Connecting the dots between customers, colleagues and community
Mari Pat's Missive Volume No. 4  January 2010
Newsletter Subtitle
Month Year
MP new head shot Happy New Year Colleagues, Clients and Community,

The start of every new year brings with it the opportunity to leverage
the wisdom garnered in the past year and to look, with eyes wide open,
for new adventures, discoveries and insights.

My Missive this month strives to capture both - what I've learned
and new ideas to consider.  Thank you for taking time out to soak up
some of what I have to share.

I look forward to continued collaboration with you all.  Let me know
how I can support you and your pursuits in 2010.

Wishing you wisdom,

Mari Pat Varga
Lightening Round Team Feedback Chats
With a mature and seasoned team, one of the most powerful - and fast - exercises you can take them through is one where the feedback they gain is from each other...not you. 

If you have ten team members, as an example, carve out an afternoon where each person will have the opportunity to sit with each team member for 10 minutes.  During those ten minutes, each team member will have five minutes apiece to share the following with the other:
  • What do you do, specifically, that most helps the team succeed?
  • What do you do, specifically, that can stand in the way of success?
An example of this between Susan and Stan (Susan sharing her feedback with Stan during her five minutes) might sound something like this:

Susan:  "Stan, from my perspective one of the things you do that is most effective in helping the team to succeed is your follow-up.  I don't know of anyone who is as disciplined and thorough as you are in this regard.  I always know where the project stands and that saves me a lot of time and worry."

Susan:  "Stan, in terms of something you do that stands in the way of our success, I would suggest it might be that at times you over-communicate.  There are days when I receive as many as 10 e-mails from you on the same topic when one summary e-mail would suffice.  I appreciate you considering making adjustments there.

Any questions?  Thanks for listening.  Now, it is your turn to give me feedback..."

For a team of 10, you will want to allow about 2 hours.  In advance, designate 10 meeting spots, and create a list that includes the pairings, the place and the time slots.

The key to this exercise is to not give any advance notice and instead surprise the team with the assignment.  This helps with spontaneity and candor when people don't spend time in advance preparing what they are going to say.

After the lightening rounds have all taken place it can be effective to bring the team back together to debrief.  While no one is asked to share specifics, general questions can be helpful like:

  • How did you like the process?
  • What did you learn about yourself - others?
  • What was the most powerful discovery?
This is best suited for a mature team who wants to take their commitment to the next level.

Win over the Media
3 things to get you interview-ready

Preparation is key when you want to be memorable - in a positive way - with the media. 

1)  Always know your five key messages:
  • Who are you
  • Your financial statistics
  • Your target markets
  • Your future plans and growth
  • What makes you unique
2)  Be quotable

Make it easy for the reporter to remember what you have to say by bundling your responses in threes  ("We believe our secret to success is that we know trends, talent and territory.")

3)  Be ready with the answers

Prepare in advance by writing down your top 10 "delightful" questions - the ones you'd love to answer if only asked and your top 10 "dreaded" questions - the tough ones you know you'll need to answer and answer well.

Write down and review your answers to all and rehearse them out loud.  Edit as needed.  Good luck!

More Communication Best Practices
At Adventures in Communication

Visit us today to hear more from our expert guides and exceptional resources.  Find us at

Enhancing the quality of your voice for a recorded speech, podcast or voicemail.

Have you ever had the experience of cringing when you heard the sound of your recorded voice and hoping you didn't really sound like that? It is a common experience and while we may not all be able to achieve the wondrous vocal quality of our finest actors we can substantially improve the way we sound when we are getting ready to make an audio recording.

Following are a few practical tips for how to sound your best.

  • Warm up your voice.  Before your speaking opportunity stretch and yawn and hold the ending "ah" sound to relax your throat and jaw.
  • Move your face and lips around - warming up those muscles.  Feel different parts of mouth and nasal passages vibrate when you repeat certain letter sounds like M, Z and N and E.
  • Practice energizing your voice by reading children's storybook's outloud.  Something amazing happens when we read to children - we become energized and animated.  Remember that same energetic vocal quality when making a speech or recording a podcast, 
  • Take a shower.  Before recording warm up by allowing the steam of the shower to open up your throat and windpipe and soften your vocal cords.
  • Drink lots of water to keep the vocal chords moist - avoid super cold or super hot beverages - room temperature is best.  Also avoid dairy products before recording as they can promote mucus generation and that will hinder your vocal quality.
  • Develop good breathing to support a strong voice.
Taking yoga classes that focus on the breath are instructive and helpful.

  In the meantime, try this:
  • Lie on your back on the ground. Take a deep breath and feel your upper chest and abs expand upwards. Do not tense your abdominal muscles in any way and notice that your shoulders do not move.
  • Take another deep breath and feel your entire chest and abdominal area-all 360 degrees-expand. Your chest should expand outwards, not upwards (as you tend to do when you're standing), and you should feel your back and side muscles expand as well. This is the kind of breathing you want to achieve when making an important speech or recording,
Finally, always keep handy some mild throat lozenges in case your throat becomes dry.  Roll it around in your mouth to create a moist foundation for a resonant voice.
Your vocal quality can be dramatically improved by incorporating some of these handy tips that will help you sound good when your communication counts...and it always does.  Good luck!

Personalize and customize your approach to recognition.
Strong team leaders understand the nuances of their team members.  They recognize that one size does not fit all when it comes to recognition.

Take a few minutes to ask your team any or all of the following questions:
  • What would be a meaningful reward if you met your goals?
  • Do you prefer public or private recognition?
  • Can you name a time when you were recognized that was particularly impactful?
Take a few minutes to write down more questions that will help you get at the heart of how your team members want to be recognized.

Top Ten Companies in North America for Leaders
FORTUNE, Hewitt Associates and the RBL Group choose...

To select the top ten, they invited Human Resource Executives from around the world to participate.  537 companies from around the globe took part.  They completed a detailed questionnaire examining the factors influencing both the depth and quality of leadership.  The top 10 in North America for 2009 are:

  1. IBM
  2. Procter & Gamble
  3. General Mills
  4. McKinsey
  5. McDonald's
  6. General Electric
  7. Colgate-Palmolive
  8. Deere
  9. Whirlpool
  10. 3M
For more information on these companies and the selection process (and how to apply for 2010) visit:
  Develop your leaders, improve your teams, enhance your communication in 2010

  If any of these are goals for you or your organization this year, call to find out more about how we can partner with you.
  You'll receive a complimentary copy of our new video field guide:  OnPoint Presentations when you book in 2010.
Thank you for your time and interest.  Wishing you a productive, interesting and rewarding new year.
Mari Pat Varga
Varga & Associates, Inc.
(773) 989-7348 /