A number of years ago, I was doing some work in Washington D.C. I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to see some of the sights around town, so as soon as my work was over, I did a quick tour in the early evening. I went and listened to an open session of the Senate, attended a concert of the Marine Band on the steps of Congress, walked up the Washington Monument, and finally made my way over to the Vietnam War Memorial.
Recently in my community, a respected professional took his life. His wife and children were heart-broken at the passing of their father. This event caused me to ask myself, “What voices am I listening to?”
Chris Argyris and his colleague Donald Schon introduced the notion that all of us have an internal voice that is constantly editorializing, analyzing, criticizing, and judging what others say and do. These mental exercises lead us to what they called our “undiscussables”, things we think and feel but don’t share.
Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to talk to someone who engages in some form of fake talk. Because there are so many opportunities to talk about what matters most both at home and at work, learning to recognize the communication strategies that don’t yield the desired results is critical to improving the quality of your conversations.
I had an opportunity to speak at a conference late last year. The weather was wonderful, the people were receptive and engaging, and the conference was excellently run and sponsored. Everything went really well until the plane ride home.
During my years as a consultant, I have often had people say to me, “I wish my leader knew …” to which I would encourage the individual to speak up and raise an issue of real concern so things might improve. When I did this, I often got the following responses:
“It won’t make a difference.”
“I don’t want to get in trouble.”
“It will just make them mad.”
Whatever the excuse for not speaking up, I noticed that most people were afraid of the consequences. Perhaps they thought negative things would occur because of the team atmosphere. However, I found that it didn’t...
Many times when I speak at conferences, individuals will find me after a session and request coaching with a difficult situation. These encounters always provide wonderful opportunities for learning and expanding my knowledge of the human condition.
A couple of years ago, a young woman came to me and asked for some assistance in mending her relationship with her sister. She told me how her sister refused to engage with her or talk in any way. I asked if I could ask her some personal questions to help both of us understand the situation. She agreed. I told her to place...
The challenge for leaders is that they are frequently unaware of how their behavior negatively impacts their people's performance. Because of the continuing emphasis on results, many leaders really don’t focus on how they achieve results as long as they obtain the desired results.
During our leadership training, we often ask participants to identify past leadership behaviors they have experienced that have frustrated their efforts and negatively impacted their results. What starts out as an amusing exercise usually turns to quiet introspection as individuals consider how they treat their supporting cast.
We realize that sometimes work simply becomes so hectic that leaders...
In our leadership development training, we like to start out by asking people to list as many characteristics about their former leaders that they both abhorred and adored. This tends to start out as a fun exercise, but takes a more serious turn as people then start to look at themselves and their own leadership skills and behaviors.
Ten Leadership Traits That People Adore
1. Has a clear vision of how people’s work meets the leader’s expectations
2. Provides timely, clear, constructive feedback
3. Expresses appreciation and gives credit where credit is due
4. Actively listens and answers questions
5. Treats others with respect and kindness
Nine Tips for Improving Others Willingness to Listen to You
I had been on the road all week and I was eager to hang out with my family on Saturday morning. I came downstairs to find them watching cartoons. In a somewhat animated and enthusiastic voice I exclaimed, “Hey, let’s go outside and hit the ball around! What do you say?”
My young son looked up at me and said, “Please Dad, don’t yell at us.”
Realizing in that moment that my children had been socialized by their mother who is much more reserved than myself, I quietly whispered almost inaudibly, “Would...
Late one evening after all the children had gone to bed, I was sitting in the kitchen eating a wonderful piece of chocolate cake and thumbing through the latest L.L. Bean catalogue. My wife approached and asked if I had a moment to listen to her. “Sure, go ahead!” I responded. I continued to eat, look at the catalogue, and listen to her concerns. Suddenly she launched, “You’re not even listening to me!”
“Sure I am!” I responded.
“Prove it!” she retorted.
I repeated back to her everything she had said for at least five minutes. Not a good idea!
In frustration and exasperation,...
A number of years ago at the conclusion of a two-day REAL Conversation class, two elderly gentlemen waited for me after class. After everyone left, they approached me and thanked me for the session. I asked them what had been most memorable and helpful for them. One of them perked up and said, “Before this class, neither one of us had spoken to one another for the last 21 years!” When I asked how that had happened, the other man said, “Funny thing is, we can’t remember now what we did that made each other so angry!”
Can you imagine working...
Jim has been a member of a product development team for the last year. He got along well with everyone except for the team’s leader, Mary. For some reason, Mary has the tendency to cut Jim off during their team discussions, finish his sentences, and play devil’s advocate. In fact, Mary has frequently said, “No offense Jim, but I just have to play devil’s advocate here!” Then off Mary goes berating Jim’s idea with little, if any, evidence to support her opposing view. Unfortunately, no one has come to Jim’s aid probably because no one wants to end up on...
Many organizations and leaders highly espouse transparency and openness in an attempt to improve their organization’s effectiveness. Even though this may be part of what an organization portends to support, the question still persists, “Do they really want to know the truth or do they just want to hear what they want to hear?” Unfortunately, a consultant friend of mine had a poor experience with a leader who said he wanted the truth, but really didn’t.
Jill had been hired as an outside consultant to help improve an organization’s systems and processes. One day during a training class, a senior leader...
People often ask me for advice on how to give "negative feedback"--which is apparently something that no one enjoys either giving or receiving. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, which is feedback that helps people grow and improve, is on everyone’s most wanted list. So what’s the difference between negative feedback and constructive feedback? The challenge you face when you give someone this helpful feedback is to speak in a way that allows people to hear and understand your message without causing them to become defensive, resistant, or emotional. Some people advocate a "rip off the Band-Aid" approach to providing feedback. This approach can be traumatic--it hurts the receiver and causes more...
A friend of mine is launching a book this fall. Because she writes a weekly blog, she asked her PR Director if he could provide her with any email addresses from the team who might like to receive her weekly article. A week or so later, the PR Director responded that it was against their company’s policy to provide any email addresses of their bloggers because of privacy concerns. She was a little puzzled by his response given that she just wanted to make sure that the members of the PR firm were getting her post.
My author friend decided to...