Communication

Take the Shape Quiz to learn about yourself and colleagues

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Communication, Conflict, Creativity, Effective conversations, Leadership, Self-awareness, Teams | 3 comments

This fun quiz is designed to get you thinking about how different we are.  It’s important to understand that you approach your work with a style and perspective that varies from your colleagues.  Understanding and appreciating the strengths within those differences allows you to become more successful.  You can start to work with the differences rather than against them.  It’s not meant to be a label – people are far too interesting and multi-dimensional for that.   Still, for the purposes of the quiz you’ll pick from four shapes. If it isn’t apparent already, there is no value judgment connected with which shape category people fall in. None of them are better than the other ones. Each one has qualities that are good for certain purposes and it has qualities that aren’t so good for other purposes. So here’s the quiz:  pick the figure you like most of these four shapes – a square, a triangle, a circle or a squiggle.  Then you can scroll to the bottom for a description of that type, including tips for your own improvement and tips for others to work better with you.  For a more complete picture you can even pick the figure you like the best and then the figure you like the second best.     The purpose of the quiz is not just self-understanding, but better communication.  You need to orient toward the style of the other person. A square will want specifics or perhaps details in writing. A triangle won’t appreciate indecisiveness. You may have to remove distractions before getting a squiggle’s attention. A circle needs to connect and have a conversation. In handling conflict, circles tend to accommodate or compromise. Triangles tend to compete, or, if they see how they can gain, compromise. Squiggles may not even perceive there’s an issue, but they can be competitive in defense of an idea. Avoidance is characteristic of squares because they don’t like dealing with emotion, or they may dig in until they get more information. Groups tend to take on a personality of their own.   Good teamwork needs all the shapes – triangles to focus on decisions and results, circles for harmony, squiggles for ideas, and squares to create the systems to get the details done. THE SHAPES QUIZ SQUARE:
 Details & Data & Systems People Characteristics: Hardest workers; task oriented Loyal Structured; organized Think sequentially, logically May be stubborn with opinions based on their data Value details and data; analytical Know policies & rules Not fond of change, prefer a stable environment Prefer to working alone to teamwork May see fun as unnecessary or a luxury Trouble saying “I’ve got enough information” Conservative, regular, orderly Meeting behavior:  well prepared, lots of notes, gets right down to work Motto: “Give me a job and a deadline and I’ll get it done” If you are a square it might help help you to: Be less picky with people Create your own routines Allow yourself to make a few mistakes so you...

Read More

The Powerful Can’t Feel Your Pain or Hear Your Perspective

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in Communication, Leadership, Self-awareness |

A client recently asked me why powerful leaders often don’t take feedback well.  A board asked me why their president wanted coaching in conflict management when they felt he needed compassion training. And then there’s our X-rated presidential race. I saw two studies recently that might give us all something to think about.  Increased power diminishes our ability to be empathetic and compassionate because of its impact on the “mirror system” – how we are able to experience what someone else experiences, according to a Canadian research study.  Amazingly, even a small bit of power shuts down that part of the brain!  Scary stuff! Another study conducted at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management by Adam Galinsky and his colleagues found that increasing power increases self-assurance and confidence but in a way that makes one prone to dismiss viewpoints of those lacking authority.   As we get more powerful, according to Galinsky, we have increasing difficult in correctly perceiving others’ perspectives. So power leaves leaders somewhat isolated – stuck in their own perspective of themselves and the world, and unable to feel or see the “plight of the little guy” or even the view from the frontlines. Maybe that’s why all those leaders on the TV show Undercover Boss see things differently when they go into their companies in disguise.  It’s not just what others are willing to tell them, maybe it’s what they are able to take in when they are even temporarily sitting in a less powerful role. Empathy, compassion, self-awareness, and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes are all qualities of a mature mind – one that can lead… and lead well. The good news is that other studies show you can grow these qualities with conscious effort.  That, of course, presupposes that you recognize that you need to grow those characteristics.  If you are willing, then you have to be all ears!  You have put off your mantle of power and seek out and listen to the feedback and perspectives of others.   This is when coaches can be really useful, or honest colleagues, board members, peers, friends, and even your...

Read More

9 Tips to Make Conference Calls Less Deadly

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Communication | 0 comments

How often do you sit on conference calls hearing someone’s keyboard clicking?  Or answering emails yourself? Or napping?  Here are some great tips from my colleague, Rick Maurer, to improve conference calls.  Share them with those you invite to calls, and with those people who invite you to be on their calls! Each person should know why they are on the call and what’s expected of them. Inform participants how to prepare and hold them accountable to actually come prepared. Actively solicit involvement from everyone.  If they needed to be on the call, they need to participate.  Call on people if necessary. Listen more than you talk.  No one should give long monologues.  Keep comments pithy. Contrary to popular practice, try NOT to have people mute their phones.  You waste too much time with dead air as people speak with their mute buttons on, then realize what they are doing, then unmute themselves to repeat what they said.  Better to listen to a few dog barks here and there. Keep the participant list as short as possible.  If people have to wait too long to speak, they disengage. Give people a visual.  It could be content.  I like a single slide with the photos and names of everyone on the call so I can “see” their face when they speak. Make the meeting as brief as possible. Follow up appropriately. Click here read the whole blog post.  ...

Read More

Great Words For All Bosses to Use! And a Few to Avoid…

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Communication, Effective conversations | 0 comments

  Here are some great words that all bosses should make sure they use frequently:       Good morning How are you? Great job! Thank you. Please… I have complete confidence in you. What do you need from me?  How can I be of greater support? What’s getting in your way? Here’s an example: What’s on your plate right now? Here’s my feedback: Don’t hesitate to ask. What questions do you have? What do you think? Here’s what I am trying to achieve: How’s your family/dog/new car?  (acknowledging life out of work) Are you enjoying your work?  Enough challenge? Keep me in the loop. Tell me about your week. Ha Ha (laughter What are your dreams?  Goals?   AVOID THESE: Failure is not an option. I’ll do it myself. Don’t bring me any bad news. You’re lucky to work...

Read More

Hard Conversations of Managing Up – 10 Guidelines

Posted by on Nov 8, 2013 in Communication, Conflict, Effective conversations | 0 comments

What do you do when it feels like your boss (or your board chair or whomever may be “above you”) isn’t managing you effectively?  What if they are  micromanaging?  Or eroding your authority?  Or constantly changing your priorities?  Here are some ideas to help you examine the situation, and then tackle the issue directly if the conditions are right. Much as it’s easy to just blame the other person, interactions between people are created by all involved so you need to look at the component pieces.  Start where you hopefully have the most control:  with yourself. When anyone’s behavior evokes your emotion, ask yourself what might be triggering the emotion in you – your past work experience, other life events, stress, etc.   Be honest with yourself, and maybe talk with someone you trust. Then explore your own behavior and performance, again trying to be honest.  What are you doing (words, actions or behaviors (or “perceived” behaviors)) that could be provoking your boss’s response? Once you’ve fully examined your side, shift to trying to see the situation from the other side.  What might it look like through the eyes of your boss?  What concerns could be a trigger for your boss, either current or past?  (Occasionally it’s stuff left over from the person who had your role before you.) What does the bottom line look like? For example, micromanagement can come from a boss who knows your role too well, and finds it easy to see it in detail and from their own intimate experience.  It can come from a personal passion for the issue.  The same micromanagement can also come from distrust or fear.  Maybe you, (or someone you represent) has made tactical or strategic errors that have made your boss gun shy.    Perhaps your boss is under extreme pressure to produce and is just acting out that stress by increasing their involvement and control. Once you’ve looked at motivations for your response, and motivations for your boss’s behavior, look at structural or organizational issues.  Close management, or apparent erosion of your authority can come from unclear definition of roles and responsibilities.  Are your expectations of your authority and accountability in alignment with your boss’s expectations?  In many organizations, there is “dotted line” accountability, or “matrix” management which can allow for fascinating collaboration and cross-functional work, and can very often complicate and cloud boundaries. Once you feel you’ve clearly and honestly examined the situation from multiple perspectives, what to do?  How do you have the hard conversation with your boss?  First you have to decide if it’s worth the risk.  Is your boss someone who might be open to feedback?  (Often leaders lose opportunities for feedback as they move up the ranks so perhaps the boss isn’t aware of the impact of his or her behavior.) Your goal should be to create the conditions in which your boss gets interested in what you have to say rather than defensive, or closed.  While you can find tips for being heard...

Read More

One Good Idea for Crisp Communication

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in Communication | 0 comments

Upon occasion, I’ve been known to use too many words, to share too many details.  Recently, I read a hint worth passing along.  Take a lesson from web sites and think about “one click” versus “double click” levels of  communicating. In an article in the Boston Globe on job interviewing, Elaine Varelas suggested that job applicants answer first questions at the one click level and only go to the double click level if the interviewer probes deeper.  It’s a great metaphor for crisper communication.  Good web construction gives just enough information, and provides access to more detail and further data for the reader who needs it. Have you ever been the victim of a run-on story?  Someone comes into your office and just launches into a story and you don’t even know why, but you can’t get a word in to stop them and ask.  They don’t even stop talking when you try to inject a question.  Talking, (and writing) isn’t always communicating. You have to be aware of what your listener or reader needs or wants, at any given moment. Try using the website metaphor as a way to improve your own communication, whether spoken or written. Why are you here:  Websites tell what they’re about right on the home page.   Do the same for your listener – explain or frame up your reason for speaking.  For example, if you just start telling me about your new client, I won’t know why I am listening.  You’d help me listen more effecively if you say: “I’d like your ideas about our product line so I can more be more effective in helping my new client meet their needs.”  Then I know what to listen for. Select content judiciously: Websites have segmented topics and hierarchy of information.  Do you need to take me through every page at first?  Which page is most important? Choose one click or two:  Good websites know which information belongs up front and  what can come later. To improve your communication, consider sharing the main bullet points before telling me all the details. Stay on point:  Too many clicks on a website and before you know it you’ve wasted a lot of time.  Don’t do that to your listener or reader, without mutual agreement   CLICK COVER FOR MORE INFO AND TO ORDER SAMPLE CHAPTER TOPICS Build trust through openness Break down silos Lead through influence Build support Understand leadership boundaries Scan for content and process Develop skills in others Examine your assumptions Be intentional about your presence Complete a natural cycle of work Learn to say no Delegate Balance strategic and relational interactions Evaluate your work    ...

Read More