The Communication Problem Solver 4

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The Communication Problem Solver 4

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The Communication Problem Solver 4. 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. T HE S ECRETS TO C REATING AND S USTAINING E NERGIZED R ELATIONSHIPS plimented Fred on his process and organization skills and urged him not to give up. Throughout the interactive training, the different departments dis- closed their challenges and why they worked the way they did. They learned to listen to each other and they developed relationships and trust. They understood and committed to common corporate goals in- stead of turf objectives. Fred became a cheerleader for the training. He leapt to the whiteboard to articulate ideas of benefit to everyone and explain how the process would assist everyone. Other leaders learned of his frustrations and what manufacturing needed in order to construct and ship products on time. They began to appreciate his strengths in process and scheduling and now viewed him as an asset. Communica- tion and getting to know each other triggered enhanced cross-functional teamwork. They built relationships. What dependencies do the departments share? In Fred’s case, he depended upon engineering’s final say in order to build the products. Within his own team, there were many dependencies. Painting could not be done until quality control had checked the constructed items. Fred’s own department scheduling was meticulous and even built in flexibility for delays. But the unintended blindsiding from other departments had, in the past, thrown his schedule into a tailspin and caused stress on his staff. This impacted his relationships with other managers and their di- rect reports. When all groups were cognizant of each other’s constraints and needs, surprises could be kept to a minimum and communication to a maximum. Managers proficient in communication will drive relationship build- ing with other groups or departments. They will initiate meetings with peer managers to discuss how each unit’s work interrelates and how to best work together toward common goals. Taking the initiative to under- stand peer managers’ goals and needs can contribute significantly to forming healthy work relationships. And relationships can help get things done. 12—
  2. T HE P OWER OF R ELATIONSHIP Building and Preserving Relationships The first step in developing and sustaining relationships at work is to decide that relationships are important in creating a productive and mo- tivational environment. Once that value is in place, acknowledge that building relationships takes time and effort. What are some tips for forg- ing work relationships? Let’s look at three ways that managers communi- cate their intent about working with people: (1) communicating with words, silence, availability, and absence; (2) spending quality time with direct reports; and (3) creating laughing moments to lighten the environ- ment and let people save face. Communicating with Words and Silence, Availability and Absence Managers communicate continually, whether or not they intend to. Everyone knows we communicate with words. But what do we commu- nicate with silence? It might be perceived as good listening and trust or caring about the person. Or, if a trusting relationship does not exist, staff might interpret silence as a lack of knowledge or concern, arrogance, anger, or even indifference toward the work or the person. It depends upon the context, but silence communicates something. It may not be the intended message, but employees will interpret the manager’s si- lence through their own points of view, based on their backgrounds, experiences, and the types of relationships they have with their manager. If managers make themselves available, they communicate that the work is important and so is the person. Availability lends credibility to managerial statements that they want to help employees succeed and accomplish their goals. Many managers have told me, ‘‘I have an open- door policy, but nobody comes.’’ Showing availability might mean put- ting yourself physically in neutral territory, such as walking around, hanging around the coffeepot a few extra minutes, or eating in the em- ployee lunchroom. An employee who is hesitant to breach the proverbial open door might feel more comfortable approaching you in a casual way ‘‘out in the open’’ rather than behind the ‘‘open door.’’ —13
  3. T HE S ECRETS TO C REATING AND S USTAINING E NERGIZED R ELATIONSHIPS If the manager is not available, again the employees interpret the absence through their own viewpoints. Such unavailability might convey trust that employees can handle the work on their own or, alternatively, be perceived as lack of involvement in the work, or it might spark other reactions similar to the responses to silence. Spending Quality Time with Everyone Some managers wonder how to be perceived as treating all staff fairly. One way is to spend quality time with everyone. As a manager, I used to have a weekly one-on-one meeting with each of my direct reports. These were scheduled on the same day at the same time each week so we all made the meeting a priority. We used the time to discuss progress on the project milestones, the employee’s future plans on the project, ex- pectations, and any help he might need removing obstacles or obtaining resources. One consequence of these meetings was to build and sustain relationships. We each knew what to expect and how we could work better together toward the goals. Spending quality time with staff does not mean you have to go to lunch or socialize after work. It means everyone gets the same treatment and support for the work at hand. You and they get continual opportu- nity to clarify expectations and to reduce surprises on the assignments. They get regular feedback on performance toward goals in a routine meeting and thus a better chance to perform well. You each get a chance to get to know each other better. Encouraging Laughing Moments Craig Amack, director and co-owner of BodyMAX Physical Therapy and Sports Training in Pleasanton, California, is an extraordinary communi- cator with patients and athletes. As an experienced physical therapist, Craig educates and encourages people throughout the healing process. He also creates a positive, humorous environment, which motivates pa- tients and athletes to deliver their best efforts toward their goals. Once I 14—
  4. T HE P OWER OF R ELATIONSHIP reported to Craig something a friend had done that had annoyed me. Craig asked me, ‘‘Did you laugh?’’ ‘‘No,’’ I said. ‘‘I got angry.’’ ‘‘Oh,’’ Craig said. ‘‘That was a laughing moment.’’ Craig and his wife, Dana, co-owner of BodyMAX, are the parents of five children, usually have one or two foster children with them, and own a thriving physical therapy business in two locations and an athletic training facility. As busy as Craig is, he laughs his way through his days at work with his patients and staff. You can hear him through the walls, and his laughter is infectious. After Craig taught me about laughing mo- ments, I got to thinking of the wisdom of his message. It would be fantas- tic if people laughed more at work in good times and especially in tough times. Many of us have read that laughter is physically and emotionally good for us. So why not laugh? Can we recognize laughing moments when we see them? Do we look for them? Can we laugh through problems? Sometimes when driving, another driver makes a mistake. If I laugh, they laugh too. I’ve also ap- preciated when I’ve made mistakes driving and the other driver laughs along with me as I shake my head or motion with my hand over my head that I know I’m in the wrong. If it’s not a safety issue, project crisis, or a major error, mistakes can be laughing moments instead of times to get hot under the collar. Most of us would rather be around a humorous person than an angry one. Emotion can be contagious and we’d rather catch laughing and happi- ness. If we create ‘‘laughing moments’’ in which we lighten up the unex- pected or even mistakes, we can help people save face and realize that mistakes can contribute to learning. Laughter creates a more relaxed, pleasurable environment in which to work. It can also endear us to em- ployees and help them use their passion to support the objectives, their managers, and their teammates. People who laugh together have more fun and a good shot at building a strong, trusting work relationship. On an August flight to Orlando, our plane hit extensive turbulence on our descent. I clutched the armrests. I furrowed my brows. I breathed in deeply. Then I heard loud laughter throughout the plane. How we —15
  5. T HE S ECRETS TO C REATING AND S USTAINING E NERGIZED R ELATIONSHIPS were viewing the turbulence varied. Most people saw it as a laughing moment—much to my surprise. Now let’s look at context. My frame of reference was desire for a safe landing so I could get to a family funeral. The many kids on the plane were probably on their way to Orlando theme parks and looking forward to the attractions. Riding the clouds like a bucking bronco was a laughing moment for them. I laughed aloud as I thought, ‘‘Why not?’’ Enjoying Personal Relationships at Work Even without out-loud laughing, a more personal and close relationship between workers helps create a more pleasant and effective working en- vironment. For example, while eating dinner at a restaurant in Jupiter, Florida, I noticed our waiter seemed to enjoy his work. When I asked him about it, he said the current owners had bought the restaurant and kept on the staff. He said, ‘‘I like being with the people I worked with before. It’s not just a job. We have worked together as a team for a long time.’’ A Florida banker who had moved from Connecticut said, ‘‘In the Northeast people have more family around. But in Florida, people hang out more with people they work with.’’ This was also the case when I first moved to California. Many of us were transplants and wanted to make friends. The manager was our friend, too. The entire group, even those who had been with the organization thirty years, enjoyed socializ- ing at lunch and parties. This led to workplace cooperation, fun helping each other, and a comfortable working environment. When it came to teamwork, we were there for each other. When You Don’t Like Someone It is highly likely that you will need to develop a working relationship with someone with whom you feel uncomfortable. A manager must as- 16—
  6. T HE P OWER OF R ELATIONSHIP sign work, follow up on performance, and give feedback every day. How can you deal with someone you would rather avoid? Once, during a ten-week supervisory certificate program I was lead- ing, it became apparent that one participant did not like one of her direct reports. Nicole complained every week about Matt’s shortcomings. Each week there was new ‘‘data’’ to substantiate why he wasn’t a good em- ployee. However, much of it was not factual. It was primarily judging and opinion. One week, after she blamed Matt for his latest transgression, I asked in a neutral tone, ‘‘Do you like him?’’ ‘‘Of course I like him,’’ she said, as the rest of the participants shook their heads left to right. Some turned to her and said, ‘‘No, you don’t.’’ ‘‘I do like him,’’ she said. ‘‘Does he think you like him?’’ I asked. ‘‘Of course he does,’’ she said. ‘‘He knows I like him.’’ Again the class disagreed with her. ‘‘Your other employees know you don’t like Matt too,’’ one partici- pant added. We had developed trust in the group so people gave and heard feed- back quite well. Nicole was surprised but eager to hear why the class gave that feedback. So we held a discussion of what happens when em- ployees sense you don’t like them or are judging them in a negative light. It is hard for them to escape the judgment and be seen as performing well. They may feel unconfident and uncomfortable coming to work. They may avoid tasks in which they might make a mistake. They might even avoid the manager, which makes the relationship impossible to repair. Nicole had never stopped to think about whether she liked Matt or not. She had just gotten into a habit of looking for the negative and blaming him for it. And she hadn’t thought about the effect her constant faultfinding with Matt had on the rest of the team. Fortunately, the train- ing participant group had built a good team relationship with lots of trust and she knew we were trying to help her. Not liking people is only —17
  7. T HE S ECRETS TO C REATING AND S USTAINING E NERGIZED R ELATIONSHIPS human. But as managers, it’s not how we feel, but how we act that mat- ters. We turned the class conversation to what we can do when we don’t like someone. I recommended that Nicole follow six steps. She tried it and she changed her behavior toward Matt over the next week and re- ported positive stories about him in our next training sessions. If there’s someone you don’t like, or feel uncomfortable around, try the six steps. What to Do When You Don’t Like Someone 1. Hunt for the positive. Find one thing good about the person. Maybe he has technical expertise in one area of the job. Or he gets along well with a coworker. Or he always meets deadlines. Or he asks pro- vocative questions that can save the company problems later on. 2. Concentrate on this one positive thing until you accept this positive trait or behavior. This might take a day, a few days, or even a week. 3. Compliment the person on something job-related that he is doing well and specify why it is important. 4. Once you’ve accepted one good characteristic, pick another positive trait or behavior and focus on that. Don’t allow previous bias or preconceived notions to interfere. 5. Have coffee or lunch with him and seek to understand him as a person. 6. During weekly checkpoint meetings, ask for his opinion on the work and listen to what he says. Paraphrase and clarify. Think about what the opinion offers rather than rejecting it. Try these steps for three to four weeks and see if it works for you. That’s about how long it takes to ingrain a new habit. If you truly intend to develop a better relationship with the person, you will change your habit from seeking negative information to seeking positive work behav- ior and results. Following these steps can enable a manager to act fairly toward everyone by viewing the job performance objectively and without bias. It usually improves the relationship with the direct report and, by the ripple effect, with others on the team. When there is trouble between an 18—
  8. T HE P OWER OF R ELATIONSHIP employee and the manager, the whole team experiences discomfort and stress. They look to the manager to fix the problem, not instigate it. Summary This chapter has introduced the importance of building and sustaining healthy working relationships with all staff members. Relationships help drive the work because of the commitment and enjoyment associated with good relationships. Strong work relationships invite trust, open communications, and positive interpersonal interactions. The next chapter targets crystal clear expectations. When employees know what to expect, they can deliver. Thus trust grows, and so do rela- tionships. —19
  9. CHAPTER 2 Setting Expectations with Turbocharged Clarity Communicating expectations is the basis for all management communi- cation. You need to very clearly communicate unambiguous expecta- tions to your staff. All other management functions fall into place when you lucidly communicate expectations to your team. Clear-cut expecta- tions are the reference point for employee performance. You have to refer back to the expectations in order to deliver effective feedback and compelling coaching. Name any management function—motivating, planning, progress management, performance management, teaching, decision making, and so on—they all depend on determining definitive requirements in the beginning. Once you decide the course you want your direct reports to follow and tell them, you enable them to perform their duties at an acceptable or exceptional level. They cannot achieve success without knowledge of your performance expectations. This chapter offers tips on why turbocharged expectations are im- portant to your success and that of your staff. This chapter also explores the impact that defining expectations has on creating and sustaining re- lationships, including building trust. When blindsiding and surprises are kept to a minimum, trust and relationships increase. Trust means your group can depend on you to make decisions and assign reasonable ex- pectations. 20—
  10. S ETTING E XPECTATIONS WITH T URBOCHARGED C LARITY To ensure you are on firm ground when you decide expectations, you need to ‘‘manage up’’ and be clear on what your own boss expects of you. To be viewed as a strong leader, you must link with and be on the same page as your manager. When you communicate expectations to your staff, you must be sure that your boss is not going to change such expectations later. This would dilute your authority, slow down work progress, reduce trust, and damage relationships. To help you clarify your boss’s expectations, we include a sample worksheet later in this chapter (see Figure 2-1 on page 35). After you and your boss agree on your responsibilities and levels of authority, you can use a similar work- sheet with your direct reports as a communication tool about your tur- bocharged expectations of them. Communicating Expectations Expectations are the written and unwritten outcomes, or methods of achieving outcomes, that a manager hopes will be accomplished. The more explicitly expectations are delineated, communicated, and under- stood, the more likely they are to be achieved. Assumptions that a direct report knows what the manager wants delivered, or how, might end in disappointment for both parties. A decisive manager states what success should look like—either in the end result or in the method to reaching the result. The starting points of expectations are job descriptions, performance standards, and goals. These written requirements are essential commu- nication tools. They have great merit. Formal job descriptions and goals are, however, only the beginning of setting expectations. They are the skeletons on which skilled managers flesh out the rest of the expecta- tions. Many managers assume that providing written job descriptions and goals or expressing expectations verbally one time means that staff know how to proceed. If you find yourself thinking, ‘‘the employee should know,’’ try substituting the words, ‘‘the employee probably does not —21
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