Effective conversations

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...

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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...

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Crusade for Great Meetings (or no meetings)

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Effective conversations, Meetings | 0 comments

“Our weekly staff meeting is a complete waste of time,” the team told me when their leader wasn’t present.  What a waste!  I’m out to improve those bad meetings this year, for them and as many other people as I can. MY 2014 CRUSADE:  It’s my personal mission to build a wave of good meeting skills that travels as far and as wide as possible.  I just can’t stand the frustration anymore. THE GOOD:  Coming together, particularly face to face, is an incredible opportunity, and should create an obligation to one another to use the time wisely.  Wouldn’t you love to look forward to your next meeting? THE BAD: Think how many hours you spend in meetings throughout your career.  As you read this there are huge numbers of people sitting unproductively in conference rooms around the globe.  Eyes glazed while they watch Powerpoint presentations, or listen to a succession of updates on minutae.  Or tolerate someone hogging the floor.  AHHHH.  It makes me crazy to think about it. WHY ARE WE HAVE BAD MEETINGS?: Our meeting habits developed in a time where information wasn’t easy to disseminate quickly, where things didn’t change rapidly, and where our work was less interdependent and we valued the superstar or leader as hero.  Things  have changed and so should our meetings.  A colleague whose career took him to the top of the Canadian military told me about the shift from command and control leadership to collaborative leadership just during his tenure. THE OPPORTUNITY: Collaboration and team work require great meetings, where we can: Build trust among colleagues so good work can occur Create a space in time where we ask important questions:  What do we all think?  How are we each seeing it differently?  What’s meaningful about this?  What assumptions are we using and which need to be challenged? Rub elbows against other disciplines to spark innovation Brainstorm and build on one another’s good ideas Explore failure Look out for disruption in the status quo and develop responses MAKE A DIFFERENCE: How can you join my crusade? Commit to doing one thing in every meeting you attend to make it better Assess every meeting you are responsible for convening and decide if you need it and why you need it Send me ideas from your best meetings so I can share them:  info@listening2leaders.com Send me examples of What Not to Do so others can learn from them TIPS:  You can read  my blog post on 7 tips for great meetings and  I’ll share more good ideas in the future but here’s a simple one today from the Wall Street Journal: Follow a detailed agenda and start on time And one from me: Don’t end without summarizing decisions, next steps, and accountability  WHY THIS MATTERS:  Finally, here are some scary statistics: 17 million formal meetings per day, just in the US Managers spend about 20% of their time in formal meetings of 5 people or more Executives on average spend 40-50% of their working hours...

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Walking Meetings – For Health & Innovation

Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Creativity, Effective conversations, Meetings | 1 comment

We now spend 9.3 hours a day sitting, on average.  More than sleeping.  Bad for our health – it’s hard to find time to exercise when you are sitting at your desk all day.  Bad for our creativity – it’s hard to be innovative when you are always “in the box.”  Why not experiment with a BOTH/AND rather than an EITHER/OR? There’s a new fad called treadmill desks.  They showed up on a recent NCIS-LA episode.  Standing desks or convertible workstations that go up and down have been around for a few years.  But there’s a new trend toward walking meetings.  Why? EXERCISE:  Apparently, Sally Jewell the current Secretary of the Interior and former chief executive of REI recently had a walking meeting around the Rose Garden with the president’s chief of staff.  Think about it.  You don’t have to choose whether to meet with someone or get fresh air and exercise, you can do both! COLLEGIALITY: And there’s something about walking side by side, rather than sitting opposite one another that lends a different sort of collegiality to a meeting.  Maybe the ability to see more than one perspective, or to be more open.  In The Awareness Paradigm, it’s only when Fletcher walks out to the parking lot with Julia after a meeting that he starts to reveal some of the personal motivation behind his advocacy. CREATIVITY: Once you are out of the office and into a different environment, you stimulate different parts of your brain.  You are literally “out of the box,” and are more likely to think that way. Why not try scheduling several walking meetings a week?  I even had a colleague that even scheduled running meetings.  Now that will take a bit of practice! Here’s a 3 minute TED talk by business innovator Nilofer Merchant with more on her experiences with walking meetings:...

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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...

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Is being intentional about your presence wearing a mask?

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Communication, Effective conversations, Mindfulness, Self-awareness | 0 comments

Did you ever think about whether you behave or respond in a different way than usual with someone?  Are there are times when you are purposefully different because you think the situation demands it – tougher or more sympathetic, bolder or more subtle? And do you sometimes behave differently without awareness? I’ve coached people who have been challenged by certain situations, for example union negotiations, and we work at how to prepare and bring a different presence to those situations.   If their default style is thoughtful and gentle, they consciously think about being more active and assertive. In other situations, I’ve had clients who’ve had to look at whether they were being unintentionally different, shifting their style without awareness.  For example, if they expected a tough meeting, were they starting out prickly – already wearing armor, when they were normally quite relaxed?  And if so, did that cause the others to get prickly or aggressive? What about shifting your style for a client?  I know when I led a sales team, we trained in how to put people at ease, to meet them where they were.  If you were working with a formal client, you might approach them with more formality and vice versa. I had an interesting conversation yesterday about whether shifting your style or your presence for a particular situation is being inauthentic – faking it, or wearing a mask. I’ve long thought we need to expand our range of behavior to have choices in how we react or present ourselves depending on what or who we are facing.  Sort of like playing the piano and knowing how to use all the keys – even if we don’t play them all during every song. It was a good to be challenged to think about whether somehow that is a flawed assumption.  If I’m a thoughtful gentle person should I be courageously true to that, regardless of the situation, regardless of the consequences, even if it puts me at a disadvantage?  What if I’m action-oriented, fast, and direct and I tend to roll over people? I know that what happens in any interaction is a product of what we each bring to that interaction – co-creation.   I remember reading a book by the neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor, about her experience having a massive stroke.  She couldn’t communicate well and was highly sensitive to her environment.  She had someone put a sign on her door asking people, particularly caregivers, to be careful about the energy they brought with them into her room.  We experience one another far beyond the simple words we exchange. I’m still mulling this over, but I think I like the idea of paying attention to what is needed in any given situation and bringing those parts of myself forward that are called for.  I’m not being fake or manipulative, am I? I’m being flexible and intentional. What do you think?      ...

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