I challenge anyone reading this article to find a single organization that wants lower employee motivation and engagement. Yet, you can find hundreds of articles and studies that indicate both are on the downslide. In current times of leaner employment, management continually tries to squeeze more and more out of each employee. This squeezing process can last for a short while, but is not sustainable long-term. Eventually the system, the employee, or both will break. Take this quiz to see if you are excelling at killing employee motivation and engagement. On a regular basis, do you (or your manager) provide:
1. Deficient Communication
According to a study conducted several years ago by Magna Leadership Solutions, the number-one problem recognized by both management and employees is communication. Usually, the communication is insufficient or improper. If you are a good boss, most employees enjoy more face time with you, especially when it is positive. Some employees just want some communication that can be accomplished face-to-face, on the phone, through a note, or even in a short email. A good rule of thumb is that if the communication could elicit emotion (positive or negative) from the receiver, then face-to-face (or at least a phone call) is most appropriate. For communications that are more transactional, the other, less-personal forms of communication may be sufficient.
2. Insufficient Encouragement
In his book “Breakthrough Performance,” author Bill Daniels stresses the importance of providing encouragement that is specific, pure, positive, immediate, frequent and irregular. One key thing I’ve learned as a manager is that providing insufficient encouragement is among the two top ways to ensure you’re killing your employees’ motivation and engagement. The next section outlines the other one.
3. Inappropriate Advice
These six rules also come from Bill Daniels. Advice should: address the change desired, be current (only focus on now, don’t bring in history), be pure (no “buts”), be delivered just before it can be used (not after, or it will be viewed as punishment), be limited, and ask for feedback. Breaking any one or more of these rules will lessen or negate the impact and results of the advice. In addition, advice and encouragement should always be delivered separately, or it sends a mixed message and will be viewed as punishment.
4. Inadequate Rewards
I am not telling you that all accomplishments need to be extrinsically rewarded. It is important that well-done accomplishments, which are above and beyond what is expected, do receive the appropriate level of compensation in some form. Learn what you employees want and reward them in a way that they most appreciate.
5. Too Much Team Recognition
This one may seem less intuitive. People like recognition, but when it is blanketed over a team (and individual contributions are minimized), it may be more detrimental than no recognition at all. As work has become more and more complex, getting work or projects accomplished in teams as become the norm. The increased speed of communication — thanks to computers, mobile devices and the increased bandwidth of wired and wireless communications — have made it easier than ever to get anything, from anywhere and from anyone. To combat the team recognition problem, the recognition should be appropriate for the level of individual contribution —which means do your homework up-front on defining expectations, and continuously monitor individual and team performance. If you decide to deliver team recognition and there is an additional level of individual recognition needed, you may want to deliver this privately first.
6. Rationed Resources
As we reduce our resources (people, funding, equipment, training, etc.), we need to ensure that the short-term financial change is not causing longer-term problems that often cannot be reversed. Downsizing and cost-cutting has been the modus operandi for many organizations for the past 10+ years, if not longer. Today, management continues to try to squeeze that last drop of blood out of every stone until something breaks. One of the primary functions of management is to be a resource, or provide resources, to support the employees’ and the organization’s success. How did you do on the quiz? We are caught up in our day-to-day activities and expect to have employee engagement on autopilot. One manager I coached told me “The employees know what they have to do. They are getting paid aren’t they? And I’m not their mother.” This is a very Machiavellian approach thinking about employees as disposable resources. In times with lean job opportunities, this management approach may survive. As we are seeing hundreds of thousands of new jobs being created each month and unemployment on a steady decline since 2010, it is becoming a seller’s (employee) market. Your unmotivated and disengaged employees are or will be out looking for a better environment to work in. Take the first step by quickly removing one or more of the six practices that kill motivation and engagement from your workplace. The workforce will thank you for it.
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
How did I do?
Are there any areas for improvement?
Did I sound or look stressed?
Did I stumble on my words? Why?
Was I saying “um” too often?
How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too: