Author Archives: April

Active Listening

Active listening skills and how to use them

Category : Communications

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a more attentive listening style. It is mindfully hearing what the talker is saying. Then attempting to comprehend what the talker is saying.

So what does active listening involve? You want to acknowledge, clarify and confirming, understanding and removing barriers that affect your comprehension.

How to improve your active listening

  1. Be attentive.
    Face the person speaking to you. Focus on them, their body language and what they are saying. Keep eye contact with the speaker so your attention is on them.
  2. Avoid distractions.
    Put your phone away, I know this should go without saying but it happens every day in our world. We are glued to our phones. If you are speaking with someone in your office, turn off your monitor if you can’t keep your focus. Remove distractions that prevent you from listening and hearing what the talker is saying.
  3. Don’t interrupt or allow your mind to wonder.
    Do not interrupt the person communicating with you. Allow them to finish their thoughts and communicate them thoroughly. Do not allow your mind to begin thinking about how you will respond before they have finished. This is key. I believe most humans naturally do this. This takes some mental training.
  4. Acknowledge.
    Give the talker cues that you are listening, agreeing or giving a motion (nod or smiling) that shows you are listening and understanding what they are saying.
  5. Clarify.
    If you do not understand, ask questions. Repeat back to the person, what you heard and how you are understanding what they are saying for clarification.
  6. Last but not least, relax.
    Some of these tips may take some time, you don’t want to be thinking about these key tips while trying to listen, so relax your body and mind. However, be mindful of your posture. Folding your arms makes you unapproachable and sends signals of disagreement. Remain relaxed and allow the conversation to naturally flow.

Difference between hearing and listening

Hearing is collecting the data being delivered. Simply stated, hearing is receiving the words being delivered. Listening is an active response. This is when you are paying attention to what is said.

Hearing and listening go hand in hand. However, comprehension is important when talking about active listening. It is important to understand what the person is conveying to you.

How does this help improve your business communications?

Regardless of your position in an organization, active listening skills are a positive quality. Whether you are an entry-level employee or an executive, active listening is a great business tool. It can improve your problem-solving skills, help you manage a team easier, avoid conflict, and can be used to persuade others.

Check out a previous post about Setting Goals and Obtaining Success.


Road to Success

Setting Goals and Obtaining Success

Setting goals for your fiscal year, next five years or for your career will only help you gain success. In this article, we’ll explore an unbiased view of one goal – bringing your department into the electronic world of business.

There are many great articles out there about why you should set goals. Namely, they help keep your focus, keep momentum, and keep you moving ahead. We can link some below. However, we want to focus on one goal, finding inspection software. These are good guides to follow for all goals, but we’ll dig into what we know about obtaining the success you’re looking for once your goals are achieved.

Set clear detailed goals.

Goal setting is simple and straightforward, but do you know the benefits of setting solid detailed goals? By setting these types of goals, you’re setting yourself up for a much higher success rate. Setting a goal that is vague like “finding software to fit my needs” can be important, but do you know what your needs are? Have you listed them out? By listing out your needs, you will be able to compare software solutions with your expectations.

In our world, we hear basic questions

  • Do you do inspections?
  • Do you issue permits?
  • Is there a financial module?

What you may be thinking is – “We do inspections, investigations, plan reviews and issue permits out of this office. Will you help us streamline this process? Save us time and help us be more productive? We’re also looking for a way to send our customers billing invoices. It would be great if we didn’t have to purchase two different software to achieve this.”

Be clear and concise. This will help you get exactly what you’re looking for.

Set your timeline.

It is important to know when you want to reach your goal. Be realistic about your approach. Do you have the budget, do you know what those lines are and when that budget line is available? Include time in your timeline to go through the budget process. Have you detailed a timeline that includes time for setting up the software and training? Don’t forget to leave a little play in your timeline for your users to become familiar with the software.

It is equally important to know how you will reach this goal. Again, listing your approach is a good plan. Start with exploring your options, ask others what they are using and why they like the product. You’ll need to schedule a time to explore the options and demo the features.

Chalkboard Success Map

Be prepared for challenges and to make sacrifices.

You may be faced with making difficult decisions and you’ll need to be prepared to stick to them to reach your goal. Change is not always easy. You can face opposition, lack of buy-in, budget constraints, time constraints and you may need to re-evaluate your needs if you do not find a software that solves all of your issues. Being prepared for challenges is key to success. Know your department weaknesses and strengths. Build a risk assessment and a response to each. You should feel comfortable with your software vendor in sharing these and working together to overcome them.

Success

Achieving goals takes commitment, focus, resources, and requires consistency. However, if you do not start, you will not finish.

Be sure to check out what we have to offer.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a representative, give us a call at 217-787-1133.

Other links to outside articles about Goal Setting

  • Forbes – 5 Reasons Why Goal Setting Will Improve Your Focus
  • Career Contessa – How to Set Career Goals Using the SMART Method
  • MindTools – Personal Goal Setting

Gaining Compliance through Occupancy Use Permits.

Category : Success Story , Trends

On January 1, 2018, the Grand Island Fire Prevention office in Nebraska implemented their new process to issue Occupancy Use Permits with a fee range from $100-$300. I spoke with Fire Prevention Chief Fred Hotz about how the new policy was working for them and the response has been overwhelmingly good.

Chief Fred Hotz
Fire Prevention Chief Fred Hotz
Website

Time for a change

In 2017, the city council approved the change. This assisted the fire prevention office in a problem they were running into during inspections. Buildings were issued occupancy certificates for one occupancy and over time the occupancy would change. Many owners were unaware of the standards for buildings and how the fire inspectors inspected various occupancies, therefore Fred was not notified.

“Storage facilities have posed the largest surprises. Many questioned at first why we needed to inspect these buildings. I explained that the storage of flammable liquids, for example, poses different hazards. These facilities need to be inspected annually. We’re also finding small repair garages and paint booths being set up in these buildings. With this new system, owners are more aware of the need to notify us.” Fred explains.

Occupancy Use Permits created more compliance

With this new policy, Fred is noticing a shift. “With this new fee and permit, we’re getting rapid compliance. Before, it seemed there was no rush.” Fire and Life Safety inspections are to prevent dangers and make the public aware of safety. And his community seems eager to pass inspections and receive the Fire Prevention stamp of approval. “The permit has the expiration date printed on it, so the owner knows when it is time to expect us to return. Many times, they are calling us to schedule it. The flow has been steady.”

However, on the rare occasion, there are legal measures in place when an owner is not compliant. That is not the initial response. “I make multiple attempts via email, phone calls and in person if necessary to help the owner understand the importance of compliance and the ramifications if they do not comply.” The city ordinance was also updated to include the $500 per day violation for non-compliance. The further result could be attorney fees, court fees, fines and in the end, the judge will enforce the compliance.

In the last year and a half, Fred has only seen this happen twice. “It is far and few between”, Fred is happy to report, “We are working with the owners to re-issue the Occupancy Use permits, we’re not working against them. More than not, the community is happy with the changes, even with the fee attached. Business owners are responsible for paying and ensuring they have the correct Occupancy Use Permit.”

Record keeping and financials

The Division is cleaning up their records and attaching the correct occupancy use to each building. But that isn’t the only part that changes with this sort of policy. Fred originally did not plan on being responsible for fee collection. However, after looking into several options, he ultimately decided it was best for him to take on the responsibility. “I had no way to know if a fee had been paid and when to issue a permit. This was just easier in Codepal to issue the fee, create the invoice and track it from there. Now the checks come into our office and the permit is issued.”

“With the fees collected, we’re able to justify the addition of two inspectors in the Fire Prevention office. With the additional staff, we’re able to be more productive, which attributes to more compliance and makes our community safer.” On average, the cost is $100 per property where the triennial inspection can be completed in under 2 hours. For target hazards (yearly), 12000 sq ft or larger, $200. If the inspection is over 3 hours, $300. Fred works with owners when there are multiple buildings on one property. He’ll combine them into one inspection to save the owner.

Overall, I know Fred well enough to say, he’s not making these changes to accomplish anything other than what is best for his community. Thank you, Fred, for taking a moment to share your progress with us and our Codepal community.


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