Exercises to Improve Your Voice

There are a number of factors that effect the way your voice sounds:

  • Physical – the size and shape of your mouth, nasal passages, vocal chords, etc.
  • Health – your general well-being and the tone of your muscles.
  • Temperament and Personality – the way you respond to things going on around you.
  • Environment – both physical and social.
  • Youthful habits – your vocal behaviour as you were growing up.

Most of these factors can be altered or retrained to improve the quality of voice when you speak.

Here are some basic concepts to improve and develop your voice:

Loosen up

You used your voice freely when you were a child. As you developed “mature” speech, your vocal habits became ruts. You need to go back and revive the freedom in using you voice, exercising your imagination and experimenting:

  • Imitate animals – moo, crow, quack, meow, bark, etc.
  • Imitate musical sounds – a bell, a drum, a trumpet
  • Get your body into it – pretend you are cheering on your favourite team, cheer, encourage, groan.
  • Practice emotion – say good morning as many ways as you can – cheerful, perfunctory, angry, grumpy, etc.

Focus on meaning

Find some passages to read aloud. Before you start, read the passage to yourself and analyze the meaning. Read the passage aloud and try and convey that meaning with your voice: stress the basic thought; the development of the thought; the balance of ideas; any contrasts; etc.

Use your emotions

The physical state which accompanies emotion will help you vocalize. As you read a passage aloud, try and recall a situation where you have had similar feelings.

Practice vocal mechanics

Musicians practice the basics regularly. A pianist has a range of exercises to develop their dexterity, speed, sensitivity. A good speaking voice should also be developed with exercises.

Here is a brief idea of the types of exercises that will improve your voice:

  • Say the OO sound as low-pitched as you can. Slide smoothly up to a higher pitch (think a musical octave) and slide back down to the original pitch.
  • Say the OO sound for a long as you can. Repeat on different pitches. Do the same for the sounds AH, OH and EE.
  • Say the OO sound starting as quietly as you can. Gradually increase the volume, then let the sound get quiet again. Do the same for the sounds AH, OH and EE.

An Internet search on “vocal exercises for speaking” will give you many more exercises from which to choose.

Speakers in the past have worked to improve their voices. It takes time, patience, knowledge, and practice.

Posted in Communication, Public Speaking | Comments Off on Exercises to Improve Your Voice

Solving Workplace Problems – The Slacker

Scott Adams has given us the classic workplace slacker in Wally. Wally not only excels at dodging work, he flaunts it. Of course, we laugh at Wally’s “skill-set” because we all know and have worked with a slacker.

There are two types of slackers in most organisations, those who are in over their heads when it comes to getting the job done and those who are just plain lazy. Both types are difficult to deal with and both create morale problems in the workplace.

Regardless of type, slackers have common behaviours:

  • They consistently fail to do what they’re expected to do.
  • They excel at “busy work”.
  • They’re the last to arrive, but the first to leave.
  • They try to pass off tasks to other staff members.
  • They often claim to be “too busy” to help out.
  • They spend lots of time visiting around the office; often interfering with the work of others.
  • They lots of time surfing the web, on personal phone calls or personal e-mail/messaging.

Here are some techniques for dealing with slackers:

  • Talk with them in private about their behaviour, not in the middle of a team meeting.
  • Don’t get angry. Remain calm and objective.
  • Focus on measurable productivity. Don’t blame or accuse.
  • Focus on the behaviour not the personality.
  • Describe the behaviour’s negative impact on the team.
  • Set clear expectations and set up an accountability system to track the expectations. Document the expectations in writing.
  • Get a commitment to changing.

Some questions for consideration. Post your answers in the comments below.

  • Have you dealt with slackers? How?
  • Have you been a slacker?
  • What were the consequences?
  • What made you change your behaviour?
  • Why is it important to avoid being confrontational?
  • What kinds of skills do slackers need to work on? (E.g.: time management.)
Posted in Leadership, Motivation | Comments Off on Solving Workplace Problems – The Slacker

10 Tips for Communicating with Employees

Effective communication is a key skill for supervisors. If a supervisor is unable to deliver a message clearly, it doesn’t matter how good or important the message is, it has no value.

Communication is a continuous process, and good communication provides both quantitative and qualitative input. It serves as a yardstick whereby your employees can measure their progress in terms of meeting their goals and objectives.

Here are some things you can do to make sure you connect effectively with others:
  1. Be clear and specific about what you want. Break the task down into step-by-step procedures.
  2. If you’re unsure whether or not people have really understood you, have them repeat your message using their own words.
  3. Demonstrate or illustrate whenever possible.
  4. For more complex tasks, break-down the instructions to each part of the job.
  5. Use direct and specific language. Say exactly what you mean. Don’t leave people guessing.
  6. Don’t rush your instructions. Clear directions save time.
  7. Avoid misunderstandings by asking employees how they’ll approach the issue or task and why. Have them repeat your instructions when you’re finished.
If you’re receiving directions or new information
  1. Be active. Ask questions. Clarify.
  2. Remain open-minded and patient when you receive instructions from others.
  3. Don’t second-guess or jump ahead of the person giving directions. Listen to the details.
Posted in Communication, Leadership | Comments Off on 10 Tips for Communicating with Employees

How to Build Effective Working Relationships

 I came across these notes I had taken at some time. I’m not sure if they come from a book I was reading or a presentation I was attending.

Leaders achieve results through the work of others. Interpersonal skills are crucial to the leader’s ability to persuade and motivate both internal and external stakeholders. Effective leaders know how to negotiate with associates and resolve conflicts both formally and informally.

Recognize the importance of sensitivity.

One of the factors that undermine leadership is behaving in ways that are insensitive and uncaring to the needs of others. To be effective, managers must be able to establish working relationships based on trust, respect and caring and be sensitive to the opinions, feelings, and interests of others when communicating with them.

Build relationships informally.

Use informal interactions with your peers, superiors and subordinates as an opportunity to build valuable working relationships. Use common courtesy such as smiling and saying “hello” when you encounter people casually. Treat your coworkers with respect and be non-judgmental in your dealings with them.

Be approachable.

If your employees consider you to be unapproachable, ask yourself what it is you do that creates this feeling. Be wary of behaving as if the suggestions or concerns of your employees are unimportant. Make an active effort to interact informally with your employees. Consider establishing and encouraging the use of an open-door policy.

Make effort to improve poor working relationships.

Consider the peers with whom you work regularly and identify the individuals with whom you have poor working relationships.

  • Identify interpersonal barriers. Identify that get in the way of your working relationships with those individuals and determine how you can remove these barriers. View these problems in the same way you view the other problems you face as a manager; they are a challenge that can and must be overcome.
  • Be willing to adapt. Resolving interpersonal differences requires asking yourself what aspects of the other person’s style can be dealt with by simply acknowledging them and being prepared to face them. Other problems may require an ability to adapt your style when interacting with others. In these situations, it is helpful to take the perspective of the other person and understand their reasons for behaving as they do. In most cases the reasons are neither selfish nor misguided; they are simply unique. Individual uniqueness is the basis of the diversity that is crucial to the adaptability and resilience of any organization.
  • Acknowledge others’ viewpoints. Accept that other people will perceive their views as being as valid as yours and that some individuals will never be completely persuaded to accept your point of view or be willing to compromise.
  • Be a mentor. Be a mentor to a less experienced manager who could benefit from your wisdom and guidance. You have an important role to play in developing and mentoring staff to become leaders.
  • Show appreciation. Continually seek opportunities to show appreciation to others for their work. Acknowledge and credit the contributions of your staff in open forums, as well as in private.
  • Recognize your dependence on others. Remind yourself regularly that you become successful as a leader only to the extent that you help those around you become successful.
Posted in Leadership | Comments Off on How to Build Effective Working Relationships

How to Empower Your Employees

Empowerment as a term is widely used and often misinterpreted; as a genuine action, it is difficult to put into practice. Empowerment is really about offering and receiving commitment so it is important to recognize that there are two kinds of commitment: external and internal.

External commitment

External commitment occurs when employees have little control over their destinies and are accustomed to working under the command-and-control model.

Examples of external commitment:

  • Tasks and the behavior to perform tasks are defined by others.
  • Performance goals are defined by management.
  • Goal importance is defined by others.
Internal commitment

Internal commitment occurs when employees are committed to a particular project, person, or program for their own reasons or motivations. Internal commitment is very closely allied with empowerment.

Examples of internal commitment:

  • Individuals define tasks and the behavior required to perform tasks.
  • Management and individuals jointly define challenging performance goals.
  • Individuals define the importance of the goal.

Consider ways that you can support your employees in developing an internal commitment to the work that you do. And, the ways you can also enhance your own commitment.

Posted in Leadership, Motivation | Comments Off on How to Empower Your Employees

How to Prepare the Room for Your Speech or Presentation

Think about the time invested in preparing a great speech: research, organization, practice, preparing a slide presentation, etc. Now, imagine neglecting the last preparation step by not allowing time to prepare the facility when you’ll give your speech.

Your presentation is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. You blast into the room —with the audience already there— at 9:58 a.m. and proceed to set up your notes and equipment.

Ten minutes later, you’re fiddling with cables trying to connect the projector to you laptop. You haven’t booted up yet. It’s powered by Windows, so we know we have another ten-minute wait while it starts.

By this point, you’ve pretty much lost your audience.

Make sure that you spend enough time in the presentation room before your speech begins. Don’t let unforeseen circumstances put a damper on your speech. Get the details of the location where you will deliver your speech ahead of time.

Before leaving
  1. Make sure you have all the material you need: notes, files, handouts, USB stick, projector, etc.
  2. Double check your equipment. Make sure it’s working.
  3. Bring extra hardware as practical. Have two memory sticks, with the presentation file. Throw in an extension cord and extra connector cables for your tech. hardware.
  4. Make sure you have directions to your location, so you can get there early.
At the location
  1. Arrive early. At minimum, you need time to get your material ready. Better yet, be there early enough to set up and then greet audience members as they arrive. You can help build rapport with the audience by spending a few minutes chatting with them.
  2. Check the set-up. Can everybody see the speaker and presentation clearly? If possible, arrange the chairs and tables in a configuration that works for you.
  3. Make sure that the room is comfortable. Is it too hot or cold? Can you adjust the temperature?
  4. Set-up any electronic equipment you are using and test it to make sure it’s working properly and can be seen easily.
  5. Make sure the cables and cords are run in a safe manner. A roll of masking tape is helpful for keeping the cable out of the path of audience members.
  6. If the venue is providing the equipment, take a few minutes to make sure you know how to operate it.
  7. Test the microphone and sound system, standing where you’ll be using them.

Preparation at every stage of the process leads to a successful speech or presentation.

Posted in Communication, Public Speaking | Tagged , | Comments Off on How to Prepare the Room for Your Speech or Presentation