70% of Our Time

70% of the time we are awake we’re engaged in some form of communication. According to a study by Air University (the U.S. Air Force’s Leadership Center) our communication time breaks down like this:

  • 10% writing
  • 15% reading
  • 30% talking
  • 45% listening

Your exact mix may be somewhat different than mine, but the simple fact is we spend a huge portion of our day communicating. Perhaps you are a great communicator; one of those people who has an innate talent for communicating with your coworkers and customers. I’ve actually met a few, but very few if I’m honest about it. As a very clear Extravert, I’ve had to work diligently at my Listening skills. Others need help to improve their Writing skills. Still others break out in a cold sweat at the thought of gettiing up and speaking to a group, which is something I am good at and enjoy. Every one of us communicates a lot and yet very few of us are great at all aspects of communciation.

What do you need to work on? What portion of your communication is less effective than it could be or should be?

For ideas, tips, and suggestions on how to improve your communication skills, order your copy of “The 8 Essential Skills” today at Amazon.com. You’ll be glad you did (and so will those you communicate with!)

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An Irritating Guy!

Communications Stories from the Trenches – III

Once upon a time I worked with a colleague – we’ll call him Ralph – who seemed to have a great deal of difficulty in looking directly at me when we talked. The moment I walked into his office he stood up and did not sit down until our conversation was finished. At first I thought it was me. Then I discovered he did that with everyone. He also had an irritating habit of jingling his keys or the change in his pocket when anyone was speaking to him. He would stop that whenever he was talking. And since we had daily interaction with him, these annoying habits became a form of subtle torture for some of us, to the point where several of his coworkers went out of their way to avoid having to deal with him. He was a clear Introvert although his senior level required him to speak regularly in staff and divisional management meetings and he was reasonably effective in that setting.

Ralph was either completely unaware of the effect his irritating habits had on others, or he didn’t care, or he was at least somewhat aware at some level and couldn’t help himself. I don’t know; I’m not a psychologist (and I don’t play one on television). I do know that his nonverbal messages seemed pretty clear to most of us:

  • Ralph was clearly uncomfortable in face-to-face, one-on-one communication situations.
  • He was not paying much attention to what we were saying
  • He would like us to leave as quickly as possible

To say the least, Ralph was a poor listener. He violated most of the basic rules of effective listening. What do good listeners do?:

  • They maintain eye contact with the other person
  • They show non-verbal interest in what the other person is saying; they nod occasionally, have an open expression, and smile if it’s appropriate
  • They avoid fidgeting, crossing their arms and legs, looking at their watch. Ralph violated this one constantly.
  • They ask questions to clarify what the other person is saying
  • They repeat or paraphrase the other person’s message to check for understanding
  • They are patient and allow the other person to make their point fully

How are your listening skills these days?

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)

 

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 8 Skills at Indy – Lessons – Part 1

Just returned from a visit to friends in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend and attended the warmest Indy 500 ever. 97 in the stands and 130 degrees on the track. In spite of the heat, I saw ample evidence of “The 8 Essential Skills” at work. Let’s see . . .

Skill 1 – Managing Yourself: from the drivers to the pit crews to the officials, to the volunteers, everyone knew their job and did their job. Everyone has a plan for how they will do their job, they manage themselves with that plan in mind, and when surprises occur (and they always do!) they manage their response with inspired professionalism.  Self-Management at work.

Skill 2 – Communicating for Results: the systems at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are top-notch and in spite of IMS’s size (2.5 miles around) information flows rather freely and quickly. Communication flow is clear and focused on getting the job done; people get the information they need to do their jobs well, and the fans are in the loop quickly with the variety of communication channels.

Next Time – Skills 3 & 4 go to the Indy 500

What do you think?

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