Tag Archive for Mgmt. Articles

Communicating at Work – When Management Makes a Big Change But Fails to Consult those Involved

Alas, miscommunication by management teams is alive and well.

I was reminded of this when meeting with a friend this week. He  shared with me his frustration at a significant change his company made without consulting those it affected.

How does this happen?!

This particular change will spread beyond a mere inconvenience for associates, it promises to challenge family members of these associates in perhaps devastating ways.

Management decided that this particular team was now going to alternate night and day shifts forcing associates to work two weeks on the day shift followed by two weeks on the night shift.

Brilliant.

Forget the fact that the detrimental effects of this kind of schedule have been well documented including loss of productivity and higher incidences of mistakes and accidents.

What shocks me most Read more

Communication – Starts Before Speech

The process of communication gets initiated even before you utter the first syllable.  If being misunderstood while communicating is something you have experienced, you need to read on and find a solution to the problem.

Account for Communication Filters. You must consider how your listener might be filtering your message. What is her perception on receiving your message? Is the message too emphatic and in a tone which is too demanding on her? Is there a language barrier? If your listener speaks a different dialect or a different language, interpreting your message may lag behind the pace of your speaking. These filters, if not removed, break the communication process. Communication filters are inherent to the process of communication and some major reasons why they creep in are:

–        Cultural Differences. Are the two communicating parties from divergent cultural backgrounds? Different religious overtones? These differences could color the way your message is received and perceived. Be aware of such a difference.

–        Level of Education. Varying levels of education between communicating parties need a higher level empathy on the part of the better educated. The other party might be feeling threatened by an imposing attitude or show of more knowledge.

–        Different Social Levels – A huge barrier and an obstructive filter to efficient communication. Your feeling of being socially upward compared to the other party shows in your mannerism and is a strict No-go when you want to have a successful communication. Balanced mannerism and profile show prior to start of a conversation leads to higher chance of the conversation moving ahead and also puts the other person at ease. So, leave the heavy baggage behind and treat every one your equal.

The practice observing your listener for signs of confusion will stand you in good stead. Check to see if your message will pass through the receiver’s filters and still be understood as you intended.  Be a responsible communicator to avoid misunderstandings.

From  my new book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up — coming soon. Watch for it. In the meantime, get your FREE 6-part audio series, The Power of Effective Communication simply by entering your name and email in the box to your right.

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.

Management’s Role in Motivating Employees- How to Connect Them to Something Bigger

Motivating employees, especially during economic downturns, requires an empathic approach. Or, as I prefer to call it—the “connecting your heart-to-your-head approach.” The pressure of too-much-work-to-be-done with too few people often causes a low level response to the threat of job loss as a stimulus for more production. Simply, their emotional well is dry and any increase in productivity is short-lived. Threats don’t work.

Managers expect employees to be self-motivated and to a degree that should be the case. Self-motivation is the ability to get things done without being directed by others. But, this does not absolve a manager from providing Read more

Listening Mistake that can Hurt Your Career from “Misunderstood!”

Mistake: Making assumptions. Do you frequently finish other people’s sentences? Are you guilty of using the phrase, “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.”

Instead, listen patiently, ask clarifying questions, and paraphrase the speaker’s words. Seek to understand the speaker and their message before making suppositions. This positive behavior will brand you as an excellent communicator.

Copyright 2010 Allie Casey. Excerpt from my soon to be available book  Misunderstood! the Fast Guide to Communicating at Work-What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. If you haven’t received your FREE 6-part audio series – The Power of Effective Communication” then get it now. Just enter your name and email in the boxes on the upper right for instant access.

Misunderstandings in the Workplace – How to Clarify Expectations and Meet Goals

A common complaint from managers revolves around unmet expectations from direct reports and their teams. Similarly, workers complain that expectations are not clear and leave too much room for misunderstandings and assumptions.

Here is a look at some root problems and solutions:

Problem: Failure to clarify the desired results assuming the outcome is understood.

Management is often working within a larger framework with information that has not been made available to their direct reports. Think of this information as the missing pieces that complete the puzzle picture. The manager’s expected result is to reproduce the picture with all the parts as he sees it. Misunderstandings arise when the picture in the manager’s head does not match the picture they have painted for their direct reports.

Solution:

1. Clarify the expectations. Paint a picture in as many ways as possible-visually, verbally and vocally. Give a comparison to a known entity, if possible. “It should look like X with this adjustment.”

2. Clearly state the required details-the non-negotiable conditions.

3. Confirm interpretation and actions. Ask what was heard. Ask what that means. Ask what actions will be taken. Allow creativity and leeway to do the job as long as the end result is the same.

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

Solution: Read more

Embarrassing Conversations-Handle with Creative, Empathic Solutions

Difficult conversations come in all shapes and sizes. Handling them effectively means you will need an arsenal of clever, creative, and direct solutions. The most challenging conversations seem to be the ones involving personal habits. Handling poor performance, unacceptable behavior or a firing are often easier than handling conversations about inappropriate clothing, bad breath or body odor. These conversations tend to go one of two ways-both come with the possibility of embarrassment for both parties.

The first response from the offender upon notification is gratitude. Clueless to their own awareness, your conversation suddenly creates an epiphany about their affect on others. The change is made and no further conversations are required. The alternate response is denial, defense and anger. The key is to keep a neutral, non-judgemental but empathic voice focused on the desired change. Refrain from downplaying or diluting the offense as this may appear as a reprieve. Allow some venting, request the change, repeat if necessary, and name the consequence if the change does not occur.

Challenging as these conversations are with co-workers they leap into another stratosphere when they involve customers. While managing an upscale home furnishings store in the south, it was not uncommon for customers to shop in casual, warm-weather clothing. On this particular day a woman came in and explained that her mother and aunt were going to stay outside and enjoy the sun while she shopped. What she failed to explain was that her elderly and obese relatives had stripped down to bikini tops and short-shorts and plopped themselves down on the curb blocking the walkway to the entrance. I mean no disrespect to the weight and chronologically challenged as this behavior would be just as unacceptable even for nubile teens. But the grey hair and rubbery rolls of exposed and sweat-glistened flesh created a visual assault seemingly offensive to some of our regular design clients, whom voiced their displeasure at having to view and alter their path to get around the sun bunnies.

Horrified, my staff paged me and pleaded for immediate action. I must admit I was a bit stumped as to how to best approach this situation. I could invite them inside to enjoy the air conditioning but on second thought, did I really want to showcase this spectacle sitting on a four-thousand dollar loveseat? No-I needed to come up with another solution. My staff was now staring at me wondering how exactly I was going to approach our sun-bathing beauties. I took a deep breath, put on a big smile and walked towards the curb squatters, still not quite sure what was going to come out of my mouth.

“Hello, ladies. I see you’re enjoying the sunshine and I wish I could join you. But, I can’t imagine this curb is too comfortable so I’m going to suggest you enjoy the lovely picnic table our neighbor has put out for his customers to enjoy. Let me give you a hand getting up.”

It worked like a charm and they were grateful for my extended hospitality. Lucky for us the neighbor location was fifty feet away on the other side of a slight ravine. Problem solved. Back inside the store my staff, whom had watched in amazement as I dislodged the offenders, begged me to tell them what I said. I told them. The lesson here is to keep smiling, align yourself in a relatable way (“wish I could join you”) and have a solution that suits everyone.

Post your funny, embarrassing story and solution.

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Internal Communication – Workplace Magic or Myth?

Job Function–Avoid Costly Misundersandings with Clear Communication

1181346_person_maskMisunderstanding a job role causes more issues than simply lost production. Customer complaints, lost business, public safety or legal issues are all at stake.

Clear communication takes more than a paragraph in a handbook or a few sentences uttered by human resources or a manager. Ideally, the job function conversation should occur not only during the interview and orientation process but throughout the first ninety days.

Here are a few ways to clearly communicate the role of a job to decrease misunderstandings:

  1. Verbally describe the role including tasks and expectations. The challenge here is to be both specific and broad. Use stories and examples to help create a picture that words alone fail to illustrate. Communicate the desired outcome graphically.
  2. Written job descriptions are critical to compliance.  Don’t rely on an initialed checklist indicating the new hire has read and understood the information. Written communication alone does not address questions adequately and leaves the new hire without an appropriate venue for voicing questions or concerns. Take the time to review and expand the job description using real examples.
  3. Use a detailed description of a typical day or scenarios the new hire might encounter. Again, using a story format helps put the new hire into the picture.
  4. Describe situations outside the job description the new hire would be expected to handle. Give end-result expectations and examples.
  5. After giving a verbal and written description ask for feedback in the form of a summary–not a list or recitation–but a description of how they see the function and their role in making it happen. Ask how they would handle a situation and encourage details about the end results. Listen for any disconnects between their “idea” of the job and the actual expectations of the job. What is not being said is more important than what is being said.
  6. Ask for where they see their biggest challenge in their job. Ask for a strategy for achieving results. Do not let “hopefully, I can…” be an acceptable answer. Hope is not a strategy. Too frequently new hires are skilled at giving the appropriate answers but have no intentions or aptitude for actually doing the function.

Clearly communicating policy, processes and job function is a part of your job if you hire or manage people. Spend more time on this critical message upfront and enjoy fewer misunderstandings in the future.

If you want more tips you can use on the job be sure to get your FREE 6 part audio series by putting your name and email in the boxes to your upper right. Now, pick up a copy of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work-What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up, for dozens of tips and techniques that can change your life.