You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Communication’ category.

Take a moment to think about what you think about everyone around you.  Think about your friends, people who aren’t your friends, coworkers, relatives, classmates, and anyone else.

Answer the following questions of 5 to 10 people:

  1. What is your opinion of that person? Do you like them, do you find them annoying, a know it all?
  2. Why do you feel that way?  Was it one thing they said, was it repeated actions, was it what others said?
  3. What was your first encounter with that person like?
  4. What are most encounters like?

 

These are the questions I would like you to think about and are questions I am going to think about also. 

I was reminded this weekend that one impression of a person isn’t usually how that person is.  I was a miserable cocky kid in high school but that is not who I am now.  If people went off a first impression of what I was like in high school they would not think much of me. 

You can’t go back in time and change things but what you can do from now on is to make sure you make the right first impression yourself.

Not only that, but give others some grace.  Don’t pigeonhole them as a certain person because of 1 or 2 encounters.  What for them to do things repeatedly before you form your judgments.

The other day someone asked me a question about what I liked about a church I was going to.  I gave him the answer and then kept saying more and making less and less sense the more I said. 

What should I have done instead?

Answer the question simply with 3 main reasons for the question he gave.  Then ask him THE RETURN QUESTION.  I failed in this instance of a golden opportunity to find out more about this person and what they think.  There reasoning for why they like certain things and to learn from someone older and probably wiser than me.  Instead I made my answer as long as possible and failed to ASK THE RETURN QUESTION.

There are many wise people around you.  Instead of acting like one, why don’t you try to learn from those around you. 

Take a deep breath and think about others first in all you do.  You will learn a lot more from others than you will from yourself.

How do you start your day?  How should you start your day?

This is a question I have been wrestling with lately.  Do you start your day off with your to do list in front of you and accomplish the first big tasks?  Or do you go and connect with your people first?

I have seen the effects both positive and negative of both.

As I work through this issue that has been a constant pushing and pulling it has been really difficult. 

Which of the following is you?

Focusing on To-Do List Person

You feel a huge sense of accomplishment by getting the things done you need to get done.  Your task list is clean and neat your desk is tidy and you don’t feel behind.  Each day you feel like you accomplished what you needed to.  Personally you are getting a lot done.

Focusing on People Person

You spend most of your day talking with people.  You know a lot about what is going on with everyone on your team.  Some days at the end of them you wonder what you accomplished all day.  You look at your to do list and see nothing of yours personally got done.

 

Don’t be too much of a To Do List Person.  You are probably really talented as a leader and can accomplish more than anyone else on your own.  But there is only one of you and there are many who are part of your team.  Your job as a leader is to make sure that everyone on your team is running as effectively as possible. 

Make your team the first priority on your to-do list.  Maybe even select one person on your team each day to connect with and find out what is going on.  Find out how you can maximize their talents.

The other day I learned that babies pay more attention to high pitched voices.  So when people speak in “baby talk” they are actually speaking in a tone the babies enjoy and favor.  No matter what you say to a baby the only thing that matters is the tone.  If you talk softly the baby will start to calm down no matter what you say.

It is amazing that through the years we don’t change much.  No matter what people say you can take more from facial expressions and tone than gestures. 

People are drawn to people with a positive tone and positive body language. 

So instead of focusing so much on what you say, focus on how you say it. 

How to communicate more effectively learned from being a dad:

  • Smile: Smiling makes the biggest difference.  It totally changes your tone and people are drawn to people who smile.
  • Eye Contact: Look directly into the persons eyes and they will know you are genuine.
  • Expression: Have expressions if you are excited and you will allow the other person to share in the excitement.
  • Tone: Change your tone often as you are talking about things.  How much do you want to listen to someone who is monotone.

It is amazing how communication does not change throughout the years.  Maybe we should stop trying to make it so complicated and learn from our kids.

 

Monica Enand of Zapproved wrote a great post on how to work more effectively and efficiently with others on Zen Habits.

  1. One Decision at a Time. Do not lump several decisions into one. Break them apart and isolate them so that the team can address them individually. This will narrow the focus of any objections raised so that the discussion is manageable and can be concluded quickly.
  2. Be Transparent. Hold discussions in the open, either in person or virtually. Successful organizations put decisions in the sunlight. Closed-door agreements can fuel speculation and inhibits the group’s ability to buy-in to the agreed upon direction.
  3. Give the Facts. Be proactive about gathering the required information in advance. Data-driven decisions go smoothly and avoid injecting emotion which will muddle the process. People need data, whether it’s research, budgets, timelines. Provide so they don’t have to come back and request it later.
  4. Minimize Participants. Include people on the decision that need to be there. If others have an interest, you can copy them but don’t invite them. Ask yourself if a person’s objection would stop the project. If not, then don’t include them.
  5. Subtract Words. Use the fewest words necessary to convey the proposal. Your team will absorb the scope, but extraneous details will dilute the message and might distract from your main objective.
  6. Be Clear What “Yes” Means. It sounds obvious, but when creating a proposal, create a proposal. Request in a crisp way and use actionable language. This is a common mistake. Add focus and formality as needed in the Subject line and in the message itself. Don’t say “let me know what you think” when you mean “do you approve this project.”
  7. Record the Decision. Seems simple but is hard to do, especially in email. There is a reason boards of directors keep minutes. People will take the decision seriously and will abide by it if they know it is saved in a place that is public. Think about a document or folder on an intranet or on the web where the agreement is recorded. Even if it is not referenced, the simple fact of know it exists will create peer pressure and accountability that is powerful.

I thought this list was awesome!  And summed up why decisions never really get made in a lot of organizations.  It is because we do not look at simplifying the process.  We don’t put a system such as this in place to help guide us and make it easier.  I especially thought the point that you need to minimize people there.  Only have the people at the meeting that need to be at the meeting.  Too many times you try to keep everyone happy by having everyone there.  In doing that you are way more unproductive.

Monica also said in the article:

Noted tech blogger Robert Scoble suggested last October that the number of emails required to get something done is equal to the number of people involved squared, i.e. eight people results in 64 emails.

Email is very nice to have but also can be one of the biggest time wasters if not used correctly.

 

How can such a small part of your body cause so much trouble.  How can something as small as your tongue define your whole body so easily? 

We don’t view how we say things or what we say as serious as we should anymore.  We just flippantly say this and that and don’t realize the ramifications of what we say.  We give people a hard time, are sarcastic, or use rude tone and think it has no effect on others.  Just think for a second what these things do to you.

Your tongue gives people a glimpse of who you are but your actions define what is truly on the inside.

You as a leader need to be even more careful of what you say to anyone.  Why don’t you take a fast from being negative.  Before you say anything why don’t you ask yourself the question:

“Would I say this to that persons face?”

Where has our integrity and word gone?

  • Since when did we need to sign a contract for everything?
  • Since when did what we say no longer really mean anything?
  • Since when did we start talking more and listening less?

It is a lot easier to go with the flow and let your tongue run wild but it is much harder to tame the tongue. Beware of the tongue because it can do great damage.

An article on Frank Viola’s blog by Deborah Smith Pegues caught my attention and got me thinking about this.

Dan McCarthy always has good things to say but this article I thought was exceptional on 1 on 1’s.  Here is the list he had on there:

1. Schedule them out for 6-12 months, either weekly or bi-weekly, for about an hour each. Don’t wait for them to happen, because they won’t. Make it your employee’s responsibility to schedule them, but set the expectation and hold them accountable. It’s not an option.
2. Don’t cancel them. Yes, things come up – so reschedule if needed. If you’re always canceling them, you’re sending the message that they aren’t important.
3. Shut your door, don’t answer your phone, turn your cell phone off, and give 100% attention. If you don’t have an office, then use a conference room or other distraction free area.
4. Always let your employees go first. Clear their agenda first – it’s their time. Then cover any items on your list.
5. Make sure you don’t just discuss performance goals, metrics, quotas, or project updates. Save time to also talk about their development, job satisfaction, and yes, even a little time to get to know your employees as people.
6. At least once a year, set aside an entire meeting to have a career and development discussion. Review individual development plans on a quarterly basis.
7. You don’t need to follow the same rigid structure for every one of your employees. Tailor meetings to the needs and style of each employee. Some may prefer informal with no agenda – others may prefer agendas and formality. It doesn’t matter what you prefer- 1 on 1 are all about them, not you.
8. Like many of you, I’ve learned a lot about effective and ineffective leaders from my own managers. One manager gave me this piece of wise advice I’ll never forget: “How do you measure the effectiveness of your 1 on 1s? Take a look at your employees when the meeting is over. Are they leaving energized, enthusiastic, and motivated? Are they smiling? Or are their shoulders sagging, eyes glazed, and dragging themselves out of your office? That’s your scorecard as a leader.”
9. Kind of a follow-up to #8; don’t make your 1 on 1s feel like a complete physical exam (with prostrate check) to your employees. They shouldn’t be interrogations under a bright light.
10. Don’t accumulate a to-do list for each employee, and then use 1 on1s to unload your list. There’s nothing like leaving a meeting with a two pages of action items and wondering how you’re going to fit all the extra work into your week.
11. Be a barrier remover, not a gatekeeper. When an employee comes up with an idea, don’t shoot it full of holes (another fine “coachable moment”, right?), add so many of your own ideas to the idea that it’s no longer your employee’s, it yours; or add extra steps so that it takes longer to implement. Think about that last one… I just learned this recently, and it’s challenging. Instead of adding steps to your employee’s ideas, challenge yourself as a leader to remove steps, or barriers, so that the employee can implement the idea even faster.
12. Save some time to just talk. It’s OK to spend a few moments just asking what’s new, how’s life, how’s the family, etc….
13. Ask for feedback, opinions, input to important decisions, and advice.
14. Always try to end on a positive note – let your employee know how well they are doing (if it’s genuine); and how much you appreciate their efforts.

This was a great and comprehensive list that I am for sure going to use in my reviews with people.  The main thing I got from all of these was that you need to do more listening and evaluating of what they are saying.  Stop always trying to talk and get your agenda across.  Listen and help them achieve their goals.

Dan Erwin on the Slacker Manager blog wrote about How to Give Effective Feedback.

Here are three simple rules for giving effective feedback that Dan Gave:

  1. Don’t blame.  Dwelling on the past is a waste of time – and harmful.  There’s an important principle that you might have learned in elementary psych:  Reinforced responses recur.  So if you keep talking about a failure, that failure may very well recur because you’re rewarding it by talking about it.  Weird, eh!  But that’s how the brain works. The other principle is that performance ignored tends to disappear.  Pay little to no attention to past failures.  Enough said? 
  2. What’s going well?  Get your employee’s insight into what’s going well on his projects.  Don’t misunderstand me here.  I’m not suggesting that you do this to make a person feel good before you shoot them.  Find out what they’re doing and what made it successful.  Then the same lessons can apply in the future.  Guess what!  It’ll take time to learn to look for what’s going well.  We’re just not programmed that way.  But don’t even go down the next road before you’ve worked over what’s going well and why.
  3. What needs to go better? Don’t be in a hurry to answer that question for your team member.  But use my exact words otherwise one of you will be liable to veer of into the usual s–t.  Dig the answer out of her if possible.   When this question is answered thoughtfully, often all you have to do is a bit of joint problem solving.  On occasion, however, you’ll want to give some concrete, specific suggestions–in brief format. 

Feedback is such a tricky thing.  How do you structure it with your employees?  Do you go through these questions with your people often?

For effective feedback to happen, you as a manager or leader need to make it a priority.  You need to make it a habit to get feedback from people early and often. 

Phil Gerbyshak of Slacker Manager wrote a great post on Getting to know your team.  In it he had this list of questions to know about your employees.

Do you know…

  • What their spouse’s/significant other’s name is?
  • Children’s name (or a pet’s name if that’s important to them)?
  • Why they first looked at the job they’re currently in?
  • Do they have any friends that work with them?
  • Favorite sports team?
  • Favorite TV show?
  • Favorite book?
  • Favorite movie?
  • Are they a morning person or a night owl?

 

Some people would say that this is “too personal.” 

My belief is that the only way you can truly lead your team is if you get personal. 

You cannot effectively lead people if you don’t understand how they tick.  You need to invest in them and take time with them.  Not one of them is the same so the time spent or energy spent needs to be different based on their different personalities.  Great managers can get away with not knowing their people.  But if you want to be a great leader you need to take some time that might seem like “Unproductive” time.  I learned that the hard way the last couple of weeks.  I put my tasks in front of  other people and it burned me in the end.

So called “Unproductive” Time is….

  • Worked on everyday with your people.
  • Is done even when you don’t want to or think you don’t really care.
  • Comes before your time spent on your things.
  • Time that ends up multiplying the effectiveness of your team.

“Unproductive” time in your own sense, because you aren’t getting anything done, is “Productive” time for the whole team.  So think of investing in your team as productive time because it will be in the end.

Cherissa Newton at Leadership in Action wrote a great blog on Increasing Participation .  It got me to thinking on not only increasing participation in meetings but in life.

You don’t know it all:
Get the hot air out of your head because you aren’t as good as you think you are.  You are only as good as you can help the people around you.  You are limited by yourself but if you work with others both your and their talents are multiplied.

Questions, Questions, Questions:
Ask all kinds of questions, especially the questions of why?  Always ask the why question.  And always ask the person in the room who is the most quite.  A lot of times they are the most insightful because they are not always trying to prove how smart they are like most everyone else.

Don’t Give the Answer:
Whatever you do don’t spoil the surprise.  Don’t give the answer to the question or problems.  If you give the answers all the time you won’t teach people to think on their own.  People will become lazy if you let them.  If they know they don’t have to come up with ideas THEY WON”T.  And what that means is you will have to think more and more and eventually burn out.

Leadership is not about YOU.  Be OTHERS focused.