In Praise Of ‘Deviants’ In The Workplace

Discussions On Building Stage Presence And Accountability

Posted: June 25, 2013

Be a “Positive Deviant.” Not sure you want to — because you don’t even know what a positive deviant is? Well you will probably get “on board” once you’ve read an article in the May/June issue of Training, which offers a convincing description.

As described in the article, positive deviants are rule breakers, or at the very least rule benders, who see holes rather than the net, in all the good ways. They are very passionate about what they do, and they are always looking for what is going right.  

They focus on the resources that they do have — and figure out ways to get more of them — and they ask the right questions by “flipping the usual ones on their heads.” For example, the question that’s asked is why are sales so much higher in region 4, rather than how can we fix the low sales problems that in region 7.

People asking questions in this way are typically in the minority in most organizations, and hence their being labeled “deviants.” They have better solutions to the challenges at hand, even though they have access to exactly the same resources as everybody else. It’s these uncommon practices and behaviors that allow deviants to be so successful. So go ahead and embrace your inner positive deviant.

Keys To Superb Presentations

Presentations are a very important dimension of organizational communication, so it’s important that they’re highly effective.  The June issue of Harvard Business Review provides an excellent blueprint for achieving that goal.

The process starts with preparation, the most vital part of which is making sure that you properly frame what you want to say. Introduce your topic and explain why you care so much about it, convincing the audience why they should care, too. Use examples to flesh out your main ideas, striking an appropriate balance between scope and depth, based upon your audience’s knowledge of the subject.
Next, shift your focus to your delivery. It’s a lot better to memorize your talk — rehearsing it until you internalize every word verbatim — than to read it or use some sort of device, such as a teleprompter. This will take considerable effort, but is well worth it.

Also, make sure that your tone is conversational rather than trying to sound authoritative or powerful.

Third, develop stage presence. It’s OK to get nervous, but make sure that doesn’t cause you to move your body too much, resulting in your swaying from side to side or shifting from one leg to the other. But the most important issue involves making eye contact, which is incredibly powerful, and will do more than anything else to help your talk “land.”

Finally, use your multimedia appropriately.  Slides are absolutely not essential, and in fact often turn people off because they are used so frequently. Instead, show photographs or illustrations if they help your topic come alive.

Videos can be advantageous if used judiciously, including making sure that they last no more than 60 seconds.

In a sense, a successful talk is a little bit like a miracle — people see the world differently afterward. So follow the above recommendations when you seek to work your next “miracle.”

Hold Slacking Co-Workers Accountable

A recent survey found that 93 percent of employees reported working with people who don’t pull their weight, but only 10 percent of the workforce speaks up and holds the underperformers accountable.

An article in the May issue of T&D (Training and Development) suggests that such slackers need to be approached by their colleagues, and offers several techniques for doing so.

Since your co-worker may be unaware of how his action is affecting others, it’s usually a good idea to approach him as a curious friend rather than as an angry co-worker.

Then, rather than diving into the problematic issues right away, begin by letting your co-worker know that you respect him, and remind him of your mutual goals. State the facts, explaining the gap between what was expected and what was delivered.  

Next, help him understand the natural consequences of his action, or lack thereof, and why you’re concerned. Finally, invite dialogue to make the interaction a two-way conversation.

Philip B. DuBose is a management professor in the College of Business at James Madison University.

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