The Communication Problem Solver 20

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The Communication Problem Solver 20

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The Communication Problem Solver 20. Managers need top-flight communication skills to keep their staffs productive and collaborative. But often, those who manage lack the ability to get things back on track once miscommunication occurs. This book helps readers analyze their communication skills and challenges and explains how they can use simple problem-solving techniques to resolve the people issues that derail productivity at work. Easily accessible and filled with real world management examples. This no-nonsense guide is packed with practical tools to help any manager be immediately effective, as well as a handy list of common communication problems and corresponding solutions....

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  1. Skilled managers develop partnerships with their direct reports. Partnerships lead to collaborative conversations. Building and Maintaining Trust and Credibility Collaborative conversations require trust. The manager needs to in- spire trust before expecting to get it back. Sometime in your career you have probably heard someone say, ‘‘Trust me.’’ What was your reaction? Words do not inspire trust. Management behaviors do. Being consistent and doing what you say you will do are trust- building behaviors. Most of us look for patterns of behaviors before we trust some- one, and that trust grows deeper as we see consistent actions. When people align their words with their actions, they signal trustworthi- ness. Being honest and able to admit mistakes conveys open com- munication, which makes most employees more comfortable at work. Employees also look for indications that the manager is ap- proachable, encourages and accepts their feedback, and stands up for them. Caring for the employees’ best interests, fostering mutual success, and getting to know employees grows trust. The manager’s competence and clear-cut goals trigger credibil- ity. The ability to provide meaningful information, to follow through, and to hold people accountable generates credibility. The actual act of delegating extends trust to the employee and leads to faith in the manager’s ability to assess the work and skills required to get it done. Removing obstacles to make the direct report’s job easier demonstrates a willingness to work on a two-way street. Shar- ing experiences, showing commitment to the work and interest in 172—
  2. employees, and adhering to high professional standards produce credibility. Sometimes employees describe a manager who is credible as one who is willing to ‘‘roll up his sleeves and get dirty’’ to help em- ployees in a crunch. When he does himself what he is asking em- ployees to do, the manager engenders loyalty and collegiality. ‘‘We did it together’’ grows teamwork. Involving others in decision making and asking for feedback and opinions demonstrates commitment to a ‘‘we’’ approach. This be- havior corresponds with a manager’s intention to work jointly. Be- havior is what counts, not words or intentions. When a manager is always dependable, credibility and trust are built, and in turn grease the wheels of collaborative conversations and relationships. —173
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  4. CHAPTER 8 Giving Feedback— Sweet or Sour? This chapter tackles the definition, types, and benefits of feedback. It calls attention to the importance of starting with the performance expec- tation and then stating the observed performance and its impact on the goal and/or team. It includes a real-world example of how to tie feed- back to performance expectations. Two types of feedback—positive reinforcement feedback and redi- rective feedback—are covered. Managers need to have a process for both types of feedback—one for supporting the current behavior of the em- ployee and a separate process for redirecting the behavior. For redirec- tive feedback, managers can plan what they will say before they discuss the situation with their direct report to feel more comfortable. This plan- ning gives them fuller preparation and more confidence in the feedback conversation. Managers can assure themselves that there is no need for sweaty palms because they are prepared with facts and an intention to help the employee. This chapter also addresses the value of managers inviting feedback from their direct reports and how that impacts business results. What Is Feedback? Feedback is telling people on a regular basis how they are doing in relation to the expectations and goals. This vital communication is —175
  5. L EADING C OLLABORATIVE C ONVERSATIONS honest and friendly and given with the intention of helping employees meet their objectives. It is an opportunity to keep the communication channels open. If delivered well, feedback contributes to relationship building. People want to know how they are doing in relation to the job at hand. They want to be affirmed when they are progressing. They want supportive help to redirect when they are off course, so they can achieve. Feedback should be given immediately when behavior is observed, in person or at least voice-to-voice. When it is given on a regular basis, the employee can feel confident that he or she is on the right track. This reduces stress and uncertainty. When given frequently, feedback be- comes part of collaborative, ongoing conversations rather than a big deal. It is a habit and therefore expected and nonthreatening. When a manager chooses positive words, friendly (and nonjudg- mental) tone of voice, and appropriate timing, feedback keeps people alert to what is important to the organization and how well they are fulfilling the expectations. This communication creates a comfortable, trustworthy environment because employees can trust that their per- formance will be observed and commented on with the intention of keeping them informed, developing their skills, and ensuring their opti- mum contribution to the team. Chapter 2 (‘‘Setting Expectations with Turbocharged Clarity’’) em- phasized that feedback goes hand-in-hand with stating clear expecta- tions. Expectations and feedback work in tandem. You cannot separate them, because feedback is geared toward communicating the extent to which expectations are met. Every time a manager gives feedback, he reinforces the importance of the expectation. When a manager does not give feedback, employees must guess if what they are doing is achieving the goals and meeting managerial expectations. Employees may operate out of fear of failure or may assume they are on the right course if the manager does not clarify expectations and does not deliver feedback. Trust, the relationship, and the work often suffer, as in the following example. 176—
  6. G IVING F EEDBACK —S WEET OR S OUR ? Unrealistic Expectations and Lack of Helpful Feedback One Sunday I was riding the Hampton Jitney bus from Montauk, Long Island, to La Guardia Airport. When my seatmate learned I was writing this book, she told me a story about her daughter, Antoinette, who worked at an art gallery in Chelsea that had about ten employees. Antoi- nette was hired to sell art. When one of her coworkers, the bookkeeper, left on maternity leave, Antoinette’s manager asked her to do the book- keeping as well. Antoinette asked for more money to add those job du- ties. The manager said, ‘‘No. It will be good experience and will look ´ ´ good on your resume.’’ According to Antoinette’s mom, ‘‘The boss is cold and never compli- ments my daughter, who is doing two jobs. Antoinette has had no train- ing in bookkeeping and sometimes makes mistakes. The boss reacts negatively instead of understanding that of course she will make mis- takes—she is not a bookkeeper. The boss never thanks anyone. People who work there are afraid to admit errors. No one wants to take respon- sibility for anything that goes wrong.’’ Then she asked me if I thought all women managers think they have to act cold and curt and not be friendly to be effective as a boss. She had extrapolated from one unskilled manager (who did not set realistic expectations and who gave unhelpful, perhaps damaging, feedback) to all women managers. Just then, a man across the aisle handed me the New York magazine he had been reading. The blue cover sported titles like, ‘‘Do You Have to Be a Jerk to Succeed?’’ Apparently having an un- knowledgeable, ineffective boss is a common theme. The issue seemed to be dedicated to articles about workplace problems. Like Antoinette’s boss, many untrained managers are unaware of the basics of building relationships, setting realistic expectations, providing resources including training, and giving job-related constructive feed- back. Many managers have a difficult job handling these important com- munication activities, yet communication is the cornerstone for getting things done with and through others. Why is workplace miscommunication such an area of interest for —177
  7. L EADING C OLLABORATIVE C ONVERSATIONS articles, research, surveys, television shows like The Office, and cartoons like Dilbert? There’s a reason The Office is so well liked. The characters demonstrate relationship and communication problems that are played out every day in the workplace. Viewers laugh because the communica- tion misfires are so familiar. At least the boss is likable and has all the best intentions for his staff. Still, his management skills are lackluster and affect results. Example: Tying Expectations to Frequent Feedback Fortunately, many managers are skilled at setting reasonable expecta- tions and following up with friendly, job-related feedback that is con- structive to the employees’ success, to the relationships, and to the success of the business. An excellent model of a company that ties to- gether expectations with feedback is the example we used in Chapter 2 on clarity of expectations: the Balboa Bay Club & Resort (BBC&R) of Newport Beach, California. The same example is used again here to com- plete the model of how to tie together setting expectations with giving feedback in a productive manner. BBC&R provides an exemplary experience to their guests by both setting high expectations for all employees and making continual feed- back about those expectations part of the daily work. Managers give feedback to employees. The quality manager, Cynthia Goins, gives feed- back to managers and employees. Employees also give feedback to man- agers and Cynthia. The open-door policy flourishes because all are aware that they are striving for the same ultimate goals and everyone wants all employees to be happy. The leaders have built trust and rela- tionships so all staff expect feedback on an ongoing basis. Cynthia Goins works in Human Resources (HR), so most of the em- ployees she gives feedback to are not her direct reports. However, she has the support of executives to go to housekeeping, the kitchen, and other departments to meet with department heads. She tells them, ‘‘I heard . . .’’ or ‘‘I saw . . .,’’ and addresses what she heard or saw with the 178—
  8. G IVING F EEDBACK —S WEET OR S OUR ? manager. This might be feedback from guests or employees. Cynthia says, ‘‘We treat employees as we would treat guests and members. We take time, listen to employees, and make them a priority. Once employ- ees see it in a leader, they’ll do it with guests.’’ Cynthia phones the hotel periodically to see how employees answer the phone. She gives feedback, so there is constant communication about the importance of how the phone is answered. Employees make every effort to go above and beyond expectations of the industry. Cyn- thia says, ‘‘The Balboa Bay Club & Resort is not in the business of selling service, but in the business of selling an experience for the guest— something unexpected. We accomplish this experience by really listen- ing to and paying attention to guests, engaging them.’’ BBC&R has processes in place to ensure exceptional customer expe- rience. It teaches techniques such as finding commonalities with guests, like noticing they have the same last name. BBC&R is continually looking for ways to enhance the experience for guests. The staff discuss, ‘‘What are we doing about this comment card?’’ They share best practices from other places they visit and never take for granted what they learn from other hotels. Rather than sit at a desk, Cynthia walks around and asks employees about what happened yesterday. If there was a problem with package delivery, they talk about it. Standing outside in the porte cochere, if she sees a bellman taking guests to the front desk, she reinforces great be- havior. While I interviewed her by phone, she asked me to wait a minute while she wrote down something she had just heard a room reservations agent say to a guest. As soon as we got off the phone, Cynthia intended to mention to the employee what he had said and why it was effective and important and to urge him to keep that up. ‘‘If we expect guests to be acknowledged, we have to do the same thing as managers and acknowledge both guests and employees,’’ she said. BBC&R encourages managers to write simple thank-you cards to em- ployees when the manager observes outstanding behavior. Managers recognize that person in writing and give the card in public in front of —179
  9. L EADING C OLLABORATIVE C ONVERSATIONS peers. They also publicize it on the Daily Lineup Sheet because every employee sees that. Reinforcing good behavior is a regular part of feed- back at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort. In addition to informal recogni- tion, BBC&R also has formal recognition programs, such as employee of the quarter and of the year. The winners get a crystal award, a check, and their picture posted outside the galley—the employee dining area. When managers give feedback, it is always about the standards. For example, if Cynthia forgets to wear her name tag, she expects other em- ployees to give her immediate feedback so she can correct it: I would be disappointed if they didn’t tell me, because we are sup- posed to be looking out for each other. We have open communication because we all understand what we are striving for and why we are doing it. We are not afraid to tell each other, ‘‘You’re slouching’’ or ‘‘You’ve got a five o’clock shadow and you said you wouldn’t come with one again.’’ They’re not offended, because of trust. Employees at BBC&R enjoy what they are doing and we enjoy working with our coworkers. It’s all part of relationship and trust. Two Types of Feedback There are two important types of feedback: positive reinforcement and redirective. Both have a purpose and an appropriate use, depending upon whether or not the expectations are being met. Both are important communication tools. Positive reinforcement feedback recognizes and reinforces specific desired behaviors. This feedback specifies positive behaviors that the manager wants to see repeated. Positive reinforcement feedback com- municates that expectations are being met or exceeded and lets the em- ployee know exactly what to keep doing. Redirective feedback asks the employee to change, or redirect, her behavior to better align herself to meet goals and expectations. This feedback is sometimes called corrective because it helps the employee adjust her approach early on so she can meet expectations and be suc- 180—
  10. G IVING F EEDBACK —S WEET OR S OUR ? cessful. This type of feedback assists the direct report in knowing exactly what to do differently so she can change her actions. It is important to give both types of feedback on a regular basis so employees can count on knowing their performance status. When em- ployees expect both types of feedback, they understand feedback in the greater context of helping them achieve the goals and expectations. This enables them to view both positive reinforcement and redirective feed- back as collaborative conversations. Guidelines for Both Types of Feedback When delivering either type of feedback, there are some guidelines. These general tips contribute to making the conversations collaborative and most effective. Feedback is an important communication tool, so give it in person or at least voice-to-voice (not by e-mail). E-mail is frequently misunder- stood and can be blown out of proportion. Always link the feedback directly and explicitly to the expectation or goal and tell why that expec- tation is important. (Yes, even if you have said it many times before.) Be sure to discuss only one specific situation at a time—not ‘‘you always, you never, you often, or you usually,’’ even with positive rein- forcement. It is also important to identify precise, observable behavior rather than making opinion or judging comments. A manager can also gather facts from project management milestones, plans, goals, required processes, procedures, and other stated expectations. Facts clarify the communication and allow both the manager and the direct report to remain objective and results oriented. Judgments or opinions can lead to conversational detours so the main point gets lost. Be sure to give enough unambiguous and factual information to en- able the employee to repeat the performance or make a requested change. While it’s nice to hear, ‘‘Good job,’’ it is insufficient information for a person to know exactly what that means. Similarly, comments such —181
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