Tag Archive for communicating at work

Workplace Communication – 5 Mistakes that can Damage Your Career

Open up a place in the conversation so your listener can fit in.” I made this assertion a while ago and I swear by it even today. You need to give space to your listener so that the conversation gets initiated, and converts from a monologue to a dialog and eventually into a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Excellent listeners, regardless of their job function, brand themselves as leaders. It’s a natural process. Poor listeners can damage their careers and never know why. I wrote about this a couple of months ago and recent interactions with those that commented have made my resolutions stronger. The basis of my article then was to shortlist 5 basic mistakes that people made while communicating in the workplace and I would like to restatethem:

Mistake # 1 – Judging rather than Focusing.  Critical to avoid if you intend to have an honest and fruitfulconversation. You MUST focus on the other person’s conversation rather than his or her clothes, accent or appearance. Stop judging the speech pattern, accent, presentation or mannerisms and instead listen to the message. You need to focus on the value of the content he or she is providing. Suspending your judgment for a short time might lead you to learn something helpful or important.

Mistake # 2 – Making Assumptions. Do you always know more than the speaker? Should you always start and continue a conversation with a preconceived notion? Do you use phrases such as “I know that already” before you have heard a complete sentence? The message you send is, “I know more than you do, so let me help you out.” This is not only rude behavior but it will brand you as a “know it all.” Learn to listen patiently.

Mistake # 3 – Correcting and Disagreeing. Let the speaker complete his chain of thought and deliver what he or she wants to convey before you jump to tell him or her that he or she is incorrect. Give the other person a chance to put across his or her point. Don’t be a conversation breaker. You might have missed a key point and this might turn out to be a major insight into something that eluded your consideration.

Mistake # 4 – Impatient Behavior. A strict No.  Don’t let the speaker feel that you are wasting your time conversing with him. Be patient and give the speaker his due. When you tend to lose interest in a conversation, either excuse yourself, if appropriate, or change the direction of the conversation by asking questions.  Remember, your non-verbal communication speaks loudly, meaning your foot tapping or turned shoulders will show your impatience, even if you never say a word. Even if someone has a boring delivery, shift your outlook and you’ll likely learn something.

Mistake # 5 –- Failure to listen to the entire message. You need to understand the message in its totality before jumping to conclusions. Don’t get stuck to a single point in a conversation and lose the bigger picture. Don’t react emotionally to a single idea and leave the others aside.

Learn to develop listening skills and you are sure to become a great communicator. The essence to great conversation is space for each speaker to put in his or her point. If you master this, you are sure to raise the level of your business relationships and help your career.

These tips and more like them can be found in my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Pick up a copy today–you owe it to yourself. Click the book image on the right or go to Amazon.com.

Avoid Misunderstandings at Work–Communicating with Confidence

Misunderstandings in the workplace are often the result of poor self-confidence. Confidence shows up first in your presence. In-other-words, your posture, the way you move, the way you stand and your energy.

What does all of this have to do with avoiding misunderstandings? The non-verbal message sent by slouchy shoulders, an unbalanced stance and a voice that lacks conviction can easily negate even the clearest verbal message…and that causes misunderstandings. Communicate like you mean it.

Consider the young manager who is not quite sure of herself as she attempts to give direction to her assistant. The request might be as simple as completing a report needed for a meeting. Her words might be clear  but her assistant might read her lack of confidence in her demeanor to mean…”if you have time to get it done.”

If you’re thinking this never happens, think again. The dog whisperer, Cesare Milan, tells dog owners that the conversation they are having in their in heads –positive or negative– translates to the energy a dog understands. The same thing occurs with humans, and no one knows this better than children. The mother who attempts to stop her child from an unwanted behavior by sweetly saying “no honey” in a voice that says  “I don’t really mean it” hardly gets the response she would like.

Communicating with confidence won’t eliminate all misunderstandings but it will help. What do you think?

For more communication tips pick up a copy of  Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work. You can get it by clicking the icon of the book on your right or at Amazon.con.

Communicating and Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Work

If there is one thing we should we should be communicating daily it’s gratitude. Expressing gratitude in the workplace is the key to fostering good relationships and cultivating a pleasant working environment.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a staff member or the manager in charge, you can use small tokens of appreciation to change your working atmosphere from negative or neutral to positive and expansive.

Here are a few ways to express your gratitude and make a difference.
Things to say:

  • “I’m happy you’re here.”
  • “I’m grateful you’re my coworker (or on my team.”)
  • “I appreciate your smile–it cheers up my day.”

Things to do:

  • Put a few words of gratitude on a colorful sticky note and tack it above a coworkers desk.
  • Write a few words of appreciation on small slips of paper and stuff them into fortune cookies. Keep them personalized to each recipient.
  • Create a weekly gratitude day–don’t make it a big deal–just catch a coworker in an act of kindness or generosity and let them know you appreciate their caring gesture. Listen, we all know who makes the coffee, this is a good time to acknowledge it.

Creating a culture of gratitude will yield greater profits than what’s visible on the bottom line–though it will certainly contribute to that result.

Try it. Let me know what works for you by leaving a comment below.

I’m grateful for you– my readers and clients–today and everyday. Thank you for showing up and participating.

You can find more information on this topic in my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Get it at Amazon.com today.

Communicating at Work–Check for Understanding

Communication means (according to my desktop dictionary) to transmit a message. Yes, there is a bit more elaboration but nothing that implies the checking for the understanding of said message.

Not good enough, I say. There are plenty of examples where transmitting a message suffices but even when a memo or message is posted in the workplace there is always someone that misinterprets or questions the message.

Posted message: ” The office will be closing Wednesday at 1:00 PM for the holiday.”

Question posted: “Does that mean for everyone?”

See what I mean, even the most direct message leaves a gap. So how can we expect the numerous conversations that take place daily to be interpreted as the sender intended? No easy task.

Let’s take a look at just a couple of things you can incorporate into your conversations to decrease the likelihood of misunderstandings.

1. Allow time for your message to be processed–avoid “bump and blurt” communications. You know the scenario where you run into your boss or coworker in the hallway and blab  your message as quickly as possible while still moving in the opposite direction. Really? You expect to be heard?

2. Ask for interpretation. This is the most difficult aspect of the exchange. The one question to never ask is…“do you understand?” Why? Because 99.9 percent of the time the answer is yes–when the reality is no. You can try the active or passive approach depending upon the situation and with whom you are speaking. Here are some approaches:

  • This casual approach takes on the burden of responsibility: “Wait…what did I just say?” Even though you know perfectly well what you said, this approach generally gets others to repeat at least of portion of what you said. And no, if you are making a request that requires action there is no guarantee it will be carried out as you expect.
  • A somewhat more direct approach allows for both processing and questioning, particularly useful after giving a long directive. “I’ve just given you a lot of detailed information.” Let’s review the first part again (you do) then you ask, “what questions do you have about this section?” This implies that there will be questions. Ask the question and then, you know…shut up. Most people don’t like to admit they are unclear about something so give them time to answer.
  • Another direct approach is simply to say, “I’m curious to know if we are on the same page, tell me how you heard what I requested? Often the intent is to get other people thinking the same way you do, forgetting that rarely do people think the same way you do!
  • Sometimes we fail to give enough information because we fail to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. If you request a project to be handled be sure to ask something like this…“what information have I failed to give you in order for this project to get completed on time?” (Make sure this is an open-ended question.)

Just in asking the question you might realize that you have not, in fact, given a time frame.  I’ve frequently asked audience members what time frame they put around this request…“as soon as you can get to it.” You’ll be shocked to know I heard everything from 15 minutes to a week!

Admins frequently are confused about prioritization–jumping on a task that didn’t need to be done first while ignoring more urgent projects. Both parties need to ask better questions.

These are just a few ways to check for understanding. Tell me what has worked for you by leaving a comment below.

You can find more information on this topic in my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Get it at Amazon.com today.

Communicating at Work – Managing Unmet Expectations

A common complaint from managers revolves around unmet expectations from direct reports and team leaders.  Whether we are talking about missed deadlines, missed goals or missed opportunities communication is always at the heart of the problem.

Let’s take a look at just one root cause  of unmet expectations and a solution.

Problem: Systems and  tools don’t function as needed and departments don’t work well together.

Solution:
1.  Provide the needed tools to do the job
–including software, hardware, human resources, filing and process systems, proper forms, paper, etc.  It is difficult to hammer nails without the nails.

2. Smooth the path between departments to eliminate the “I can’t start my part until I receive this information from…” syndrome. Catch issues before they start. Ensure that all departments are coordinated with the same expected outcome.

3.  Grant the authority to do the job. Often an issue between departments occurs when one department is expected to perform  but has no authority to make decisions that directly affect their ability to do so. Design is often driven by manufacturing , which is driven by operating goals. If operating goals are best met by producing out-of -date products (sounds crazy, but it happens a lot), then design can not create what the market is asking for and sales people can’t meet their goals. Don’t expect a quick fix. All departments need to understand their role in profitability and growth.

Want more information about root causes and solutions? You’ll find it on pages 113 – 115 of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up.
Get your copy at Amazon.com and don’t forget to pick up your FREE Bonuses.

Leave me your story of unmet expectations.

Communication Styles at Work–More Productivity with Less Misunderstanding

Learning to connect with all the communication styles in your workplace is the key to increased productivity.

Now I know you aren’t going to get along with everyone at every moment  and really, that’s a good thing.  Why? Because healthy conflict produces pearls (ask any clam!)

But let’s talk about those communication styles for a moment.  If you are familiar at all with communication styles then you have probably heard the them referred to as: Directors or Controllers, Amiables or Relators, Thinkers or Analyticals and Expressives or Sociables.

Even if you aren’t familiar the points below apply to everyone you interact with daily:

  • Respect the theme or driving principle for each style. Do they prefer to do things their way and quickly? Do they focus on accuracy at all costs? Do they prefer consensus before taking action? Or do they favor fun while getting things done? Go along with their theme while keeping your integrity intact.

  • Shift your style of communicating to meet theirs if you want to be heard. Bring your energy level up or tone it down and add detail or give the big picture depending on the style you’re communication with to increase your rapport.

  • To request action, to gather information communicate to each style’s preferred approach to work. Do they need the bottom line only or every last detail? Do they need cooperation and flexibility or do they want enough information to make a decision – not too much, not too little?

Support each style in the way they prefer saves you time, prevents misunderstandings and cultivates a cooperative workplace. Leave me your thoughts–what do you do to get along with others?

You can learn more about communication groups in my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Get it at Amazon.com. If you don’t need it get it as a gift for someone that can benefit from the message.

Improve Communication at Work – How to Agree to Disagree

Sounds a little crazy I know, but knowing how to walk away from a contentious situation while still being able to agree is a necessary communication skill in business.

What exactly do I mean? Well, if you find yourself in a conversation in which you have consciously applied good communication skills including being an active listener and still find you cannot agree on any point, or you simply do not see eye-to-eye, then it just might be time to agree to disagree.

The consequences of taking a stand for yourself and your principles may be far reaching so be sure you know what you are doing. Communicating your opposing view while maintaining your composure takes fortitude and conviction.

I had a boss once who calmly walked into my office and simply announced that he (the president) had agreed to disagree with the CEO. Not quite sure what that meant, I gave him a questioning look and asked for an explanation.

Apparently, a major request or change of direction, or a shift in command  resulted in a situation where neither  he nor the CEO were willing to compromise. So they agreed to disagree.

It was civil conversation but the result of agreeing to disagree  meant my boss opted to leave his position. Yet, I have no doubt that he slept well that night. He honored his integrity.

You may find yourself in this position some day and you may not be in the financial position to simply walk away as my boss did.  The situation you are disagreeing with may be more than simply a blow to your ego, it may involve something unethical.

If you can agree to disagree and continue working without interruption then go for it.  But if you find the situation puts you at risk for a lawsuit or worse and you decide to stay ask yourself this–is the cost to your peace-of-mind, to your integrity,  to your family, to your self-worth and your health worth it?

What challenging communication situations have you dealt with at work?

Find more answers to these questions in Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up.  Buy it at Amazon.com

Improve Communication at Work – Stop The Blame Game

Improving communication at work has to do with your willingness to change. And–your willingness to give up blaming others for your situation or lack of success.

All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you.  ~ WAYNE DYER

Blame moves nothing forward and the only way to improve communication is to move forward. This means you must take ownership of the fact that you must change. Ouch!

If someone is difficult to listen to, change the way you approach your communication with him or her rather than blaming them for being annoying, unclear, high-pitched, repetitive, or whatever you perceive to be the offending behavior.  Focus on your intention and listen for a single point you both agree and move the conversation from that point.

If you are turned down for a promotion, rather than placing blame on your boss take a hard look at your work, attitude, communication skills and habits and decide what changes you could make to create a different outcome.

If you are still in a job you hate, rather than blame the economy decide what it is you really want and take the steps necessary to get it. You’ll be surprised how this will improve your overall communication.

It’s easy to blame. It takes the pressure and the spotlight off of you but it serves no one.

Just for today serve yourself–stop blaming and start changing.

Find more tips on improving your communication at work, get a copy of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. You can get it today at Amazon.

Communicating at Work – 5 Steps for Managing Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is  a common workplace challenge. Poor communication contributes to the push-back that comes with rolling out new procedures,  a change in status,  a physical move or launching a new project.

The dissension can come from a single voice or the collective whole.

Try these 5 steps for gaining cooperation:

1. Spell out and communicate both orally and in writing, exactly what the changes are and how they will affect individual positions.

2. If you choose to entertain objections set a time frame and stick to it.  A never ending gripe session serves no one.

3. Listen to the emotions and the underlying fears that are often couched in vague complaints such as “this will take too much time.”  The fear may be that the employee will have to stay later and miss picking up their child on time.

4. Check your interpretation of the complaints by reflecting back what you have heard.

5. Consider suggestions and set a follow-up date for the outcome. Not all changes have that kind of flexibility but you might be surprised at what can be adjusted for better buy-in.

Employees simply want to be a part of something bigger. Use this opportunity to communicate honestly and create a deeper  connection and the odds for cooperation will increase.

Find more tips for communicating effectively at work in my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work – What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up.  Buy it at Amazon.com


Communicating with the Characters in Your Workplace

Communicating at work often resembles a sitcom where coworkers are characters and the story is driven by misunderstandings. Every sitcom from I Love Lucy to Seinfeld to Modern Family are great examples of misunderstandings resulting in humor and a tidy ending.

In reality, misunderstanding with the characters (I mean co-workers) you work with often doesn’t end with a happy conclusion. The good news is that your coworkers may be identifiable as the characters in a good story. Once you get to know them, you’ll be able to anticipate a certain amount of predictable behavior.  Think Seinfeld’s Kramer–you always expect his cockamamie logic to some mundane situation.

So how does this help you? Well, learning how to talk these character types (or communication styles) will help you get your point across more effectively so that cooperation and collaboration becomes the norm rather than the exception.

Ask these questions and notice these distinctions and shift your approach, and your chances of getting cooperation increases.

1. What motivates them?

2. What do they seek?

3. What do they fear?

4. What is important to them?

5. How do they behave under stress?

Create a game for yourself and see if you can created a profile of each of the people you work with and for–and then decide how you need to shift your behavior to connect with them.

What’s your experience?

This post is an excerpt from Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up.  Order your copy today and learn more about behavior styles.