3 LESSONS IN EFFECTIVE AND THOROUGH COMMUNICATION FOR LEADERS

Everything I have learned about excellent and thorough communication I have learned from my 10-year-old grandson, Silas.

Silas is hearing impaired. 

The lessons I have learned from conversing with my grandson have improved my skills of communicating my team.

 

LESSON 1: GET CLOSE ENOUGH TO BE HEARD

 When I need to speak to my grandson, I need to make sure that I am close enough for him to hear me. Trying to converse with him across a noisy room is ineffective. If I want to tell him something important or give instruction, I walk over him to him and position myself face to face in front of him. This allows him to read my lips, interpret my body language, and easily access the sound of my voice.

   The same is true with how leaders should communicate with their team. Leaders need to be in regular close contact with their immediate team so that they can be heard. The temptation for leaders is to remain distant and only engage when necessary. This hinders effective communication. The more your team is around you, the more they understand and can anticipate your expectations, perspective and preferences. In the same, the more you are around them, you will know their expectations, perspective, and preferences. Excellent communication thrives in context and context is best understood when you choose to become familiar with it. 

LESSON 2: IF NOT YOUR NOT UNDERSTOOD, TRY SAYING IT A DIFFERENT WAY

    Sometimes my grandson will say, "What did you say, Poppy?" and I will want to shout my sentence to him, thinking if I just get louder, he will understand. The issue is not that he couldn't hear me but rather he was not understanding what I saying. I was heard but not understood.  I have learned that sometimes I have to rephrase my sentences, slow down, and maybe even gesture to help him understand what I am trying to communicate. 

   Leaders become frustrated when their team is not understanding what is being said. The temptation is to just say the same thing over and over again until both the leader and the team are upset. Leaders need to become excellent at finding creative ways of communicating with their team. Communication may require visuals, a different approach or breaking the steps down into accessible pieces.  

 

LESSON 3: ASK QUESTIONS TO CONFIRM YOU HAVE BEEN HEARD

   When I have given Silas instructions, I often need to ask him questions afterward to see if he understood what I have asked of him.

    "Silas, when you go outside, please remember to shut the screen door. Can you remember why it needs to be remained shut?" 

                    "It needs to stay shut so that the bugs don't fly into the house. Grammy hates bugs."

   When we are giving instructions to our team, we need to ask them questions to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Often leaders will throw instructions at their team without ever taking the time to confirm that the instructions have truly been heard and understood. The best way to confirm that communication has been effective is asking specific questions. Questions are the bridges to conclusions. Leaders must become excellent question askers if they want to see their team and mission come to a successful conclusion.

      For more on effective communication, please read:

 

AN APP TO BUILD BETTER COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR TEAM


ABOUT TODD

  Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.

 

 

 

HOW TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE MEETING: Assign Specific Action Steps.

        The goal of every meeting is to agree to take specific action regarding a specific need or project. Bottom line: Everyone should know what is required of them by the end of the meeting. Most people don't.

   Many meetings conclude with a vague sense of what needs to be done and an uncertainty of when and who it is to be done by. There is a simple solution to this. Go old school. 

1. Provide Paper + Pens.   

  Phones, tablets, and laptops are distractions. A simple piece of paper and pen will keep everyone on the same page. Now, before you dismiss "writing things down" as an archaic,  you should know that Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg walks into every meeting with a spiral notebook and pen and she seems to be getting a lot done. I, personally, like to use a bullet journal. At the end of the day, a simple piece of paper and pen will suffice.

    Here is an example of a  chart created to help team members record...

  • PROJECTS/NEEDS

  • ACTION STEPS FOR PROJECTS/NEEDS

  •  NAMES OF THE PERSON(S) ASSIGNED TO CARRY OUT THE ACTION STEPS

  • THE DATE OF WHICH THE ACTION STEP MUCH BE CARRIED OUT BY

 

2. Assign SPECIFIC What, When and Who for each Action Step. 

     It is the job of the leader to assign the what, when and who for each action step. It is most effective when the leader is specific to what needs to be accomplished, who is responsible for accomplishing it and when it needs to be accomplished by. 

   "Can we make sure that the proposed budget is submitted to me by the end of the next week?"

vs.

"Jennifer, will you make sure that proposed budget for the Gala and is submitted to me by 5:00 pm on Thursday via email?"

   The latter is more effective because it is specific in who is responsible, what they are responsible for doing and when it needs to be completed. When actions steps are vague, few will step up to complete them. This is because uncertainty is the atmosphere where "fear of failure" thrives. Remove the fear by removing the uncertainty.

 

3. Ask everyone to keep each other accountable to their assigned action step.

     Accountability is one of the secret ingredients in productivity. Team members should know who is responsible for each action step and when it needs to be done by. This why "writing it down" is helpful. Every knows the part they play. Team members can choose to later enter the written action steps into their chosen device (phone, tablet, or laptop) but for the sake of time and staying on the same page: EVERYONE SHOULD WRITE  DOWN THE ACTION STEPS.  When there is a question about a specific action step, it will be clear who to speak to.

 

 

        A clear plan of ACTION will make our meetings effective which will ultimately make our organization more productive. There is much good to be done and we need a lot of time to do it. We can use our meetings wisely so we can accomplish the mission set before us.

For more on how you can run an effective meeting, please read:

THE POWER OF A WELL CRAFTED AGENDA


  Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.

HOW TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE MEETING: Keep the Space Limited.

“Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth.”

    If we want to run an effective and productive meeting, we need to make sure the right people are in attendance. I am officially giving you the permission to be exclusive in who you invite to your meetings.

   This is not like third grade, where you had to invite everyone in the class to your birthday party or else someone is going to feel left out. It is really is okay to keep your meetings small in attendance. You are not a bad person. You are just a good leader.

    Keep your space limited. Choose only the team members that are relevant to the management of the project - and even then - be picky.  Too many voices in a meeting will spoil its productivity

To read more on how to run an effective meeting, click:

THE POWER OF THE WELL-CRAFTED AGENDA


  Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.

 

 

 

HOW TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE MEETING: KEEP IT SHORT + SWEET

A lot of time is wasted in meetings. A lot

  When meetings drag on, the productivity drops out. If we want to run an effective meeting, we need to learn the art of hosting concise and punctual team meetings. Here are a few quick tips to help make this a reality:

1. Set a short and specific time.

  ”I’ll often request 22-minute meetings...I’ve found it’s a hyper-effective way to keep everyone conscious of both starting and ending times.”
—  Brian Scudamore

 

   Setting a short, specific time will help keep the meeting focused on the agenda. When long meetings are scheduled, it is easy to get off course because of the illusion that there is so much time to get back on track. If you have less time to work with, you will be less tempted to waste time. 

     

2. Start on time even if not everyone has arrived. 

“Punctuality is one of the cardinal business virtues: always insist on it in your subordinates.” 
— Don Marquis

      We condition our team members to arrive late to meetings by waiting for them. When we wait for the entire team to arrive to start a meeting, we are communicating to punctual team members that they are not as valuable as the late team members. The best way to interrupt this bad habit that is so prevalent in our culture is to simply: START ON TIME. If meetings regularly begin  on time, regardless who is in attendance, team members will learn that to have their voice heard, they need to show up.

3. Finish on time even if you are not finished. 

“Half the time men think they are talking business, they are wasting time.”
— E.W. Howe

   It is important to honor the schedule that each of our team members are accountable to keep. When we allow meetings to "go over" the pre-set finished time, we are allowing the productivity of our team's day to be negatively impacted. This is why ending a meeting at it's pre-set "finished" time is key to our organization's effectiveness. Time management and effectiveness go hand and hand. We cannot expect our team to operate at their optimal effectiveness if we are making them play "catch up" with the rest of their day due to a meeting that went "too long". 

    If not all of the points on the meeting's agenda have been addressed, simply schedule a sequel meeting at the earliest possible date. If our team members can count on us to be punctual and honor their time, they will be more at ease at arranging their schedule to meet the needs of the organization. 

 

   For more tips on how to run an effective meeting, read here:

THE POWER OF A WELL CRAFTED AGENDA


  Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.

HOW TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE MEETING : THE POWER OF WELL CRAFTED AGENDA

           

           CBS News has reported that  "professionals lose 31 hours per month to unproductive meetings. That's four work days each month."  Furthermore, "73 percent of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings and 39 percent even dozed off in meetings."

    In a world that needs Not-For-Profit organizations to have as much productive time to achieve as much good as possible, we need to get better at running effective meetings. How can we create meetings that will scaffold for the success of our mission? Over the course of the next four days, I will offer you 4 simple strategies you can implement for your next meeting. 

   Our first step is foundational so please pay attention.

STEP 1:  Set and Send Out a Well-Crafted Agenda for the Meeting.

   Most of us know, it is a sensible practice to have an agenda planned for a meeting. The problem is that most of us fail to do it. There is an age-old saying, that I am sure you know, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." You can apply this truth to a hosting an effective meeting.  

   A strong agenda will require 20-30 minutes of preparation to craft. Taking the time to think through what needs to be discussed and collaborated as a team will make use of the meeting time more productive. Only include items on the agenda that are essential to this specific group of team members.  

    Many leaders mistakenly use agendas to be a space where they can dump all of their ideas - whether or not it is related to the upcoming schedule, budget, or team. Do not give into the temptation of allowing an agenda to become a wish list. Carefully select only the most relevant items to make the cut of what is to be discussed and given action.

  Once you have created your agenda, send it to the relevant people who will be in attendance of the meeting at least 24 hours in advance. Ask your team to review the items and to ready to actively bring solutions, ideas, and action steps to the table. By empowering your team with a well-crafted agenda, you are given an opportunity to prepare their voice and their perspective to meet the needs of the task at hand.

  One last comment:

     Be faithful to the agenda. Though rabbit trails are inevitable, it is the leader's responsibility to hold the meeting accountable to the agenda. By doing this, you will be establishing creditability as a leader who possesses vision and is able to navigate the team in seeing the vision become reality. In a nutshell, sticking to the agenda will prove that you are a leader not easily distracted.

   What do you do with ideas or problems that are NOT on the agenda? Write them down. Communicate to your team that you will give thought to what has been brought to the table and that a later time these additionals items will be discussed when it is relevant. Never dismiss or discredit the validity of the additional items that have surfaced. They just might be on the next meeting's agenda...

 

Stay tuned for Step 2 in How To Run an Effective Meeting Series!


Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.

 

 

 

 

AN APP TO BUILD BETTER COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR TEAM 


    While most people today prefer texting as their choice mode of communication, texting is an inadequate form of communicating with team members. Why? 

It lacks the ability to communicate "tone". 

      There are not enough emojis in the universe to accurately communicate tone as well as the human voice does.  Unless you are a person whose perspective is always bent towards the positive, it is easy to read this team member's text in the negative: "I can't talk right now. What do you want?" 

   As the great comedian and actress, Carol Burnett, once said,

 

"Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own."


        This is why "Voxer" is one of our favorite apps to use among team members!  

       VOXER functions similarly to a "walkie talkie". You can add several of team members to a group chat. Instead of texting, you leave voice messages to communicate. This works well with collaborative projects that require constant feedback and exchange. Team members are able to accurately communicate because they are able to use their voice to convey subtext, tone, and meaning - without it having to make a "phone call". 

 Voxer allows you to send typed messages, photos, and videos. It also allows you to save voice messages or email them to your inbox.

The best part about Voxer is that there is a FREE option. Yes, that is right! Your team can use Voxer for FREE. You and your team simply need to download the app onto your smart phones! It is THAT easy. 

     When what is said is understood, ideas are put into a motion with a momentum that is rarely interrupted. Therefore, great teams possess a great skill in communicating with one another. Leaders can help their teams sharpen their communication skills by using apps that will scaffold for the best understanding.


Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.

 

5 Websites Every NFP CEO Should Utilize

     Today is a great day to be the CEO of a Not-For-Profit organization because there is plenty of great resources available at your fingertips!

Here are my top 5 favorite websites that I believe every Not For Profit CEO should utilize on a regular basis:

1. GOOD LINC

 Good Linc is "is a no cost, supportive bridge between nonprofit organizations, and product and service providers." It's like the Match.com for Not-For-Profit organizations.  What are you waiting for? Find your dream Business Provider today!

 

2. NOT FOR PROFIT RADIO W/ Tony Martignetti

Tony Martignetti has a gift in both entertaining and educating Not For Profit organizations in what they need to know. If his show is not on your Podcast feed, you are missing out on some valuable information.

 

3. THE CHRONICLE OF PHILANTHROPY

 The Chronicle of Philanthropy is your one-stop shop for current news for Not-For-Profit organizations. It also offers several helpful toolkits like, "Tips and Tools for Building Strong Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Programs.

 

4. THE NONPROFIT TIMES

       The Nonprofit Times is another fabulous publication that will keep you updated in what you need to know to keep your organization thriving during these present times. I highly recommend every NFP CEO to subscribe to this publication! It will keep you informed so you can make excellent decisions that will best serve your organization.

 

5. GUIDESTAR

        Guidestar is the world's largest source of information on Not For Profit organizations. Why should you utilize their website? I think they say it best: "GuideStar’s Nonprofit Profiles provide you with the information you need to make smart decisions, build connections, and learn from each other to achieve your missions."


ABOUT TODD

Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years

Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years

USING A BULLET JOURNAL TO LEAD.

USING A BULLET JOURNAL TO LEAD.

        If you don’t know what a bullet journal is, don't worry. It was only  up until six months ago  that neither did I.   

     I have found that it has become a very important tool in helping me lead my organization.  Bullet journals (or BuJo for short) was developed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer living in Brooklyn NY (see www.bulletjournal.com ).  It is an analog system of “getting stuff done”.  What amazes me is that although it was only introduced to the world a few years ago, it has sort of taken on a life of its on.  To prove my point I challenge you search “bullet journals” in Pinterest and/or You Tube and you will find endless versions of the original.  

     For me, using a “Bujo” helps me:

  • to track the past
  • organize the present
  • prepare for the future.  

    It has had a positive impact on my productivity.   In particular,  I am able to evaluate whether I am focusing my time on the right things, and adjust my activities when I get off course.  I would suggest you look into using a bullet journal.  If you don’t know where to get started, check out some of these links:

 

    If you are using a BuJo I would love to know how its working out for you.  Email me at tpolyiak@saxllp.com to share your experience.

THE INCREDIBLE POWER OF "TIME".

 

 

      One of the more unfortunate mistakes that we as people and organizations make is to ignore how small choices consistently made over time can have astronomical impact on our lives.  Jeff Olson the author of “The Slight Edge” talks about how only 5% of people actually achieve their goals in life.  These people he says are not naturally born rock stars but those who practice simple “easy to do” disciplines consistently which compounds over time.  But what about the rest, the 95%, if it is so simple and easy to do, why don’t they succeed?  Because as Olson puts it “what is easy to do is also easy not to do.”   Also  simple errors in judgment over time add up and ultimately result in failure.  Since the results are not seen right away then don’t realize the there is a compounding factor to choices made over time.  The good news is that if you have been going in the wrong direction, it’s not too late to change your course.  To quote a Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  What simple easy things have you found in your business or life have helped you to become successful?  Please send me an email at tpolyniak@saxllp.com, I would love to learn from you.  

A POWEFUL TECHNIQUE TO GET TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM.

       Whether you are dealing with problems in your organization or your personal life there is an effective  way to get down to the root of the matter.  It’s called the “Five Why’s” and was first made popular by Toyota back in the 70’s as they applied it to their manufacturing process.    

     When dealing with issues, we often fall short of the real cause because we don’t go deep enough.  We tend to deal with symptoms and don’t bring a solution because we haven’t  identified  the “root problem”.   To demonstrate how this works, pick any problem facing you right now – pick a big, hairy one.  Take the time to reflect on this problem by asking “five whys” in sequential order.  Once you get the answer to your first “why” then you ask the question “why” and so on until you asked the question five times, each time going deeper into the matter.  

      People and groups of people (i.e. organizations) often fail because they don’t solve the real problem  because they don’t ask the right number of “whys”.   This week try it and please email me at tpolyniak@saxllp.com as to how it worked out for you.  I would love to learn from all of you!