When Things Go Wrong

Communications Stories from the Trenches – II

Nearly 30 years ago I sat in one of David Allen’s seminars on personal productivity and heard him say, Virtually every problem that would show up in your business can be traced back to communications; somebody didn’t talk to somebody about something.” The truth of that statement was brought home to me recently as I met with a long-time client. Our monthly discussions tend to be an equal mix of business strategy and people management issues. The CEO realized that on those rare occasions when people’s performance fell short or when a project did not turn out as planned, the cause was almost always a breakdown in Communication. Indeed, somebody didn’t communicate something to somebody.  

Much of the time, when things go wrong, the cause is a lack of clear expectations. You’ve hired good people, you’ve brought them on board and have come to rely on them to produce the results you’re looking for. And they become pretty good at getting things done well most of the time. When things go wrong, ask yourself, “what did I do or not do that contributed to the results? Was I clear about the outcome we were looking for? Did our focus shift somewhere along the way so we lost sight of the objective? Did priorities change? Did we overload the person or give them conflicting guidance?”

When things go wrong, instead of looking for “who screwed up,” look in the mirror and ask yourself what you could have done differently or better. Whether you are running a large organization or a front-line team, the results they achieve are an outgrowth of the communication you have with them.

You may want to check out Skill 2 – Communicating for Results in “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” To ordervisit Amazon.com.

8 Essential Skills for Nonprofit Managers

For those of you managing nonprofit organizations – we’ve been asked to develop a 5-session workshop series for our friends at ONEplace@KPL. This series is designed for entry to middle-level directors and managers in all areas of nonprofit organizations (executives, programs, services, administrations, operations, fund development, communications—anyone who supervises others). Each session will be 2.5 hours and will run on five successive Monday’s from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Interested? You can learn more by visiting the workshop announcement and topic schedule at ONEplace.  And while you’re visiting, don’t forget to check out the rest of what Bobbe Luce, her staff, and her network are doing – it’s great stuff!

Next Time: More Communications Stories from the Trenches.

PS – watch for my upcoming interview about “The 8 Essential Skills” on Mary Jo Asmus’ outstanding blog, Leadership Solutions.

Communication Stories from the Trenches – 1

Sally could be best described as someone who “overcommunicates” – like many very clear Extraverts, she figures that more words are much better than fewer words. As a result she tends to overwhelm people on her team and they often tune her out. Even simple questions often result in ong-winded, convoluted answers, often with far more information than the other person wanted. Talk, talk, talk. The result . . . often Sally doesn’t seem to wait for the other person to finish their question before she jumps in or interrupts. Obviously, listening is not one of Sally’s strong points!

She seems to be overusing her almost certain preference for Extraversion. And like many E’s she has a bias for action so doing something is preferable to waiting, delaying, or (God forbid!) doing nothing. We do not predict great success for Sally as a manager unless she makes some changes in the way she operates, such as: 

  • Becoming aware of her own communication style and the affect it has on other people
  • Learning how to suspend her need for quick answers and action until the other person has finished making their point
  • Close her mouth and open her ears so she actually understands what the other person is saying
  • Paraphrase or check for understanding so she is clear about what the other person is talking about

Perhaps you can come up with other suggestions to help Sally. What do you think?

To order “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” visit Amazon.com. For orders of 10 or more copies, contact us directly toll free: 877-643-MIDW (9476)

 

Some Good Press

For those in the Central Pennsylvania area, the Centre Daily Times on Sunday August 15th contained a nice feature on The 8 Essential Skills. Thanks to long-time client and friend Edie Trent of Hilex Poly’s Milesburg PA location, the book got a great plug this past Sunday. The State College area SHRM Chapter of HR professionals regularly provides information of interest to job seekers, managers, and other human resource departments. Below is a quick view of the feature; thanks Edie!

Skill 2 – Communicating for Results

There’s no question in my mind that Communicating for Results is Skill 2. If Managing Yourself is the foundational Skill 1, then being an effective communicator stands between you and the rest of the 8 Essential Skills. Far too often when we see a supervisor or manager fail, that failure is driven by poor communication skills. Think about the four essential facets of Communicating for Results:

  • Speaking
  • Nonverbal Cues
  • Writing
  • Listening

Regardless of your purpose, you want to create, transmit, and receive information as effectively as possible. At the same time, you want to build understanding and enhance your working relationships. And if you are unable to get your ideas and expectations across clearly, you are not going to be successful as a manager.

What do you think is involved in effective communication – Communicating for Results?

“The problem with communication . . . is the illusion that it has been accomplished. George Bernard Shaw

“The quality of your communication is determined by the results you get.” Tony Robbins

Next Time:  Stories from the Trenches

The Final Piece of Hardwiring – Talents & Strengths

 I have long been fascinated by the concept of “talents” – those innate “gifts” that people have. I used to think that talent was mostly a creative, artistic ability as in playing an instrument well and seemingly effortlessly. Van Cliburn, Yo Yo Ma, Oscar Petersen, or Ella Fitzgerald for example. Or, think of world-class athletes such as Michael Jordon, Venus and Serena Williams , Phil Mickelson, or Derek Jeter. Although we know such skill is the product of lots of hard work, there also is the element of natural talent at work in each of these examples.

It turns out that we all have talents; things that we do that produce consistent near-perfect performance in a few key areas of our life. Decades of research by the Gallup Organization revealed that each of us have these innate gifts and that turning our talents into “strengths” is possible as we acquire knowledge and experience.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment has become the gold standard for determining individual talents and we have made extensive use of it in working with our clients. Recent projects with teams as diverse as a group of physicans in a family medicine residency program, a team of dedicated individuals in a state government human services agency, and a staff of electronics engineers in a large truck component manufacturer have shown the value of looking at individual and team “strengths.”

The best current “take” on talents and strengths seems to be in Tom Rath’s book StrengthsFinder 2.0. Each copy of Rath’s book contains a one-time computer code for taking the assessment on the Gallup Organization’s web site. If you haven’t explored your own talents, pick up a copy from your local bookstore or order from our friends at Amazon.com. Might be a great opportunity to order a copy of my new book too!

To order “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” visit Amazon.com.

What are your particular Talents?

Next Time: Skill 2 – Communicating for Results

My Hardwiring – A Case Study – Part 3

Our three major ways of receiving information from the world around us – our sense of hearing, of seeing, and our kinesthetic sense – have a major bearing on how we absorb and understand that information. And while our senses are always “on” when we’re awake, they are not equally effective at processing the information that comes our way. “Wait a minute,” you might say, “my hearing is fine, my vision is 20-20, and I easily take in information about my immediate environment.” That may all be true. But that doesn’t mean all three of those senses are equally effective. Here’s why:

Early in your brain’s growth your nervous system developed a dominant pattern for processing information, using your three primary senses. One sense is the best-developed – your “conscious” sense. One is not as well developed, but helps to support your strongest sense; let’s call that your “subconscious” sense. The third sense is significantly weaker; we call that your “unconscious” sense. While you do use all three senses to take in and process information, your dominant or conscious sense is simply more effective.

So, what does this mean for you? For me? My weakest sense is Auditory – information that is only “told” to me simply doesn’t seem to get processed effectively in my brain. What I see and experience, however, seems to make more sense and create more lasting impressions for me. Like many who are primarily Visual and Kinesthetic, seeing/reading information and writing/drawing/notetaking seems to “lock in” the information. I often take notes during meetings and the physical (kinesthetic) act of writing the note plus the visual act of seeing the information on paper tends to make the information “stick” much better, even if I don’t look at my notes ever again.

What about your information processing preferences? Which senses seem to work best for you? Which sense seems to be the least effective way to gather information?

Next Time: The final piece of hardwiring – Talents & Strengths

To order “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” visit Amazon.com.

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