Showing posts with label Communication Skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Communication Skills. Show all posts

Monday, June 2, 2014

Motivating Others – What Doesn’t Work

I vividly recall a scene from 8th grade, even though it happened almost 50 years ago.

I attended a Catholic school, and many of the teachers were nuns.

On this particular day, Sister “Mary” had just walked back into the classroom. We could tell she was angry but no one could guess why. She marched up to a student whose desk was in the front row, and she commanded him to stand.

When he did, she slapped his face and sternly said, “Your desk is out of line!”

His face turned bright red, most likely from embarrassment and the sting from the slap. He straightened his desk and sheepishly slithered back into his seat.

This was not the first or only occasion that Sister Mary delivered a slap to a male student that year.

While the girls were spared such physical abuse, they did endure degrading verbal attacks.

Sister Mary controlled the students in her classroom using fear and humiliation.

That approach worked if you measured results by compliance.

We were scared into a level of obedience that squelched any spark of individuality or creativity.

I’m sure Sister Mary thought she was teaching us valuable lessons. But in fact, she created an environment where students silently resented her actions and couldn’t wait to get away from her.

She had no clue about what it takes to motivate young people to give their best effort.

Unfortunately, some adults today continue to use such tactics to intimidate people at work, at home or at school. In their roles as boss, parent or teacher, they require strict observance of their rules. When those rules are not followed, there’s hell to pay.

There’s no attempt to understand the needs or wants of others. No interest in having a reasonable conversation to discuss alternative points of view.

And so, those affected by the person in authority can end up feeling threatened, humiliated or afraid. They might conform to the requirements, but they are repelled by the leader’s behavior.

They’re likely to become angry and resentful about the treatment they’re receiving. They may be outraged at the unfairness they’re experiencing personally or observing happen to others.

If you’re in a position to influence others, take a close look at your own approach.

As a parent, how do you respond when your children ask questions that challenge one of your rules? How often do you invite them to tell you the reasons behind requests they make so you can truly understand their perspective?

As a leader, what do you say or do to communicate to others that you value their ideas and contributions? That you appreciate who they are?

On a daily basis, examine ways that you may intimidate the important people in your life. Look closely at what you do or don't do to encourage and support them.

If you’re not sure how they perceive you, just ask what they’d like you to do more of and what they’d like you to do less of. You’ll discover what would truly motivate them to give their best.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Group Intervention at Work

Several years ago I was supervising a team of ten people, and most of them got along well.

But over time, I picked up serious rumblings from four of them about “Rita,” one of the team members.

They had legitimate complaints about her performance related to lack of cooperation and sharing of information. They found her difficult to approach and talk to.

I contemplated talking with Rita myself, but that violated one of my deeply-held beliefs:

When you give constructive feedback, it should be from first-hand observation.
I had not seen these behaviors myself so I wasn’t comfortable addressing them with her.

Another option was to insist each person talk with Rita individually. I wasn’t sure how effective that would be, since emotions were running high by that point. And these four individuals did not possess expert feedback skills.

So I decided to do something radical.

I set up a group intervention.

Interventions are sometimes necessary when someone is in denial about an aspect of their behavior, and the opinion of just one person doesn’t get their attention or carry much weight.

An intervention brings together a group of people who care about that person’s future and are willing to speak the truth together. This has been done with positive impact for decades with alcoholics and drug addicts.

A skilled facilitator guides each participant in advance to write out the specific behaviors that have created a problem, including these components of constructive feedback:
1 – Describe the specific behavior.
2 – Share your reaction and feelings.
3 – Explain the impact on you or others.
4 – State what you need from this person.

A sample statement would be something like this:
When you [negative behavior], I feel [feeling] because [negative impact]. What I’d like you to do instead is [desired behavior].

I figured that I could follow the same process to get Rita’s attention and influence her future performance. She was a valued employee and I didn't want to lose her. I also wanted to teach the others how to give appropriate feedback.

First, I met with the four individuals as a group and explained what we were going to do. I gave them the four components to include in their feedback and required them to write down what they were going to say.

I then reviewed what they’d written and coached them on ways to word their message to be factual and non-judgmental.

Boy, were they nervous. They’d never done anything like this before, and they weren't sure how Rita would react. They were concerned she would feel we were ganging up on her.

I tried to reassure them that the outcome would be positive.

On the morning of the intervention, I met with Rita a few minutes before we were to gather. I explained to her that we were about to have a meeting that was just for her. I assured her that I cared a lot about her as a person and as an employee. I explained that some of her team members had concerns about her behavior and wanted to share those with her. And I said I’d be facilitating the process to make sure everything that was said would be appropriate.

I entered the room with Rita, and the others were already seated in chairs that I had arranged in a circle. Rita slid into one of the empty chairs, and I sat across from her, with the others on either side of us. I wanted to be able to see everyone, but especially Rita.

I opened by stating that we had come together because each person in the room had something to say to Rita, and they wanted to do it in a way that would be helpful to her and to them.

The team members took turns sharing their feedback, and Rita was given an opportunity to respond after each one. What ensued was a dialogue that clarified the real issues and led to agreements for future action.

At one point, another team member, “Kate” placed her notes beneath her chair and sighed. She realized that she had contributed to some of the problems. The blame didn’t lie exclusively with Rita. Kate shared responsibility for the problem. She actually apologized to Rita and everyone else for the part she had played to worsen the situation.

The entire group came together in ways I could not have predicted.

After that day, they became less afraid to address a minor issue head-on, before it grew into a big problem. They even encouraged each other to speak up in meetings.

Too often constructive feedback takes the form of criticism and blame, and it’s filled with emotion. That’s because we wait too long to speak up.

Follow this simple 4-step model the next time you need to address an issue with someone. You’ll find that you stay calmer and the other person will likely react less defensively.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Well Do Your Communication Habits REALLY Work?

My husband Lee was telling me about his meeting with one of our neighbors who has a problem with the joists under his house. In short order, Lee figured out the problem and laid out the solution to the guy. Lee has been a residential home builder for more than 30 years, and he never ceases to amaze me with the depth of his knowledge in this area.

Sometimes when he describes these types of projects to me, he uses technical terms I’m not familiar with. And I can’t always visualize the construction elements he’s describing. Even when he takes out a piece of paper and draws a picture for me, I struggle to see what is so obvious to him.

And to be honest, some parts of a job that excite him are not that interesting to me. Situations that involve people rather than physical objects capture and hold my attention much more. So I have to work hard at staying focused on what he’s saying and really “get” what he’s trying to tell me.

In some conversations, I've allowed my mind to wander. Then I’m in trouble when he poses a question like, “What do you think?” Since I missed some of what he was saying, I have to ask him to repeat it or admit that I didn't hear everything he said.

Either way, I've communicated to him that his message wasn't that important to me. If I did it very often, our relationship would suffer.

In every relationship – whether it’s with your spouse, child, boss, coworker, customer, friend or other family member – there’s an array of communication skills required if your goal is to connect with the other person at a meaningful level.

When you listen, you have to give your focused, undivided attention. To keep your eyes locked on them and not get distracted by other people who may walk by...or other thoughts that enter your head. To respond in a way that demonstrates you truly hear and understand what they’re trying to say.

And when you speak, your words need to affirm and uplift whenever possible. You may have the best of intentions when you criticize, give advice or offer solutions. But these approaches are typically not welcomed by the other person.

The problem is, we all have established habits when it comes to communicating with others. And as I've learned over the years, it’s easy to fall back on old habits that get in the way of effective communication.

Recently, my business partner Denny Coates and I talked about this problem. In Episode #14 of our Strong for Parenting podcast, we discussed  the challenges parents face in overcoming established patterns when they want to improve the way they communicate with their children.

After we recorded it, I realized that the message applies to everyone. No matter who you’re trying to communicate with, you need to know why it’s so hard to break your existing habits and form new ones. When you understand that – and you’re willing to do the work to make the change – the payoff is stronger, more positive relationships with each person you care about.

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting for the old, but on building the new." - Socrates

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How People Skills Helped Me During My Daughter’s Teen Years

Me and my daughter Alison - great friends as adults!

For many years I was a consultant, working with leaders and employees in different kinds of organizations. One of the main areas I focused on was helping them develop better communication skills – like listening, giving and receiving feedback, and resolving conflict. I've spoken, written and developed products in the area of people skills for 25 years.

It’s one thing to apply these skills in a professional setting, but quite another to use them with family members at home.

That was my challenge when my daughter Alison entered adolescence. The delightful child we had raised was transformed at times into a stranger I didn't recognize.

How well did all my knowledge about people skills serve me during her teen years?

That’s the subject of a conversation I had with my business partner, Denny Coates, where I shared the good, the bad, and the ugly about Alison’s adolescence.

Click the link to listen now or right click to download the mp3 file.

Using people skills with a teenager

At the end of the interview, I mentioned two books that Denny has written for preteens and their parents: Conversations with the Wise Aunt and Conversations with the Wise Uncle

I wish I’d had the one for girls when Alison was growing up. What a terrific resource for helping parents talk with their children about sensitive subjects like sex, alcohol and peer pressure.

If you have a young teen or know someone who does, check out these books. They’re available on Amazon, and you can get the Kindle version at the special price of $2.99 until December 31.

And even better, Denny’s created free discussion guides to help you and your child get the most from the books.

Grab these valuable resources now. They could be among the best investments you ever make in your relationship with your child.