Monday Mornings with Madison

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October 2013

Skills for Success – Part 2

Difficult conversations are some of the most awkward, tense, tie-you-up-in-knots moments in people’s lives… both their personal and professional lives. In fact, there are thousands of books, articles and seminars on the topic of how to handle difficult conversations. One large training firm that provides professional workshops started offering a seminar titled ‘Dealing with Difficult People’, and it quickly became one of their most well-attended and lucrative programs. While it is not really a skill that anyone wants to be good at, most people understand that is an important skill for success.

The first step is to consider “Why is it a difficult conversation in the first place?” Sometimes, it’s because of the relationship between the parties such as a subordinate speaking to a supervisor. Sometimes it is because of the content of the conversation, such as communicating a criticism or pointing out a harsh truth. Sometimes it is because the person on either end of the talk is a difficult or hostile person. No matter the circumstances, there are strategies on how to handle even the most difficult conversation. Continue reading

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Skills for Success

The ability to start and maintain a conversation can be even more important to a person’s success in business than grades in school or college. In a study by Stanford University’s School of Business, students who had graduated with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) were contacted 10 years after they graduated to gauge their success. The study found that the grade point averages of graduates had no bearing on their success — but their ability to make conversation did. The most successful graduates were those who could make conversation with anyone — from acquaintances to business associates and from total strangers to good friends.

To many, starting and maintaining a conversation comes as naturally as breathing. But for others, the art of conversation is just that… an art form they can recognize and respect, but not replicate. For those who struggle to hold natural, engaged conversations, the gift of gab is viewed like unattainable talent such as Van Gogh’s ability to capture movement on canvas or Beethoven’s ability to evoke emotion through music…. beautiful and uplifting but not doable. However, for many in the business world, the ability to communicate fluidly and effortlessly is an invaluable skill. Is it possible for someone shy, tongue-tied or insecure to become a masterful conversationalist? It starts by understanding the three reasons for conversations and the five rules that make for good conversationalists.
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Fake Reviews – Part 2

With the advent of the Internet, word-of-mouth referrals, written recommendations and printed reviews have spread into the online world. All manner of websites now allow consumers, experts and trusted sources to write reviews about any product or service… or person, for that matter. Such sites abound including Linked In, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, Urbanspoon and countless others. They allow people to rate everything from restaurants and hotels to retailers and professionals. The problem is that as much as a quarter to a third of all online reviews are totally fake.
Some companies spend a lot of time and money to get good fake reviews or generate bad reviews for competitors. Why do they do it? Is it really all that beneficial to the business? And, if so, what’s to stop all businesses from writing fake reviews until no reviews – even legitimate ones – will have any credibility? Continue reading

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Fake Reviews – Part 1

It’s been said that people do business with people they know, like and trust. That is considered by many to be a basic truth of business. The key ingredient of that formula is trust. Customers want to do business with companies that they trust will do a good job and treat them fairly and courteously. Long before the Internet, consumers used the old-fashioned but reliable method of identifying worthy vendors: Word-of-Mouth. It was understood that past performance was the best indicator of future behavior. From doctors to department stores and from Realtors to restaurants, people would frequent nearby businesses recommended by a family member, friend or colleague. A business that was highly recommended generally could be trusted to deliver a good product or service.
With the advent of the Internet, however, consumers had more choices of companies with which to do business, including companies that were much farther away than their neighborhood. The global village offered more choice but with it also came the challenge of knowing which businesses to trust. The old-fashioned method of identifying worthy vendors was updated for the Internet age. Word-of-mouth referrals evolved into online customer reviews. To facilitate the process, websites sprung up that allowed consumers to write reviews about their experience with that business. Sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, and others, allowed customers to rate vendors; everything from restaurants and hotels to retailers and professionals. Problem solved? Not exactly. It now appears that as much as 25-33% of all online reviews are completely bogus. Called astro-turfing, the problem of fake reviews is a growing. Continue reading

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