11 Pitfalls to Avoid in Difficult Conversations

Recently, I was asked to observe a Home Owners Association board meeting and to provide feedback about what the board members could do to have more effective meetings. From the outset, it was obvious that the entire group of individuals had never received any type of business communication training. More than anything, I was shocked

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12 Tips for Improving Emotional Control

Recently my college-age son hit a large piece of asphalt while driving our 1997 Toyota Avalon down a country road at night. The impact against the undercarriage caused the airbags to deploy and shatter the car’s windshield. Thankfully, except for a concussion, my son was not seriously hurt. Days later, when talking with him about the accident in person, my initial feelings of gratitude turned to worry about the cost of fixing the car, and disappointment and anger due to his lack of judgment.

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Are You Engaging in “Fake Focus?"

During the last several months, we have heard a lot about “fake” news or “fake” media. The frequent use of these terms made me think of the term “fake focus” and how it can cause problems in our organizations. So what does the word “fake” refer to? “Fake” may be defined as something that is not real or it may mean to pretend, falsify, or fictionalize something. “Focus” is defined as a concentrated activity or influence that leads to a particular outcome. Consequently, one’s focus is a devotion or dedication to a particular effort with a specific outcome in mind.

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Can You Debunk the "93/7" Rule?

Q: I was reading some content on your website and noticed that you mentioned that words make up only about 7% of a conversation. I hope you aren’t devaluing the value of language or words. Are you aware of the “Mehrabian Myth,” an attempt to show how badly Mehrabian’s research was misinterpreted? A: Mehrabian’s research established two distinct points. First, people form their perceptions of others in a conversation in three distinct ways: visually--55% (non-verbal behavior); vocally--38% (voice tone); and verbally--7% (word usage) which resulted in...

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Do Leaders Sabotage Accountability?

Q: I have recently attended a number of webinars and a workshop on accountability. Some of the training touched on the importance of holding clear and concise “accountability conversations” to ensure commitment and follow-through to achieve results. I understand how important it would be in holding these types of conversations, but I wondered if there are behaviors that leaders might engage in which undermine the accountability they are trying to instill in others. Can leaders sabotage their efforts to increase the accountability of those who work for them?   A: Authentic leadership requires both talk and walk. A leader who is unaware...

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How Well Do You Do Empathy? The Secret to Understanding and Connecting with Others

This summer my son, Matthew, and some of his mountain-biking friends decided to ride their bikes down a fairly steep hill. Matt, on a dare, decided to go first. As he sped down the hill, he hit a small dirt mound that catapulted him 10 feet in the air. He came over the handlebars and landed on his shoulder, severing his clavicle from the growth plate on his right shoulder. When I finally arrived on the scene, I knew something was terribly wrong when we removed his t-shirt and could see his clavicle sticking up under the skin.

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Leaders, How Do You Begin Your Conversations? Nine Phrases NOT to Use

I really believe that what begins well ends well. It is important to begin a conversation in such a way that allows the other person to hear and think about your message. Recently, I sat and observed a senior leader begin his conversation with two directors by stating, “As you are probably already thinking….” One director looked at the other and then at their leader and said courageously,

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Have You Learned Your Lessons? 11 Communication Tips for Improving Your Change Initiative

I once worked with a company during a change initiative when a company’s business was not going particularly well. The CEO called a meeting of his upper management to discuss how things weren’t going particularly well. A huge process change was three months behind schedule and already $20 million over budget. He began by opening the meeting with, “I want to know who is responsible for the mess we are in, so we can fix this.”

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