put an agenda together, but when you get to the meeting everyone goes off topic and you walk away frustrated that nothing got accomplished.

Facilitating meetings is a great source of anxiety for many people. For some, it's the fear of public speaking that causes that "brain-freeze-can't-think-because-I'm-too-nauseous" reaction. For others, the difficulty of getting people to participate in discussions without losing control of the agenda stirs up anxiety. And for some, the biggest demons are the fear of looking incompetent in front of others or not being able to handle the difficult behaviors that always seem to pop up in meetings.

Whatever the fear, there is hope. People dislike meetings because most are disorganized, unproductive and often a breeding ground for conflict. All this adds up to hours upon hours of wasted time...and who has time for that? As a facilitator, you have the power to shape the process and outcome of meetings so that you produce results and make good use of people's time together - e.g. get the most mileage out of your meetings.

After many years of facilitating meetings (and suffering from brain-freeze-nausea too many times to count), I have developed a habit of going through a 5-step process every time I lead a meeting - whether it's in person, on the telephone, one-on-one or in a group setting. The amount of time I spend in each step varies depending on the type and content of the meeting. Brief and simple meetings require less time, while longer and complex meetings require more time. Either way, going through this process is worth the extra time compared to the hours that are wasted in unfocused, unproductive, repetitive meetings. Here is my 5-step process, or what I call "The 5 P's of Facilitating":

PLAN

* Develop the agenda by answering these questions:

1. Why is this meeting being held? Is it primarily for information-sharing, teambuilding, decision-making - or a combination? (Purpose)

2. What do I want participants to walk away with by the end of the meeting - an understanding, a recommendation, an agreement? (Desired Outcomes)

3. What content do we need to cover in order to achieve our Desired Outcomes? (Agenda Items)

4. How will we cover each Agenda Item - do we need to Review, Discuss and/or Decide? (Process)

5. Who will present/lead the Agenda Items? (Who)

6. How long do we need for each item? (Timeline)

PREPARE

  • Gather or prepare background materials that will help participants understand the context of agenda items before discussing them or making decisions.
  • Send out the agenda and any background materials ahead of time. Request that people come prepared to discuss them.
  • Prepare handouts to help participants understand complex concepts or discussion points. Make notes in your copy of the agenda about when you will distribute handouts during the meeting and how you will explain them.
  • Make notes in your copy of the agenda about any particular points you want to make or mention if needed.
  • Develop questions to "open" and "close" the discussion and move the meeting participants toward making a decision.

For example,

  • "What do you think?" is a very broad question and likely to elicit any number of responses. This can be a good way to begin the discussion if you want it to be very open-ended - just be aware that you may get answers that aren't directly related to the issue being discussed.
  • "What do you think about the proposed ideas for meeting these goals?" makes the discussion more focused. You're more likely to meet your Desired Outcomes if you ask targeted questions.
  • "Can everyone agree to implement these three strategies for meeting our goals?" is a way to "close" the discussion.

This kind of question is good to ask after there has been some discussion and the meeting participants have worked through their main questions and differences on the issue.

PRACTICE

  • Practice ways to transition smoothly from one agenda item to the next.
  • Run through the meeting in your head and imagine potential reactions from participants, then practice your responses.
  • Practice saying any stories, analogies or jokes you plan to use so that you can boil them down to their "essence."

PRESENT

  • Provide a context for each agenda item so that participants understand why it is important. The level of detail you provide will depend on whether it is a simple, standing item ("We will now hear our monthly reports from each program.") or a complex agenda item ("Our next agenda item is the Employee of the Month award. It's on the agenda because there have been requests to reinstitute this award after it was discontinued a year ago. A committee has been working on ideas to present to the entire staff.")

Clarify whether the agenda item is up for

  • Review ("The committee members are going to give you an update about the ideas they have been discussing.")
  • Discussion ("After they give you the update, the committee members would like to hear your feedback about their ideas, as well as additional ideas for reinstating the Employee of the Month award.") and/or
  • Decision ("After we've discussed this item, the committee needs you to agree on a recommendation for management on how to reinstate the Employee of the Month award.")
     
  • For agenda items up for Review, present the information and any handouts. Check for understanding before moving on to Discussion or the next agenda item ("Does that make sense to everyone?" or "Does anyone have any questions about what was just covered?").
  • For agenda items up for Discussion, ask the question(s) you developed in the Prepare phase. Summarize the points that were raised during the discussion and check for accuracy before moving on to the Decision or another agenda item ("So what I heard was....Does that sound accurate?").
  • For agenda items up for Decision, ask the question(s) you developed in the Prepare phase. Restate the agreed-upon decision and check for accuracy before moving on to the next agenda item ("So the decision we've made is...Does that sound accurate?").
  • Clarify Next Steps. Restate or obtain agreements about who will be responsible for completing agreed-upon tasks within a specified timeframe. Document these agreements.

PRODUCE

  • Write up minutes or notes from the meeting that summarize the discussions, agreements, tasks and timelines. Send the minutes out to all participants.
  • Review the minutes prior to planning the next meeting to see what needs to be revisited and what updates are needed about the agreed-upon tasks.

Why This Matters For Your Mission: Time is one of the most valuable resources your organization has, and yet it is often wasted in ineffective, unproductive meetings. Invest some time in improving your own facilitation skills, and you will get much more value out of the time you and others spend in meetings. Effective, productive meetings contribute to your mission-based activities instead of becoming a barrier to fulfilling your organization's mission.

Copyright 2007 Nicole Young, Optimal Solutions Consulting. All rights reserved.

About the author:
Nicole M. Young is the Owner/Principal Consultant of Optimal Solutions Consulting in Aptos, California. She helps organizations overcome the everyday challenges that keep them from fulfilling their missions. To learn more, go to www.opti-solutions.com or e-mail nicole@opti-solutions.com.

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Creating A Limitless Life

What is a limitless life? It's a life where you are free to reach your highest potential - a life where negative thinking is powerless to stop you from pursuing your dreams and desires to create a rich and abundant life full of joy and possibilities.

It's a life where you are completely open to seeing those possibilities.

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. Diane Ackerman

Do you want to only live the length of your life, just plodding along and taking what comes your way? Or do you want to live the width of your life as well, experiencing the fullness of opportunity that life has to offer and always being open to more - more joy and happiness, more peace, more abundance, more love, and more success in whatever way you define it?

1. Take responsibility for your life. This is the only way to go beyond just taking what life brings. You have to claim your life in order to create your own destiny. It's under your control.

Believe it or not, you are the one who decides how to spend each day that you have here on Earth, and you can choose to spend them either in joy or dissatisfaction.

2. Decide what you want. So many people waste life's precious moments complaining and reciting all the things they don't want.

Free yourself from that trap. Look deep inside yourself and determine what a limitless life means to you.

3. Take action and live now. Stop waiting for tomorrow. Make even a small amount of time each day to either do or pursue the things you dream of. Don't wait to take action when you could do it now, and don't assume life will reward you with all you dream of if you're unwilling to get off your butt to go after it.

4. Learn to quiet and question your mind. Ceaseless and unquestioned thinking is one of the greatest obstacles you will ever face in pursuing a limitless life of happiness, abundance and peace. Your mind and thoughts are tools for you to use to support yourself in your unlimited life. (Think you don't have time to learn to quiet your mind? Check out my article Meditation in a Busy Life.)

5. Think big and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. This is one of the best ways to keep yourself growing. In life, if you're not growing then you're either stagnating or dying.

Stretch and reach for a little more than you are comfortable with, a little more than you think is possible and you will often be rewarded beyond what you expected.

6. Continually work at releasing your negative thoughts and feelings. Negativity inside of you in any form is resistance, and resistance sets up limits. When you can free yourself of negativity, you open yourself to new possibilities that were previously clouded by your negative perspective. (For tips, see my long article Overcoming Negative Energy at my website.)

7. Surround yourself with other positive-minded people. Cultivate friendships and relationships with people who are joyous in life and have a positive energy within them. Seek out other unlimited thinkers - they do exist! (And my personal suggestion is to run the other way when you're confronted by negative complainers - they'll suck the life right out of you...)

8. Take time to consider why you or your soul are here. Are you here to live a life of misery and complaint, or unlimited abundance in every area possible? Realize that there are some people living under the most difficult conditions life can offer who still manage to create love, joy and peace for themselves.

9. Search for and live your passion. When you find what you truly care about and put your energy into it, you create a a powerful force for breaking through your preconceived limits.

10. Be open to giving AND receiving. Give of yourself in everything you do. Put your values into your life, give your love as freely as possible, support others as they try to create happiness for themselves. And then make sure you are open to receiving all the good that's coming to you. If you are not open to receiving the best that an unlimited life has to offer, then you will not see the opportunities and gifts before you and they will pass you by.

Life is like a gift in a box, and you have to decide whether to throw it away, leave it sitting unwrapped in the box, or gleefully tear open the box to find the delightful possibilities inside. It's up to you. Nobody else gets your gift. Nobody else can open it for you.

Are you ready to embrace your gift with gratitude and be open to the unlimited possibilities that await you? Are you ready to live the width of your life fully? Then start today. Don't wait.

Enjoy!

About the author:
Judy Braley is a personal growth specialist. Her blog with free articles and information on inspiration for your life can be found at http://www.GrowFromWithin.com.

Copyright 2007 Wherett Inc. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

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