Opening Doors – enabling, empowering and delegating in your team. Part 2 of 3

Continued from part 1…..Soon after that I wanted more. I became a deputy for one of the Club Committee roles so I could learn the ropes before taking on the role officially. A few months later I was invited to apply for the full role and was voted in. I was now accountable for 23 people’s happiness! Then I was hooked; receiving excellent and useable feedback and evaluation with examples of what worked well, and what could be improved upon; so I could assess how I was getting on in the role. This meant I could make small adjustments to become the best I could be. I thrived and the club thrived.

When was the last time you gave or received great usable feedback with specific examples?

In the Toastmasters training programme I noticed there were many opportunities there for me to lead on projects outside our club meetings. At the time I was planning on applying for the position of Project Manager at work (a promotion) so it seemed ideal. I was excited to get stuck in and thought that doing something that gave back to my Community would be the most rewarding non-work related project.

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I started my first Youth Leadership Program with a set of 15 students in an Academy near where I lived. I led a small team of Toastmasters to deliver the material and that meant delegating whole sections to them and watching without correcting them or interfering!

Over ten weeks we guided the students towards the delivery of a showcase event where they all delivered speeches of more than four minutes each on a variety of subjects chosen by the students themselves. It was very well received by their parents and the school principal and I was asked back to duplicate our results with a new cohort. 5 years later I am about to deliver my seventh program….

Whilst all this was going on I was also delivering full training days using the Better Speaker Series and Leadership Excellence Series manuals to members and non-members alike, and I used my High Performance Leadership Project to help me build and coordinate the team I used to deliver the training days. It walked me through from Vision, Mission etc right through to lessons learned after delivery, using delegation so that I didn’t do all the work myself.

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Simultaneously I did get the promotion at work and I found the skills I picked up in Toastmasters were essential to my new role of communicating clearly at all levels with many different teams, colleagues, suppliers, stakeholders and customers. It taught me how to give effective feedback and how to delegate. I learned how to listen and lead.

Do you know any leaders who are good at listening?

Read on to part 3…

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.toastmasters.org     www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk       www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Asperger’s and Tips for Coping with Life #3

Asperger’s Coping Mechanisms (3 part blog)

There are things in life that are rarely taught or talked about and for neurotypical people it seems they were just born with this knowledge. For those on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) becoming self-aware, acquiring coping mechanisms and giving yourself thinking time to cope with situations that may arise means you can be less confused and feel more confident.

Remember that your perception of the world is a little different, it just means that your brain works differently. Not everyone works in black and white (all or nothing) most work in greys so it can be harder for them to empathise and understand if you appear to be obsessed or single-minded about something.

There are some books out there with guidance, but I’ve put together my own brief list as not everyone wants to read a book.

Here are some more tips to cope in society when you have Asperger’s

Feedback – Asking for feedback is one of the very best ways to become more self-aware and it will help you to tweak any behaviours that don’t quite give you the results you want. Many people are untrained in the art of giving feedback or evaluation so you may need to help them by coaching them. Tell them what you want to comment on. What did they observe?  What was factually correct, what examples can they give, what recommendations do they have for corrective action or improvement? It’s a good idea to coach them to avoid using words like should, must, wrong, bad, awful, difficult, perception, and generalisations.  They can’t speak for others and shouldn’t try to, it’s what a lot of people do to take the limelight off them so listen out for “we”…., it should be “I”…..  They should just tell you their own personal observations and recommendations from their perspective.

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Calendar – Everyone (neurotypicals or Aspergic alike) will have their own preference for scheduling and controlling their time and routine. It’s a common misconception that those on the Autistic Spectrum need a rigid routine and have a meltdown if it’s not stuck to rigidly. However, you might find comfort in a general framework to your life. Spontaneity and being flexible is a useful attribute to practise if it doesn’t come naturally. It can be very challenging working someone who never plans, always does things on the fly and it can make more work for you if you work closely with them, so working with them closely and their manager will hopefully help you to overcome this annoying problem. It won’t go away on its own.

You might need to have plenty of notice of an event, even if it’s as small as a family member coming round for a cup of tea.  It might be that anything sooner than two weeks is too spontaneous for you.  Try to find out what your most comfortable timescale is so that you can let others know how they can plan in events and meetings with you and whether you need a reminder every few days to help you feel comfortable with it.  It takes away your stress and will assure others that you are co-operative and self-aware.

Travelling abroad – Doing homework is the best way to make your trip smooth and event-free. Some airports have 360 degree virtual tours, some airports (like Shannon, Ireland) have special baseball caps for Autistic people to wear (if they want) which will help the staff to be extra kind, careful and understanding of any anxieties that might be displayed.

Planning well in advance and ensuring you have printed out all your documentation the day before, have copies of important documents like Passports kept safe and told someone you trust back home your itinerary and contact numbers at hotels etc.  This will give you peace of mind and make the travelling experience much less stressful.  I always make a comprehensive list at least a week in advance so that I have time to collect everything together.

Be mindful to ask lots of questions when travelling to new cultures as misunderstandings can arise if assumptions are made about how to behave in society.  What might be right in one country might not be in another.

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Getting your message across – Self-awareness and self-improvement are the keys to unlocking coping techniques that work. Personal development is a very useful way to tap into your strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and work on the things we’d like to improve upon. Get Your Message Across can help you do this, building your arsenal of skills for life.  CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is often forced on people with Aspergers’ because there’s not a lot else out there to help.  The key is to find something that works for you and that you can trust, and that you believe in.  It’s like saying affirmations – you have to believe them otherwise they are pointless.

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Sensory Sensitivity – see my other blog on this subject, as it so vast a subject, for my sensitivity and coping mechanisms.

Remember to read Asperger’s & Tips for Coping with Life #1 and #2 too

For upcoming classroom and online courses on improving your confidence or your communication skills, you can check out Sam’s website below. Sam also conducts coaching for friends and families of those with Asperger’s working on coping mechanisms and challenging behaviours, and life coaching to help with goal setting and accountability.

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.toastmasters.org     www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk       www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Asperger’s & Tips for Coping with Life #2

Asperger’s Coping Mechanisms (3-part blog)

There are things in life that are rarely taught or talked about, and for neurotypical people it seems they were just born with this knowledge. For those on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) becoming self-aware, acquiring coping mechanisms and giving yourself thinking time to cope with situations that may arise means you can be less confused and feel more confident.

Remember that your perception of the world is a little different, it just means that your brain works differently. Not everyone works in black and white (all or nothing) most work in greys so it can be harder for them to empathise and understand if you appear to be obsessed or single-minded about something.

There are some books out there with guidance, but I’ve put together my own brief list as not everyone wants to read a book.

Here are some more tips to cope in society when you have Asperger’s

General Rules – Some rules are rigid and some rules are flexible. It’s very useful to ask clarifying questions to find which are which. It’s important to understand that lots of people say they are going to do things, and then don’t follow through. They mean it when they say it, they are not lying but many people suffer from procrastination or try to please others by saying yes all the time even if they don’t have the capacity to fit it in. It is our gift to be understanding and tolerant of this and help others to achieve their goals by being helpful and supportive, not judgmental and critical. We should never judge others by our own standards as there are rarely the same.

Jobs and Interviews – Body language and the way you dress is very important in interviews, so get some advice from a trusted friend so you don’t create a problem you didn’t need to create. I’m not saying you can’t have a personality and show your style, but it’s probably better to wait until you have secured the job before you do that if you are a little Avant Garde or eccentric (both great attributes to have but not usual for neurotypicals). Try to do some rehearsal with a trusted friend, a little role play, and anticipate which questions you think they will ask so you don’t get caught off guard. You should assume they will ask you things like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “ Tell me about a time when you overcame a problem or confrontation”. Do some research on the company but don’t be a know it all. Another favourite question is “Tell me about yourself”. This can be confusing as you’ve probably already sent them your CV and application form or letter, but they wan to hear a summary in your own words to hear how you communicate. If they ask about your hobbies, keep it to a brief overview unless they ask more probing questions about a specific subject. Some jobs will be very difficult to do if you have ASD, mostly those that require a lot of public interaction, and making assumptions about human behaviour and using intuition.

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Only 15% of all Adults diagnosed with Autism are in work!

You could ring them before the interview if you felt comfortable speaking to them on the phone to let them know you process info a little differently to the general public and you’d like some more direct questions int he interview to help you relax and be yourself.  They will get more out of it too, so it’s in their best interests, and if they are not willing to adapt, then chances are they will not make any allowances in the job either – so do you really want to work for them?

When you are in your job you can find out who you can trust and what the rules are, what can be flexible, and how the “game” is played so that you are not at a disadvantage. One of the best things you could do is interview everyone you work with to find out how you will be working with them, what their expectations of you are and so you can tell them how you like to work too.

Meek Assertive Aggressive
Looks down.

Keeps his fists clenched (a closed signal).

Often speaks too quietly.

Steps backwards when spoken to.

Has a weak handshake.

Is easily put down by others.

Is often angry with himself for allowing others to take advantage of him.

Is shy and withdrawn in company.

Cannot accept compliments.

Says ‘oh dear!’ and ‘sorry’ too much.

Has an upright but relaxed stance.

Maintains eye contact when listening or speaking (for over two-thirds of the time) looking at faces as a whole.

Has a firm handshake but not too firm.

Is able to say ‘no’ when needs must.

Can express his true feelings.

Is interested in other people’s opinions as well as his own.

Tries to treat everyone as equals.

Stands still with stiff, rigid posture.

Keeps his arms folded.

Shouts and points finger.

Bangs desk or table.

May give eye contact almost the whole time he is speaking (looking straight into the eyes).

Is better at talking than at listening.

Likes telling others what to do.

Thinks his own opinion is always right.

Likes to tell other people they’re useless.

Tends to make himself quite lonely because people feel they have to be careful around him.

Taken from ‘Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome’ by Marc Segar

Education – Bragging and showing off are unattractive and should be avoided where possible. Be assured that in a conversation where you are knowledgeable about the subject – it will come across quite clearly without you having to prove it, or demonstrate it. There are times and places where showing off your knowledge is fine (perhaps at a club of like-minded enthusiasts comparing collections or information). It might be that you are not very good at getting high grades in tests and exams – don’t be put off. Just because you can’t conform to a set way of regurgitating information does not mean you don’t know it and can’t apply it. It is usual that those with ASD have more acute problem solving skills, blue sky and detail vision and the ability to focus like no-one else. Try not to compare yourself with others and celebrate your strengths, whatever they are for you.

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Most people don’t understand Asperger’s at all – you have to help them understand sometimes

Social Rules – Its important to keep yourself clean and tidy in order to make it easier for others to stand near you and listen to us and talk to you. If you think people are avoiding you, perhaps check to make sure you have any body odour under control, or you don’t have bad breath or smelly feet. Often people will not tell you about this unless you ask them directly. If they do respond to you confirming it, then the appropriate response is to thank them (not get defensive or have a meltdown) and then do something about it.

Humour and Conflict – An autistic person’s sense of humour is often about things which suggest silliness, ridiculousness or which appear slightly insane. You might find yourself the butt of neurotypicals jokes because they don’t know how to handle someone who is different and have a hard time dealing with their own insecurities. Humour in humans sometimes replaces violence that animals would normally display. If a joke aimed at you is not too harsh it may be a good idea to laugh at yourself. If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is too harsh, you can say ‘what do you mean by that’, ‘why did you say that’, ‘what’s that supposed to mean’, or ‘that’s not very nice’. You may have to use your discretion in order to choose a suitable answer but putting someone else on the spot can be quite a good defence. If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is downright hurtful, here is a last resort you can use. Calmly say that you found the joke hurtful and ask if it was meant to be hurtful. If the other person says ‘can’t you take a joke’ or messes you around in some other way, stick to your guns and just calmly ask them again if they meant it to be hurtful. If they answer ‘no’ then you have got what you needed. If they answer ‘yes’ then calmly walk away and in future make it very difficult for that person to talk to you until they apologise of their own accord.  You will have given them a clear message that their plan to make themselves feel good at your expense is noted and will not be tolerated whilst keeping your dignity intact.

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Getting your message across – Self-awareness and self-improvement are the keys to unlocking coping techniques that work. Personal development is a very useful way to tap into your strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and work on the things we’d like to improve upon. Get Your Message Across can help you do this, building your arsenal of skills for life.

Sensory Sensitivity – see my other blog on this subject, as it so vast a subject, for my sensitivity and coping mechanisms.

Remember to read Asperger’s & Tips for Coping with Life #1 too, #3 coming soon

For upcoming classroom and online courses on improving your confidence or your communication skills, you can check out Sam’s website below. Sam also does coaching for friends and families of those with Asperger’s working on coping mechanisms and challenging behaviours, and life coaching to help with goal setting and accountability.

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.toastmasters.org     www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk       www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Asperger’s and Tips for Coping with Life #1

Asperger’s Coping Mechanisms (3 part blog)

There are things in life that are rarely taught or talked about and for neurotypicals people it seems they were just born with this knowledge. For those on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) becoming self aware, acquiring coping mechanisms and giving yourself thinking time to cope with situations that may arise means you can be less confused and feel more confident.

Remember that your perception of the world is a little different, it just means that your brain works differently. Not everyone works in black and white (all or nothing) most work in greys so it can be harder for them to empathise and understand if you appear to be obsessed or single minded about something.

There are some books out there with guidance, but I’ve put together my own brief list as not everyone wants to read a book.

Here are some tips to cope in society when you have Asperger’s

Worrying & Stress – Find people you can trust to talk over your concerns privately. Always ask yourself: “Can I do anything about the thing that bothers me?” If the answer is yes, then do it, even if it’s finding another person to help if it’s beyond your capability. If it’s no, then you can give yourself permission to put that in a mental box and put a lid on it. Your energy is precious, so use it wisely. (Don’t spend it on stress.) In order to solve problems you need to think clearly, you do this with a positive mind. This also helps to stop guilt from creeping in

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Positive Mental Attitude – Keep a log of all your achievements, and things you are proud of. You can use this to feel better when things are not going so well. You are not looking at the world through rose-tinted specs by believing that positive things can and will happen. You are choosing to welcome positive thoughts and hope into your mind that will make you feel better about yourself and more equipped to deal with the unexpected. This is something to practise every day. Affirmations can be useful to put you in the right frame of mind at the start of each day but they do have to be believable.

 

Asperger’s is a gift, we all just need to learn how to use it

Anticipation & Preparation – By anticipating certain situations, you can remove a lot of the stress. If you can run through conversations, scenarios and environments that you are going to face then you can prepare for unexpected events, questions or responses. It means you don’t have to worry so much about knowing the right answer instantly or knowing what is going to happen. You use your imagination to run through the situation in your mind. It’s very calming and gives you more confidence.

Body Language – Includes facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and tone of voice. Unfortunately you can’t learn this like a school subject, everyone is so different and you have to get to know people in order to understand the cues and what certain things mean in a given situation. Sarcasm is one the hardest things to understand and you will earn that not everybody says what they mean. There’s a lot of hints, nuance & suggestion in everyday language. Don’t be afraid to ask questions is the body language doesn’t match the words or it’s just not clear how you should be reacting. It’s unusual for people to be deliberately misleading. Also your use of body language is important in your communication – become more self-aware & think about if it matches your words and intent. Eye contact can be tricky because too much or too little becomes noticeable & sometimes uncomfortable, so a little of both is fine.

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People with Asperger’s are all different just like neurotypicals

Conversation – Take turns to allow both parties to have a say. When the other person is talking you need to give them visual clues that you are listening and that can be a nod of a head, saying “uhah” and smiling using a bit of eye contact. If you don’t want to be touched during conversation with someone (not everyone is self-aware and some people are very tactile), you might need to say something or stand a couple of feet away to put some space in between you and them.

Emotional overload – Anger, excitement, joy and sadness are all valid emotions that can be expressed visually, with body language, facial expressions, words and energy. Understanding what is appropriate in a given situation is very helpful because we don’t always want to stand out in the crowd and we want to feel accepted by others, not stared at. It might be appropriate to take yourself off somewhere else for a few minutes to express yourself if the occasion doesn’t fit how you are feeling. But don’t be fake and don’t subdue your ebullience or joy

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Not always truthful – Sarcasm, white lies, fantasy play, exaggeration, figures of speech, jokes, teasing, and misunderstandings are all ways that we get caught out. Doubt creeps in. Are they telling the truth? Is this a joke? Do they mean it? Do I laugh now? It can be very confusing and it may take you a while and a kind friend to help you understand who are the serial jokers and fibbers. When you are amongst real friends you can let them know that you are a bit gullible because you take things on face value, and like to keep people to their word. Then they know your boundaries and needs.

True Friends Hoax Friends Enemies
Treat you the same way they treat all their friends. May treat you differently to how they treat others. May ignore you most of the time.
Make you feel welcome in the long term as well as the short term. Might make you feel welcome in the short term and then drop you in the dirt. Will make you feel unwelcome and will notice all your mistakes and may bring them to the attention of other people.
If they give you compliments they will be genuine and sincere. Might give you many compliments which are NOT genuine. May give you anything from sarcasm, put-downs and temper tantrums to the silent treatment.
Will treat you as an equal. Might often make unfair requests of you. Will often treat you as a less important person than them.
May help you to see the truth behind other peoples hoaxes when suitable. Might want you to make a spectacle of yourself May set you up to receive aggression or scorn from others.
May threaten not to be your friend anymore or play on your guilt if it is to help them get their own way.
What to do: What to do : What to do :
Repay them with the same attention they give you and listen to them Stand up to them and don’t feel guilty about telling them to p*ss off if they have said something which is obviously unfair You might have done something to annoy them or they might just be jealous of certain skills or knowledge you have. If it is jealousy, they will never admit to it.
Accept any compliments they give you by saying a simple ‘thank you’ and then you won’t make them feel silly in any way for having complimented you.

Try to show that you like them using eye contact

They could be the kind of person who gets pleasure out of hurting people more vulnerable than themselves because they feel weak and inadequate inside. Remember that. If you find them on their own at any time they might switch to being quiet and shy towards you and you might be able to ask them awkward questions as to why they behave differently towards you than they do towards other people. Also, if they can give you a good enough reason, it might be a chance to apologise if you have annoyed them in some way and say that you will try not to annoy them as much in future.

Taken from ‘Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome’ by Marc Segar

Friends – Don’t be a space invader (standing too close) and don’t try to monopolise the conversation no matter how passionate or knowledgeable you are about the subject. It’s a lot more pleasant to take turns in talking, but also to have someone listen whilst you are talking, and to be listened to in return. It’s okay to have just a handful of friends, you don’t have to have lots of friends. Just a few that you trust and whom don’t take advantage of you.

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Sensory Sensitivity – see my other blog on this subject, as it so vast a subject, for my sensitivity and coping mechanisms.

Read Asperger’s & Tips for Coping with Life #2 and #3 coming soon

For upcoming classroom and online courses on improving your confidence or your communication skills you can check out Sam’s website below. Sam also does coaching for friends and families of those with Asperger’s working on coping mechanisms and challenging behaviours, and life coaching to help with goal setting and accountability.

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.D71toastmasters.org

www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk

www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Are you really Listening?

Listening skills are so underrated.

I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff over the last few years. I used to dominate the conversation, I would interrupt because I was desperate to say what came into my head before I forgot, I used to talk too much and I would forget to ask people questions and wait to really listen to their answers.  It meant that people didn’t really enjoy spending time with me.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed spending time with me if I had met me.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I really listening?”

I bet you have personal, first hand experience of meeting someone new and they monopolise the conversation. They either want to tell you their life story or everything about their amazing new opportunity and they forget to ask you any questions, or to listen to any answers if they did ask you a question. It can be very draining. I bet you’d avoid them if you saw them again….?

I’ve been in many situations in networking recently where I feel like I’ve been grilled, it’s like the other person has 50 questions they needed me to answer before I was allowed a chance to ask them about themselves, and have, you know, a conversation! I feel violated and exhausted, and it doesn’t make me feel valued and accepted.

I don’t know if that’s nervousness on their part, or a way to control the situation, or a way of filtering out people who are useful/useless to them. Whatever the reason, it still leaves me feeling a bit cheated and disrespected. Another person that I’d probably avoid if I saw them again.

Don’t you feel great when you feel listened to?

There’s something lovely about having a real conversation, that gentle to and fro, your turn, my turn, sharing of anecdotal stories, the asking of a question and a listening to the answer, and asking a follow up question based on and directly related to the answer. This is building rapport, a relationship and getting to know someone.

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People buy people remember; and even if the person in your conversation isn’t someone you will find yourself working with in the future, you might meet someone else who could use their products or services and with your hand on your heart you will be able to recommend them based on the relationship you built in your conversation.

The other kind of listening that is often missed is looking out for details; names, dates, places, anything that you can repeat back to the other person so they know you really were listening. There’s a technique I use where I repeat what the other person is saying in my head almost like I’m talking at the same time, but it’s a discipline that helps me to block out the rest of the room. Its especially helpful in noisy networking situations when it can be hard to hear clearly or for a sustained amount of time.

What’s your listening technique?

Once out of the meeting, make some notes whilst the info is fresh in your mind about the people you have met. How good will that person, that you just met briefly, feel, if you remember they said their child was going to win an award or they had achieved a big contract, and you ask them how that’s going. They will feel really respected that you bothered to remember. It’s one of the key techniques employed by top charismatic and charming leaders who are extremely successful.

So, don’t be that other person in the conversation that interrogates or won’t take turns; relax, enjoy the dialogue, listen to the way they speak and words they use. Be genuinely interested and offer relevant information. Listen out for an accent, unusual turns of phrase, silently acknowledge if you think they are confident, or shy, or if you think they are just starting out or dab hands, you can modify your language accordingly, (but don’t make assumptions).

It is within you to give the gift of respect and listening.

They might also use similar words in their dialogue like “Do you see what I mean” “Let me paint you a picture” or feel the need to grab a pen to illustrate their point.  Chances are that this is a good indication they will respond to dialogue from you with similar visual references, and you know they will love to see some slides if you are presenting to them.  They might also be influenced by how you dress.  On a similar note, auditory and kinaesthetic people will use different dialogue which will help you understand how to connect with them on an emotional and personal level.  I’ll be doing another blog covering this whole subject soon.

When communicating at home, often the TV or computer will get in the way of communication.  It’s useful to say the person’s name and wait for them to acknowledge you before diving in, so that you know you have their full attention.  “Dave, can I ask you something?”, I wait……….. he pauses TV, looks at me “Go on then, yes”.  Now I know he’s listening and not distracted I can deliver my question or message. If I tried to speak whilst he was in full flow (watching TV for instance) he would not be able to listen to me, or respond to me.  There’s no point getting huffy with someone for not listening if you didn’t give them time to connect with you, and be receptive.

If you know someone else that dominates conversations perhaps you could give them some kind and supportive feedback to help them understand their impact on others. I’ll cover giving and receiving feedback in a future blog.

Remember to ask yourself occasionally “Am I really listening?”

Hope you find this info useful.

Remember – communication isn’t optional. http://www.get-your-message-across.com