Expert Advice

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2004

Q. It was a long, hot summer in our office and our employees need a boost of renewed enthusiasm and energy. How can I create and sustain a motivational climate that will keep employees and customers thriving?

Suzanne Butsch, an organizational development specialist with Sarasota County government, offers this positive advice:

Set the stage for a fresh start by celebrating your past success and anticipating new challenges. Too often we fail to pause and recognize our achievements. There are as many ways to celebrate accomplishments as there are employees, so choose approaches that fit your team. For example:

Food. How about pizza or ice cream or a giant sub? While you're eating together, also share some summer highlights (and maybe a few laughs).

Visuals. Hang a chart or poster in the employee lounge and invite employees to write kudos and accomplishments on it.

Recognition. Plaques, certificates, presentations, handwritten thank-you notes.

After celebrating your achievements, focus on the future with questions like these: What accomplishments will we be celebrating six months or a year from now? What are you looking forward to or excited about? What obstacles or challenges do you anticipate, and how can they be overcome? What could be done differently to make the job easier or more effective over the next few months? What would you like to learn or practice this year?

Help people understand their part to play, and how their efforts will make a positive difference.

Suzanne Butsch can be reached at (941) 650-4837 or [email protected]

Q. My business has developed a great new widget, and I want to share the news. How do I pitch my story to the press?

Media consultant Joan Lowery, owner of Lowery Communications, suggests: Before you approach the press, first answer this question: Is my new widget newsworthy and, if so, why and to whom? You must clearly and concisely be able to communicate why the press-and ultimately their readers, viewers or listeners-should care about your product. Prepare an exciting, jargon-free "elevator pitch" (a 30- to 60-second statement) which explains why the media should cover your story, rather than the myriad others competing for their attention.

Consider hiring a public relations professional to help prepare a press kit, develop interesting story angles, pitch the appropriate media and prepare your spokesperson for the interview. If you do not have a media relations budget, find a good book that outlines the necessary steps to follow in order to promote your story successfully.

Do not underestimate the significance of preparing your spokesperson for a successful interview. I tell my clients to avoid-at all costs-making the actual press interview the "dress rehearsal." Instead, set aside ample time for the spokesperson to rehearse. Make sure that he is prepared to communicate his key messages clearly, succinctly, and in a manner that will move the audience to want to find out more or, better yet, to buy your exciting new product.

Joan Lowery can be reached at (941) 927-2998 or

Q. There's been a lot of conflict between departments in our workplace over a particularly stressful assignment. Tempers are flaring. What can I do to change the situation?

Professional development manager Sue Ruland, a certified "Crucial Conversations"T trainer with WilsonMiller Inc., steps into the fray: We all find ourselves in situations where we would really love to tell others what's bothering us, but we hold back. Maybe we fear that they will take it the wrong way, get defensive or are just too sensitive.

So, what can you do? Be honest. Raise the tough question. Don't get yourself stuck in a situation that seems hopeless. Instead of thinking you have to choose between giving honest feedback and maintaining the relationship, think of how you can do both.

Start by thinking about what you want. Are you seeking to problem solve, learn, build the relationship, or find truth? If so, you are ready to move on. But if you are seeking to blame, find fault, make a point or win, you need to focus on healthy motives so you can get to dialog. Ask the person if it is okay to talk about something with them that is bothering you. Then clarify your intentions by telling them what you do and don't intend to keep misunderstandings to a minimum. ("I don't want you to think I'm bringing this up to place blame, or that I don't appreciate the work you do. That's not it. I just want to find a way to work together in a way that is good for both of us and gets us the results we need. Can we do that?")

Then share the facts, not your conclusions. Don't accuse or make assumptions. End it by asking them for their input in a way that says, I really want to know. When you are ready, focus on healthy goals, clarify upfront to avoid misunderstandings and stick to facts rather than conclusions and encourage input from the other person.

Sue Ruland can be reached in Naples at (239) 263-6464, ext. 7112, or [email protected].

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