by Terry Gault of The Henderson Group

Vocal fry is an issue that I run into often in my work.

My take is that those who use it (typically females) are:

  • Unknowingly undermining their power, authority and credibility,
  • Unconsciously mimicking the behaviors of those around them in order to fit in.

And there are plenty of people (actresses, celebrities, coworkers, etc.) in our purview that are modeling vocal fry. But just because something is ubiquitous, that doesn’t make it a good idea.

The following piece from Mental Floss discussed the phenomena in more depth and includes a terrific video featuring American actress, comedian, radio host, and television personality Faith Salie.

Salie sums up vocal fry beautifully at the end:

“It sounds underwhelmed and disengaged. It’s annoying to listen to a young woman who sounds world-weary — and exactly like her 14 best friends.”

You may have heard of the hot new linguistic fad that’s creeping into U.S. speech and undermining your job chances. Or maybe you know it as the debilitating speaking disorder afflicting North American women or the verbal tic of doom. It’s called vocal fry, and it’s the latest “uptalk” or “valleyspeak,” AKA the “ditzy girl” speaking style that people love to hate.

Unlike uptalk, which is a rising intonation pattern, or valleyspeak, which covers a general grab bag of linguistic features, including vocabulary, vocal fry describes a specific sound quality caused by the movement of the vocal folds. In regular speaking mode, the vocal folds rapidly vibrate between a more open and more closed position as the air passes through. In vocal fry, the vocal folds are shortened and slack so they close together completely and pop back open, with a little jitter, as the air comes through. That popping, jittery effect gives it a characteristic sizzling or frying sound. (I haven’t been able to establish that that’s how fry got its name, but that’s the story you hear most often.)

Vocal fry, which has also been called creaky voice, laryngealization, glottal fry, glottal scrape, click, pulse register, and Strohbass (straw bass), has been discussed in musical and clinical literature since at least the middle of the 20th century. It is a technique (not necessarily encouraged) that lets a singer go to a lower pitch than they would otherwise be capable of. It shows up with some medical conditions affecting the voice box. It is also an important feature in some languages, like Zapotec Mayan, where fry can mark the distinction between two different vowels. These days, however, you mostly hear about it as a social phenomenon, as described (and decried) as “the way a Kardashian speaks” in this video by Faith Salie.

Continued >>


photo credit: manduhsaurus

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by Terry Gault of the The Henderson Group

Ultrarunner Adam St. Pierre was almost “sidelined by tight hip flexors”.  He tried “Pilates, stretching more, strengthening his core” and nothing seemed to help.   What one simple thing solved his problem and actually launched him to “personal best” levels of performance?

Switching to a standing desk.

Read the piece from Men’s Journal magazine here which points out growing evidence of serious health risks caused by sitting for extended periods on a daily basis.  In addition, the piece validates my personal experience: standing at my desk has resulted in a myriad of benefits.

When called upon to lead workshops, I often stand for up to 3 straight hours.  That used to cause stiffness in my lower back.  Since I switched to a standing desk about 2 1/2 years ago, I can easily stand for 4 hours at a stretch and often do.  In fact, I now prefer to stand, in many cases – even at social functions such as parties, etc.  It’s simply more comfortable and helps me feel more alert and energized.

You can see my previous blog post about how to make the switch to a standing desk without spending a pile of money on a fancy new desk.

So, take a stand … for improved fitness and performance!

photo credit: wikimediacommons

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Good bosses care about getting important things done. Exceptional bosses care about their people.

Good bosses have strong organizational skills. Good bosses have solid decision-making skills. Good bosses get important things done.

Exceptional bosses do all of the above–and more. Sure, they care about their company and customers, their vendors and suppliers. But most important, they care to an exceptional degree about the people who work for them.

That’s why extraordinary bosses give every employee:

1. Autonomy and independence

Great organizations are built on the optimizing of processes and procedures. Still, every task doesn’t deserve a best practice or a micromanaged approach. (I’m looking at you, manufacturing.)

Engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. I care when it’s “mine.” I care when I’m in charge and feel empowered to do what’s right.

Plus, freedom breeds innovation: Even heavily process-oriented positions have room for different approaches. (Still looking at you, manufacturing.)

Whenever possible, give your employees the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best. When you do, they almost always find ways to do their jobs better than you imagined possible.

2. Clear expectations

While every job should include some degree of independence, every job also needs basic expectations for how specific situations should be handled.

Criticize an employee for offering a discount to an irate customer today, even though yesterday that was standard practice, and you make that employee’s job impossible. Few things are more stressful than not knowing what is expected from one day to the next.

When an exceptional boss changes a standard or guideline, she communicates the change beforehand–and when that is not possible, she takes the time to explain why she made the decision she made and what she expects in the future.

3. Meaningful objectives

Almost everyone is competitive; often the best employees are extremely competitive–especially with themselves. Meaningful targets can create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.

Plus, goals are fun. Without a meaningful goal to shoot for, work is just work.

No one likes work.

4. A true sense of purpose

Everyone likes to feel a part of something bigger. Everyone loves to feel that sense of teamwork and esprit de corps that turn a group of individuals into a real team.

The best missions involve making a real impact on the lives of the customers you serve. Let employees know what you want to achieve for your business, for your customers, and even your community. And if you can, let them create a few missions of their own.

Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what to care about and, more important, why to care.

5. Opportunities to provide significant input

Engaged employees have ideas; take away opportunities for them to make suggestions, or instantly disregard their ideas without consideration, and they immediately disengage.

That’s why exceptional bosses make it incredibly easy for employees to offer suggestions. They ask leading questions. They probe gently. They help employees feel comfortable proposing new ways to get things done. When an idea isn’t feasible, they always take the time to explain why.

Great bosses know that employees who make suggestions care about the company, so they ensure those employees know their input is valued–and appreciated.

Continued at Inc.com >>

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We’ve written about Deliberate Practice before, and recommend this new article by Inc.com on the subject.

And guess what? Talent may not be necessary.

What is it that makes a speaker amazing? Is it a set of personal characteristics that enable great speakers to capture and keep our attention? Is it their brains? Their sense of humor? Their sincerity and empathy? Or were they born with a talent to talk?

We could ask similar questions about golfers, tennis champs, chess masters, or quarterbacks. Why is it that certain people get a disproportionate share of the talent? Science has something to say about this.

In fact, there are some researchers who say, discreetly, that the very existence of talent is not supported by evidence .

If this is true, our belief in this “thing we call talent” misdirects our efforts and undermines our potential to develop ourselves and others.

In fact, some scientists point to a more accurate view of how top performers in any field achieve their remarkable results. They call it Deliberate Practice.

In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin lays out the elements of Deliberate Practice (DP).

DP is meant to improve performance.

It is engineered to address particular weaknesses that the performer has. It is almost always designed and implemented by a teacher, coach, or expert of some kind.

DP consists of endless repetition and excruciating boredom.

Most of us practice what we’re good at because it feels good, and we do it until we get tired.

Top performers practice what they’re bad at, even though it’s frustrating and humiliating, and they do it to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. They go until they break down old habits, and have to develop new ones.

DP provides continuous feedback.

Every swing of the club, every passage in the concerto, every word in the speech, every marketing tactic undertaken, is assessed, measured, compared, and diagnosed for improvement.

DP is mentally demanding.

Practitioners must maintain the quality of their attention and avoid mindless repetition. The more we concentrate on the task, the less time needed to improve.

DP takes discipline, drive, and desire.

In fact, few of us have the stomach for it. It requires strong belief in yourself to endure the long mental, emotional, and physical struggle needed to achieve world class performance.

This actually could be good news for you and your company. Since so few companies use the principles of DP, if you’re willing to put in the work, you won’t have much competition.

So, if you’re game, here’s what to do before, during, and after the implementation of a DP program in your company…

Continued at Inc.com >>

 

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Intro by Terry Gault

This article touches on a technique that we’ve been preaching to our clients for about 2 decades. In fact, I refer to it as “the most powerful communication technique I have ever learned.” I also refer to it as “the most underutilized communication technique I have ever learned.”

If you are practicing it regularly, it will transform your communications with others in a way that gives you a competitive advantage – indeed, a Super Power you didn’t have before.

 

There is one question that I wish I had known earlier in my career.  It is the key to personal and professional success.  And it is predicated on the most common problem we have as humans: communicating effectively when one person is talking and another is listening.  Misunderstandings abound, and they result in sitcom plots and disasters.  More importantly, they hurt relationships.  And your ability to relate to others will define you.

Prepare To Be Shocked

Over and over again, I counsel friends, mentees, direct reports–anyone who’ll listen–to do one thing.  Before you ask a question, repeat what the other party has said to you, and ask them if that is what they meant.  Why?  Because you’ll be shocked how many times they will tell you that isn’t what they said.

So, here’s the question:

What I hear you saying is <repeat what you heard>.  Did I get it right?

On The Wrong End The 75-25 Rule

It is my experience that 75% of the time, you will get it wrong. Remember, there are two parties in the room, so chances of failure are high.  And this is not about blame.  When you get it wrong, something remarkable will happen.  You will hear this:

“No, that’s not it.  Let me say it another way.”

That’s success right there.  A calm moment and your colleague gets to take another bite at the apple.

When you get it right, something remarkable also happens.  You will hear this:

“Yes!  That’s it.  You get it!”

In both cases, it’s a no-lose.  Your kinship, attachment and working relationship got a lot easier.

This school of psychological thought is called “mirroring,” but the original thinking is that one can build rapport by mirroring gestures, speech patterns and the like.  That’s all good, but if you can get clear on what you’re talking about, you’ll solve problems together in the most effective and rewarding way you’ve experienced.

Hint: My wife asks that you try it at home, too.

photo credit: highwaysagency

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by Terry Gault of The Henderson Group

My wife picked up a Cigar Aficionado magazine at our local Toyota dealer when she took her car in for service.  Probably because Hugh Jackman was on the cover.  That guy is annoying – Good looking, can sing & dance, is buff, AND plays Wolverine in the X–Men movies.  I hate him. ;)   But I digress …

The magazine also features an interesting piece on Joe Buck, the sportscaster whose father was the voice of the St Louis Cardinals for decades.  He learned as much about calling games from his mother (an actress and singer) as he did from his father.

As a San Fransisco Giants fan, I have heard Buck cover many Giants playoffs and World Series games over the last 5 years (In case you missed it, 3 out of the last 5 World series were won by the SF Giants.  If you think I am gloating, then, yes, you have successfully gleaned my subtext.)

The piece includes some useful wisdom:

  1. The value of putting in your 10,000 hours, which Buck did even practicing as a kid
  2. The importance of rhythm and vocal expression
  3. How silence is critical
Enjoy!

Then it happened.  The child protégé was summoned to deliver an impromptu performance.  “It’s the Cardinals and the Mets at Shea Stadium in 1987.  And I’m in the back of the booth, and he and Mike Shannon are broadcasting the game.  And my dad says, “Now to take us through the fifth inning, my son the birthday boy, Joe Buck.”  Buck resisted.  “I’m pleading with him not to do the game, because I haven’t really been paying that much attention.  But he and Mike [Shannon] get up and leave.  He knew that I could handle it, because of all those broadcasts in an empty booth at Busch Stadium when I was 13, 14 and 15.  I’d broadcast the play-by-play into a tape recorder.  I would listen to the cassette tapes in his car on the way home, and he would tell me what he liked and what he didn’t like.  I kind of got the rhythm of how to do it.  I paid so much attention and idolized him that it was a pretty easy transition.  I was 18, but sounded like I was 10, I’m sure.  Maybe this is because it’s so long ago, but I don’t remember being scared when it happened.  I just remember it felt natural.  It was the osmosis factor; I’d been around it as much as anyone had been ever.’

Buck’s calls have a rhythm.  Listen to this one.  It’s the eighth inning of game four of the 1996 World Series at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta.  The Yankees are behind two games to one and trailing, 6-3.  “That was 98 miles per hour,” Buck says of reliever Mark Wohlers’ pitch to Yankee catcher Jim Leyritz.  “Two and two to Leyritz. In the air to left-field, back at the track, at the WALL, WE ARE TIED.”  The crescendo reaches its apex at “tied.”  He falls silent for 16 seconds; McCarver never jumps in.  The camera catches Leyritz’s tour of the bases, then Wohlers in dismay, then the Yankees swarming to greet Leyrtiz outside the dugout.  In three beats — “at the track, at the wall, we are tied” — to the cadence is peerless. The subsequent silence lets the viewer come to his senses and take in all that has happened.

Buck reflects.  “I will give you an answer I’ve never given anyone about that: it comes from my mom, Carole Lindsay.  She was a singer and actress on Broadway when my dad first met her.  (Among other shows, she acted in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.)  I would say more of my influence from my parents comes from my mom than my dad.  I think that really good play-by-play is musical.  There’s rhythm to it.  You have to hit the accents and match your call to what the viewer is seeing and then get out of the way.  The whole stadium is either going to go crazy — and there’s nothing I can say that’s going to be more exciting than listening to the crowd roar — or there’s going to be dead silence.  I’m proud of that, because that was ’96—year one.  If I was giving a class to young broadcasters, I would tell them that the tendency is always to over talk, because of fear that people at home think that you don’t know what you are talking about.”

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by Chuck Kuglen of The Henderson Group

Emotional Intelligence has a direct correlation to how we all represent ourselves. It’s said that you get your first job out of college or grad school based on what you know, your knowledge, school, etc. However, people move up and get promotions, more money, and responsibility based on Emotional Intelligence.

Here’s a great article by Travis Bradberry with Inc.com on the qualities of emotional intelligence.

When emotional intelligence (EQ) first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 percent of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into the broadly held assumption that IQ was the sole source of success…

 

You’re curious about people.

It doesn’t matter if they’re introverted or extroverted, emotionally intelligent people are curious about everyone around them. This curiosity is the product of empathy, one of the most significant gateways to a high EQ. The more you care about other people and what they’re going through, the more curiosity you’re going to have about them.

You embrace change.

Emotionally intelligent people are flexible and are constantly adapting. They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major threat to their success and happiness. They look for change that is lurking just around the corner, and they form a plan of action should these changes occur.

You know your strengths and weaknesses.

Emotionally intelligent people don’t just understand emotions; they know what they’re good at and what they’re terrible at. They also know who pushes their buttons and the environments (both situations and people) that enable them to succeed. Having a high EQ means you know your strengths and how to lean into and use them to your full advantage while keeping your weaknesses from holding you back.

You’re a good judge of character.

Much of emotional intelligence comes down to social awareness; the ability to read other people, know what they’re about, and understand what they’re going through. Over time, this skill makes you an exceptional judge of character. People are no mystery to you. You know what they’re all about and understand their motivations, even those that lie hidden beneath the surface.

You are difficult to offend.

If you have a firm grasp of who you are, it’s difficult for someone to say or do something that gets your goat. Emotionally intelligent people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin. You may even poke fun at yourself or let other people make jokes about you because you are able to mentally draw the line between humor and degradation.

You know how to say no (to yourself and others).

Emotional intelligence means knowing how to exert self-control. You delay gratification and avoid impulsive action. Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is a major self-control challenge for many people, but ”No” is a powerful word that you should unafraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

You let go of mistakes.

Emotionally intelligent people distance themselves from their mistakes, but do so without forgetting them. By keeping their mistakes at a safe distance, yet still handy enough to refer to, they are able to adapt and adjust for future success. It takes refined self-awareness to walk this tightrope between dwelling and remembering. Dwelling too long on your mistakes makes you anxious and gun shy, while forgetting about them completely makes you bound to repeat them. The key to balance lies in your ability to transform failures into nuggets of improvement. This creates the tendency to get right back up every time you fall down…

Cont. at Inc.com >>

photo credit: keoni cabral

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by Terry Gault of The Henderson Group

Back in 1997, early in my own practice of getting certified to lead workshops for The Henderson Group, I had a significant epiphany.

It occurred to me that if I practiced daily the precepts and techniques that I was learning and starting to teach, it would make it much harder NOT to certify me.  In other words, if my daily practice was impeccable, it dramatically increased the likelihood that David Henderson, my mentor and boss, would certify me and I could start making money doing something I really enjoyed.

This one single idea has made more difference for me than perhaps any other.  And I see the same in my clients.  Those who are applying daily what they have learned in their work with The Henderson Group are making big strides in achieving mastery in how they represent themselves.

How does one incorporate daily practice?

One opportunity is with the practice of storytelling.  Once you embrace it and make a decision to practice it daily, you will start to see that you can use it in almost every conversation you have.  And once you start using it in daily conversation, the storytelling muscle gets very strong – like any other muscle gets stronger with daily use.

This idea of daily practice in storytelling takes at least two forms:

  1. You find yourself in the middle of a conversation and want to make a point with high impact.  Ask yourself: what story from my experience illustrates my point effectively?  When it occurs to you, tell the story.
  2. Anytime you find yourself in a conversation in any setting and a story comes to mind, tell it with relish and fun.
During a recent coaching engagement, a client was nervous about using a story to open his presentation which was coming up in a couple of hours.  He thought that he’d need more time to plan and prepare.  Thankfully, he came around to my point of view and delivered a very solid presentation using a fun opening story.  You can read more about that situation in our blog post titled: “‘Last moment’ story shifts how client represents himself at major conference”

Another opportunity for daily practice is the use of silence.  This may seem abstract at first – “How the heck do I practice silence?”  First start with replacing all your verbal fillers (uh, uh, you know, like, etc.) with silence.  As you ponder what word or phrase is next, be silent rather than filling the space with verbal fillers that make you seem less articulate and less sure of yourself and your message.  Silence creates tension.  You’ll find that people start hanging on your words, waiting to hear what comes after the silence.

If you are unsure how to respond to a question or request, practice using silence.  You’ll be amazed at how often someone else jumps in to answer the question.  The person making the request may temper their request or back away from it.  You’ll come up with more intelligent responses because you gave yourself time to consider your response before blurting the first thing that came to mind.

A third opportunity would be the use of metaphor.  Using metaphor in your daily speech will help you develop a new part of your brain – the right hemisphere.  Our right hemisphere is the side that sees patterns.  Pattern recognition is needed to see the relationship between 2 different things which is the very skill needed to create effective metaphors.

A fourth opportunity is to think about presenting ideas even if you have no concrete plan or reason to present them.  This will accelerate all the skills discussed here.

An example of this occurred to me on a recent run.  For some reason, a hilarious story about Tom Jones, the pop singer, came to mind that I’d read in an interview in the SF Chronicle in 1989.   (Don’t ask me why I thought of it during a run.  Years ago, I gave up trying to figure out why my mind brings up seemingly unrelated trivia .)

By this point in his career, Tom Jones was 49 years old and was singing to middle-aged or older fans.  It had become a custom for such women women to express their … admiration for Tom by throwing their underwear on stage.

The interviewer asked Mr. Jones whether he ever has problems with the husbands of the women who throw their underwear onto the stage during his performances.

“One night a woman came down to the stage to retrieve an undergarment and I gave her a big kiss. I asked her name, and if she was married. She said ‘yes’ and pointed out her husband at a nearby table. I explained to him that the kiss was all in fun and that I hoped he hadn’t taken offense. He just smiled and said, ‘Look, you pump up the tires, and I’ll ride the bike.’”

So, during my run, I thought, “What if I wanted to use that joke/story during a conversation.  How would I set it up?”  It occurred to me that it would be most effective to poll the audience first with something like, “How many of you know who Tom Jones is?”

Then I might sing a snippet of a song (“It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone …”) to help younger people realize who Tom Jones is.

As I was going through this process in my mind, it occurred to me: “This is what daily practice is – daydreaming about how I might set up a Tom Jones joke even though I have no idea when I might ever use this story.”

Here are a few more examples of techniques that can be practiced daily:

The fundamental point I am making here is that when you incorporate these techniques into your daily practice, they eventually become muscle memory.  Once that occurs, you can respond effectively in high stakes conversations even when you have had no time to prepare.

Once you can do that, you have reached the highest level of mastery … and you’ll be able to relate a Tom Jones joke with aplomb.

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April 9-10, 2015 in San Francisco with Terry Gault

Mastering Your Presentation Style

Building rapport with an audience and moving them to action requires the ability to confidently present information that convinces and engages even the most skeptical customer. This intensive work educates and motivates participants to deliver high-impact presentations.

Using interactive methods, rather than lectured instruction, participants cultivate a personal style – a style that gains the audience’s attention through confident composure and meaningful interaction. Through the Henderson Group’s unique and proven feedback model, participants receive immediate feedback from instructors, peers and videotape, enabling them to rapidly learn, reflect and improve their presentation skills.

The results of this work:

  • Competently present ideas and information to groups of people
  • Energize and persuade audiences using stories and metaphors
  • Effectively communicate with peers, superiors and customers
  • Move business objectives forward by quickly engaging with customers and colleagues and creating influence.

Specific Skills Mastered:

  • Using voice, gesture, movement, presentation structure, stories and metaphor for powerful presentations
  • Helping audiences learn through use of examples, associations and images
  • Turning fear into excitement through creative visualization
  • Structuring presentations for maximum impact
  • Engaging listeners and increasing audience attention span.

 

Please contact Chuck Kuglen at 415.292.7587 for more information or leave us message below and we will contact you:

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by Terry Gault of The Henderson Group & Einstein Films

Here is the 4th video EinsteinFilms.com produced in the Fone Follies series that humorously demonstrate the BluBed headset holsters.

David Hurwitz (who hired us to produce “Doug Serena, CIO” when he was CMO at Serena Software) is the gent behind this new product.

Vince Yap delivers a terrific performance as Bob, who isn’t yet clued-in to the benefits of being #HandsfreeEverywhere.

About Einstein Films

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