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?

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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 2

As an ENFJ I have some company within the U.S. population; we make up a little more than 8% of the country and do share some common general traits. But my personality preferences are only part of what makes up my individual “hardwiring.”

   

Which Hemisphere Dominates?

We use both “sides” of our brain all the time and constantly, however the nural connections are usually more well developed on one side. That side becomes our “dominant” hemisphere and seems to get used for about 60% of our mental work. Our dominant “side” has a profound effect on the way we prefer to learn. Left-brain people seem to learn best through understanding the details, facts, and logic of an issue or situation. In school they usually prefer objective, fact-based tests. They tend to be interested in “how” something should be done. Right-brain people seem to learn best through understanding the “big picture” first and look for patterns and relationships among the facts and details. Usually their visual sense is fairly well-developed and use color, music, and drawings to anchor what they learn. Not surprisingly, Sensors are more likely to be left-brain dominant and iNtuitives like me are more likely to be right-brain dominant.

Think about yourself; perhaps you know which “side” tends to be your dominant hemisphere. Maybe you’ve never thought about it before. Then ask yourself how you can better use this part of your hardwiring to be better at the things that are really important to you. The next step in the journey.

Next time: Visual, Kinesthetic, Auditory – Dealing with Incoming Information

Why Managers Fail – 6

Recent posts have described five reasons why 40% of the superivors and managers moving into a new position are likely to fail within the first 18 months in the job. The sixth and final reason is:

Maintaining an Inappropriate Work/Personal Life Balance

Having balance in your life is generally viewed as desirable. It means taking time to build and nurture your family and other personal relationships as well as your professional network. It might mean volunteering in your community for a cause you believe in. And, yes, it means actually taking vacations. Balance means working hard but not becoming a workaholic. Research has shown that if your workweek regularly goes beyond 52-55 hours, your ability to be productive and make good decisions goes downhill quickly – something that no organization wants. Routine 60-70 hour workweeks are a recipe for disaster.

There will be times when a long week (or even a few long weeks) might be necessary, but you can’t effectively sustain that kind of schedule without paying a severe price personally. A failed marriage, missing your children’s lives as they grow up, and generally not having a life other than work are the results of inappropriate balance. At the same time, if your boss can’t count on you to be at work regularly because you are always gone with a family emergency or crisis, you’ll be viewed as someone who isn’t reliable. In the end it is, after all, a question of balance.

How’s your work/personal life balance?

Why Managers Fail – 5

 Another reason the failure rate for supervisors and managers is so high has to do with your ability to do your job within the context of the organization’s culture and way of operating. The fifth reason cited by CCL’s research is:

Lacking Internal Political Savvy

We may complain about it, but the reality is what we call “office politics” is often simply the relationships that help move an organization ahead. Having internal political savvy means understanding how decisions are made, who has real (positional) power, and who the informal leaders are in your organization. As a manager and leader it’s essential that you build a solid internal network within the organization, and that you know how an agenda you’re pushing will affect other parts of the organization.

An important part of political savvy is the approach and tone you use. Constantly raising issues in an aggressive, complaining, tactless manner will be seen as being a P.I.A. (Pain In the Ass) by those above you in the organization. As one executive recently said, “If you are constantly in my face, run me down to others behind my back, and generally behave as a pain in my rear end, why would I want to promote you?”

In every organization there are ways to get things done, raise issues, make suggestions, and transmit important information. Having internal political savvy means understanding how to effectively communicate and interact with others in the organization. Being successful does not mean kissing ass, being a toady, or a yes-person but it does mean understanding how to do a good job within your organization.

What do you think?

Ken & His Talents

Ken was a middle manager in a manufacturing company. He had a talent for communication – for vividly passing on to others the company’s and unit’s vision and strategy. Like most managers at his level he also had budget responsibilities, for which he had little talent or interest.

Many companies would send Ken through a series of budget or financial training programs, trying to improve his skills. Over time he might improve his skills to the point of basic competence, but the financial end of the unit will never be a strong suit. Instead, Ken’s company recognized his strengths. He went through a basic training program in the company’s budget process and then delegated most of this responsibility to a trusted team member who understood the process and enjoyed working with financial data. This freed Ken to concentrate on doing what he liked and what he did best. He continues to work hard to improve his communication skills, keeps up to speed about industry developments, and is seen as a high-potential candidate for movement into corporate planning and executive management.

Lessons Learned

Thanks, in part, to his company’s support, Ken was able to focus on one of his talents and turn it into a significant strength. By building on his talents and managing around his weakness in budgeting, he is in line for the executive suite and the company is growing a highly valuable employee.

Skill 8 – Growing Yourself

All of us have some ideas about how we’d like to grow and improve. You may want to get better at providing performance feedback to your employees and coaching them about your expectations. Or you may want to improve some aspect of your communications skills. Perhaps you want to improve your organizational, personal productivity, decision-making skills. Or you might want to develop your skills in more “big picture” areas, such as strategy, teamwork, or project management.

As you think about your current job, are there areas that could stand some improvement? What kind of job would you like to do next? What skills do you need to acquire to be ready if the opportunity comes along? Whatever your current situation, start thinking and behaving like your growth and development is your own responsibility. Because it is.

How about you? What areas are you growing in these days? What are your developmental plans for the rest of this year? Growing Yourself may be the most important of The 8 Essential Skills. What do you think?