Jackie Kellso

Archive for the ‘interviewing skills’ Category

Asking the Right Question: Closed-Ended or Open-Ended?

In asking questions, closed-ended questions, communicating, communication, communication skills, communications between generations, conflict resolution, connecting with people, dealing with a difficult coworker, delegating, diplomacy and tact, disagree agreeably, disagreements, effective communicating, employee engagement, engagement, How to Win Friends and Influence People, human relations, human relations principles, improve communication, interpersonal skills, interview questions, interviewing skills, managing conflict, negativity at work, negotiating, open-ended questions, person to person dynamics, professional behavior, professional development, sharing information, yes or no on November 21, 2015 at 5:01 pm

As busy professionals we try to save time by asking others quick questions.  Yes or No. In and Out. Move on.  Well, unfortunately, this sometimes backfires and shuts down a healthy conversation or the sharing of very important information, and can create negative reactions from others.

As an example, I have to let my clients tell me what they need, rather than assume.  Here’s a sample:

Wrong way:

Me: “Would you like to learn a better way of communicating?”

You: “No, thanks for asking.”

Right way:

Me: “In what ways would you like to improve your communication?”

You: “Well, I’d like to be able to get people to open up; to get them more engaged.”

Me: “Thank you for sharing.  Can you give me an example of what has happened in the past that makes this important to you?”

This is the difference between asking closed-ended questions and open-ended questions.  So many people fall into the pit of non-responsiveness by asking a question that will yield a yes or no answer, when in fact, by asking an open-ended question it can provoke thinking, participation and engagement.

There are times when a closed-ended question makes sense:

Are you hungry?

Are you ready to talk about your raise? 

Would you like to work from home one day a week?

Do you think we got the business?

The difference is this: when professionals are looking to deepen the context of a conversation, learn more from customers or colleagues; share ideas, motivate others, discover the sources of problems, it’s a good idea to know how to engage through open-ended questioning.

This is especially so when in conflict.  We use this tool to remain calm and composed.


You: “Do you want to talk this out?”

Other: “NO!”


You: “Help me understand how you came to that conclusion.  What did I say that, in your words, seems unfair?”

Other: “You gave Ellen more time to explain her point of view than you gave me.”

You: “Ah,  I wasn’t aware, thank you for telling me. Okay, what did I not give you the opportunity to share?  It’s important to me to hear what you have to say.”

Imagine gently tossing a ball back to the other person, whose turn it is to hit the ball.  Be prepared to give recognition and consideration of the other person’s feelings at the same time.


You: “The client called to say he’s unhappy with the outcome of the project.  Did you hear that too?”

Other:  “Yes, but it wasn’t my fault.”


You: “The client called to say he’s unhappy with the outcome of the project.  What do you imagine happened? I know how much time and effort you put into it.”

Other:  “I’m really disappointed.  I’m not sure what went wrong. I felt embarrassed to ask him directly.”

You:  “I can understand.  Let’s see if we can learn more so we can fix this. We have some options. You can call and ask him why he had this reaction and what we can do to fix the problem, or I can jump on the call with you to support you.  Which would you prefer?”

People love options.  When asking open-ended questions also give them some autonomy, as above.

Yes, this questioning technique slows us down and we have so much to do!  From my experience, the clarity and connection make it worth the effort. Practice asking open-ended questions and see what happens! Then you at least have the tool when you think it will produce the right results.

Happy questioning,


Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Bad Performance Review? So? Grow!

In aggression, arguments, bad review, body language, bullies in the workplace, business relationships, career challenges, career coaching, career-related problems, chinese symbol for crisis, communication skills, conflict resolution, coping with pressure at work, dealing with a difficult coworker, dealing with a male boss, disagreements, emotional balance, engagement, gossiping, handling tough boss, human relations, interviewing skills, job seeking, lead by example, manage stress at work, managing conflict, managing emotions at work, masteries, non-verbal signals, office politics, passive-aggressive, performance review, person to person dynamics, personal development, productivity, professional behavior, professional development, Professional Reputation, promotion, raise, self-image, success, success masteries, transformation on August 20, 2015 at 12:13 pm

There are schools of thought that define the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ as meaning opportunity with danger. Whether this is the literal translation or an invalid assessment, it’s brilliant.  Does a bad performance review feel like a crisis to you?  Do you feel undermined or that your value isn’t being recognized?  Is there an obstacle to a raise/promotion? If you said yes or even maybe, let’s look at your crisis with some objectivity – it’s an opportunity to assess yourself and use the feedback to your advantage. The only real danger is the pain of discovering your own truths.  By deciding that there’s something important for you in the mix, you can increase your skills, reputation, and worth.

I had a recent client (let’s call him Gary) who had just come out of a painfully bad review and was sent to my seminar to develop skills to improve his communication and people skills. Being there was not his choice. His boss kept sending him to one professional development seminar after the other, with the command that he improve his attitude, which was killing his ability to get promoted.  He walked in announcing that my seminar was “bullshit like the others” and I knew I had a hostage.  During a listening skills segment, Gary turned his back to me and I talked to his shoulder blades. His passive-aggressive behavior was very much his downfall; eyes rolled in the audience at his negative body language.

At a break, I asked him to help me understand his reaction.  The picture Gary painted was that despite his incredibly high billings and huge successes, his boss would call him everyday demanding to know what business he was closing.  His eyes bulged as he repeated these daily conversations, in which his response would typically be, “When I close something you’ll be the first to know!”

The route of Gary’s problem was that he perceived his boss’ behavior as a lack of trust in his abilities.  I probed him, “If your boss had dementia, would you be so angry?”  He said, “Of course not.”  I asked, “So, what if I told you that your boss is showing you his disorder – that he is so anxious about revenue that he looks to you to alleviate his fear?  This isn’t about you.”

None of this had ever occurred to Gary.  He had never attempted to understand his manager, and that was the mistake.  When we take things personally we tend to act out in truly destructive ways.  So rarely is anyone else’s behavior about us.  I concluded, “You have been giving your boss a real reason to be concerned about your abilities because you haven’t thought about his issues.” I suggested that he discuss with his boss the best way he can communicate up-to-the minute progress with him. He said, “Well, sounds a bit time consuming, but I can do that.”

We have more control in how things play out at work than we think. However, it entails a sophisticated development of certain skills and the openness to take a hard look at ourselves. First analyze the performance review by its parts. List each area marked for improvement and note the category.  The six categories below are what I call Success Masteries:

  1. Total Communication (Oral, Written, Listening)
    • Are you effective in the oral skills your job requires:  negotiating, persuading, disseminating information clearly, etc.?
    • Are your tendencies to approach communications with optimism or pessimism?
    • Do you take the time to research things for accuracy, such as grammar, facts, etc…
    • When others speak, do you check for clarity or assume to know what you’ve heard?
    • Are you an attentive and even pro-active listener?
  1. Person-to-Person Dynamics
    • Do you have positive, open interactions with managers, direct reports, co-workers and customers?
    • Do you spread good-will or does insecurity cause you to be territorial, aggressive, hostile, manipulative, intimidating?
    • Do you genuinely respect others feelings and perceptions?
  1. Ability To Lead By Example 
    • Do you see and cultivate the potential in others?
    • Do you encourage a supportive, productive environment or do you reject others’ ideas and play one-upsmanship?
    • Do you manage others’ expectations of you?
  1. Emotional Balance 
    • Do you have extreme reactions and inappropriate outbursts?
    • Do you gossip, complain and/or sulk?
    • Do you send out emails with all caps to denounce yelling?
  1. Active Engagement 
    • Are you contributing to an exchange of knowledge, hard-work and creativity or do you insulate yourself to protect your turf?
    • Are you a team-player?
  1. Productivity 
    • Are you delivering what is expected of you against your goals, workload, and responsibilities?
    • Do you dump your work on others?
    • Do you seek too much direction or are you self-directed?
    • Are you open or closed-minded to learning new ways of generating work?

Watch what happens when you decide to review your strengths and limitations against these Success Masteries in combination with the developmental areas documented by your manager.  There’s nothing quite as powerful as accepting how others perceive you and actively making the changes that you and your manager deem important.  If you apply what you learn using this method, you will shift yourself away from the current negativity and powerfully propel yourself onward.



Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tips for Hiring An Executive Coach

In assertiveness, body language, business networking, business pitching, business relationships, career, coaching, communicating, communication, communication skills, conflict resolution, consulting, coping with pressure at work, diplomacy and tact, effective communicating, executive coaching, executives, handling tough boss, interpersonal skills, interview questions, interviewing skills, leadership, manage stress at work, managing, managing conflict, negotiating, networking, office politics, people skills, pitches, pitching, presentation skills, professional behavior, professional development, professional development training, public speaking fear, tone of voice, training on February 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

I remember seeing a Reality TV show in which an executive coach had come in to a small business to fix the business owner’s communication problems with her employees. He immediately started out by saying to her, “I want you to listen to the things your employees have to say.” I want you to consider their feelings.”  He said this directly to her in front of her employees!

This coach made a huge error, in my mind, because the owner hadn’t been included in the decision to do this in a public forum.  The coach tried to enforce change before he had permission to do so. What a coach wants from you is meaningless and should never position what you should do in this way.  I continued to watch this fiasco unfold — the owner seemed overwrought with stress; her face red, her voice tight — she was the opposite of open, flexible and cool.  As she listened to a few criticisms of her, she not only shut down, but became so closed-off that she got up and walked away. Nothing was accomplished.

An executive coach is supposed to be the ally of the executive, and should never provoke an employee-employer intervention unless as planned and executed with the boss.

Your coach should be masterful in communicating all of the benefits to you of changing, growing and challenging yourself. Your coach should be supporting your growth based on your needs and work with you on a timeline, budget and plan of action for your goals to be reached.   S/he should provide leadership based in personal experiences and proof of success that has resulted from a particular expertise.

Coaches should ‘walk-the-walk’ in their own lives in order to effectively motivate others. I once personally knew someone who was getting a certification as a sex therapist who hadn’t had sex in 20 years and hadn’t been successful in having a loving relationship in all that time.  I couldn’t get over the hypocrisy of that!

I also know an executive coach who refuses to work through her fear of presenting. She knows it limits her ability to generate business and express key information, but she defers to her fear. How can she help an executive with a fear of presenting see the value of pushing himself out of his comfort zone?  She doesn’t have to be a presentation coach, she just has to know from experience that the fear doesn’t have to win! Coaches are at their best when they are working to overcome their own resistance to things that will yield good results.

Interview coaches before you hire them. Here are some things to look for:

1. LISTEN.  Listen to how he or she communicates with you. Is s/he asking questions that show genuine interest in you and the ability to understand your needs? Do you feel heard? Is s/he speaking in terms of your needs?  Are you clear about how this coaching method ties back to your outcome?

2. LOOK.  Sit down with this coach and observe signs of non-verbal communication. How’s the eye contact, tone of voice and body language?  Does he or she have the image and attitude of someone who engenders your trust and respect?  Your gut is your best friend. This is why a test session or interview before you sign an agreement is critical.

3. ASK QUESTIONS.  Find out what challenges s/he has overcome. Ask questions about his/her journey and how it led to becoming a coach.  Ask about the training history, methodology, and proof of credentials.

4. ANALYZE FEES.  You have to decide what your budget is and discuss with your coach what the scope of the work together is expected to be.  If your gut tells you that this person or service is not worth the price, then you have to decide if you have found the right coach. Is this coach forcing you to sign a long-term contract that would cost you thousands before you’ve had a first test session?  Do you feel pressured to lock-in sessions at a wildly reduced rate?  Is there a fair cancellation policy or at least a mutually agreeable non-cancellation policy? Have you spoken with prior clients about their return on investment with this individual?

5. AGREE BEFORE YOU SIGN. Before you sign-up for a long process, you must have your coach set reasonable expectations for your development and outline the areas you will be addressing as you progress towards your goals. For example, if you want to improve upon your presentation skills, be sure that this coach has expertise in this area vs. a coach who is expert in organizational design or team-building.  Some coaches are skilled in addressing multiple functions, but be sure to discuss this ahead of time.  The goal is that you feel in control and trust that this person is the right one for you.

Executive coaches are helping many people actualize their goals.  There are so many good coaches out there and most of us have noble ideals as to why we’ve chosen this consultative role. We’ve mostly been in your shoes and have taken risks to deal with challenges head-on. We have cultivated our skills and are always motivated to grow. We feel our purpose is to help and be a role-model to others. But, you must do your due diligence to work with the ones that serve your interests and possess admirable, executive qualities.

Happy Learning!


Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Job Seekers: Be Ready to Respond to a New Interviewing Strategy

In business pitching, business relationships, career, coaching, communicating, communication, communication skills, effective communicating, executive coaching, executives, interpersonal skills, interview questions, interviewing skills, job seeking, jobs, people skills, pitches, pitching, presentation skills, presentations, presenting, professional behavior, professional development, Uncategorized on June 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm

“On a scale of 1-10, how lucky do you consider yourself to be?”

Can you imagine being asked this on a job interview? Well, according to my colleague, Susan Goldberg, of Susan Goldberg Executive Search Consulting, this type of question is a new trend happening on interviews. Her point is that now in a down economy, old interview questions such as, “If you were an animal what type of animal would you be,” which were designed to help the prospective employer get a sense of an applicant’s attributes and value system, are now being eclipsed by questions that help the company see if the applicant is a cultural fit. Ms. Goldberg wrote an insightful and in-depth article explaining this shift and the new landscape, to help people prepare for the current trend in interviews. She’s got tremendous expertise in helping people connect to the right job and the article’s worth reading.

Here’s the link to her article:  www.womanaroundtown.com/working-around/latest-trends-in-interview-questionsthe-“it”-factor-is-the-“fit”-factor

For more information about Susan Goldberg’s services, please visit her website: www.susangoldbergsearch.com

Please keep in mind that a well-conceived and concise pitch that proves your credibility and the unique value that you bring to your prospective employer is always critical in making positive impact and distinguishing you from all others. Other important factors include body language — good eye contact, a motivated handshake, good posture and lots of enthusiasm in your voice all contribute to getting that job.  You can read more on developing your pitch in my article, “Mastering The 60-Second Elevator Pitch.”  Here’s the link: https://pointmakercommunications.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/mastering-th-60-second-elevator-pitch/

So, when they ask you how lucky you consider yourself to be, look ’em straight in the eye, tell them a number that rings true and feed them the personal and professional experiences that prove that you are a charm they cannot be without.

Happy interviewing,


Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.