Tag Archive for workplace communication

Misunderstandings in the Workplace – An Invitation for Conversation

What is it about communication in the workplace that invites challenge instead of cooperation? Is it ego, fear, ignorance, culture or human nature? I can hear you checking off all of those factors and maybe adding a few of your own. But the question remains… what can you do about decreasing misunderstandings at work?

Short of listing all the potential dreaded conversation scenarios and a list of possible come-backs, I’d like to invite you to explore another approach: An “Invitation to Conversation.”

The “Invitation to Conversation” is both a formula and a mindset. The approach is to look at a conversation as an invitation to join in and share an experience. If I invite you to an event, a party or out on a date you might picture a ceremony, festivities or a romantic evening. You also have the option to accept or decline my invitation. Either way, I expect a response.

If you apply this to business and you decline my invitation you have agreed to disagree. If you accept, you agree to engage in a conversation. Of course, if I don’t hear back that sets off another round of miscommunications. Unfortunately, this is all too common both in business and life.

The invitation also comes with the notion that there will be an exchange of some kind. If I invite you to a birthday party and upon your arrival I hand you a bowl, an apron, and cake-mix you may get a slice of cake in the end, but I suspect that making the birthday cake was not what you had in mind. My thoughts did not translate into your thoughts.

And that is the objective for many workplace conversations-to get me thinking the same way that you do. When you fail to confirm that your message has been interpreted the way you intended that’s the start of another communication miscue. You must take the time to ensure you have conveyed your thoughts in the best way possible and that I have interpreted them the way you intended.

The formula for the “invitation” looks like this:

Intention: What outcome do you want as a result of your message? Be honest here–otherwise everything is built on falsehood.
Information: This is your message. The actual words you speak and the way you convey them.
Interpretation: How your listener deciphers the message. It might not be the way you intended. Check first.
Interaction: This is the key component-engaging to confirm the interpretation. Did they understand as I intended?
Integration: The intended result, change, or behavior is understood, implemented and assimilated.

And this process needs to be in-time, otherwise it’s like receiving the invitation after the event. What’s the point? Use the invitation to change the way you think about engaging with others-think guest not competitor. And use the formula as a simple way to keep on track and ensure that you have been heard correctly.

This technique plus dozens more 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.

Workplace Communication—7 Steps to Turn Resistance into Cooperation and Gain Respect

Employee resistance to change in the workplace is nothing new. Leaders and managers accept the pushback that comes when rolling out new procedures, changes in operations, shifts in hours, status, or even the loss of a prime parking space. How you deal with resistance makes the difference between gaining cooperation and respect and being viewed as an uninvolved, autocratic administrator.

Whether the resistance comes from a single dissenter or an entire department, use the following steps to gain cooperation:

Step1. Clearly state what you want, when you want it and how it will affect individual jobs. Use a firm but neutral or positive tone of voice. Refrain from conveying disappointment, anger or defeat. Your particular situation or location will dictate the appropriate vocal expression.

Step2. Decide beforehand how much time you will allot to objections, groaning and griping. Inform the person or team you are addressing about the time limit. Let them vent.

Step 3. Listen to understand concerns. What underlying emotions are behind the complaints? What are the real fears behind the protests? Often the real fears will not be voiced in the initial session and until further questioning your understanding may be based on false assumptions.

Step 4. Check your perceptions by reflecting back your understanding of the concerns. Do not allow another round of protests, rather simply check for confirmation.

Step 5. If appropriate, ask for suggestions. Not every circumstance will allow for this but to the degree that employees feel engaged in the process the quicker the cooperation. Once again, do not allow suggestions to go on forever and keep the conversation on suggestions only—not grousing. Be involved. Listen and list possibilities without judging. Put it all down. Be open to viable proposals.

Step 6. Suggest a review or an opportunity to revisit the impact of the change after a test run or implementation. This is a good practice to put into place whenever a new procedure or shift has taken place, regardless of the initial response. Small changes made at this re-visit may prevent a complete breakdown if left unchecked. This is also an excellent opportunity to increase face-time, engage employees and learn something new.

Step 7. If these steps fail, explain the costs of noncooperation. Change is what makes an organization stay competitive, robust and profitable. Dissenters may be in the wrong position or job so act accordingly.

Cooperation comes when people know and feel they are part of something bigger. Employees know that changes occur but welcome the opportunity to influence the outcome and success. However, just because you communicate openly and involve employees by asking for suggestions, does not mean they make the final decision. Be a leader—listen, learn and them implement.

Now get your FREE 6-Part Audio Series – The Power of Effective Communication.  For more tips like the ones above pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. People love the insights and easy to apply techniques.

Body Language – 10 Tips for Reading People and Interpreting Gestures

by Lynda Goldman

Reading people and their body language can give you great insights into their true feeling.

We use our head, arms, hands, shoulders and even legs and feet to make gestures, and emphasize what we are saying, but the majority of gestures are made with the hands and arms. Here are some things to look for, to help you interpret body language and gestures.

1. Nodding or tilting the head to the side shows interest, active listening, and concern.

2. A head held up indicates confidence, but if it is held too high, it can indicate aloofness or a patronizing attitude – looking down your nose at someone.

3. Shrugging the shoulders with a palms-up gesture indicates that the person doesn’t know or care, or is bored or uninterested.

4. People sometimes reveal their real feelings through body language that contradicts their words. For example, if someone says he agrees with you, but his head moves slightly from side to side, he is really signaling disagreement. He may be showing his real feelings, but not want to be bothered arguing with you.

5. Some people pick lint from their clothing. Whether this is conscious or unconscious, it can indicate that they disagree with you, but can’t be bothered to argue.

6. Nervousness often shows in your hands. People who are anxious may rub or wring their hands together, or clasp and unclasp them.

7. When we aren’t comfortable with our hands, we hide them in our pockets or behind our backs. Hands in the pocket convey a hidden agenda or secretiveness.

8. An open palm suggests honest and sincerity. A closed fist can be considered menacing.

9. Hands on the hips can be seen as defiant.

10. The fig leaf position, with your hands clasped together over your crotch, or folded tightly over your chest (the female fig leaf) can make you seem aloof or defensive.

Do you know the biggest business image mistakes? Find out with these free reports:

7 Business Casual Crimes and How to Solve Them, and 13 Foods that Can Sabotage a Business Meal, when you sign up for my Communication Capsules Ezine at: http://www.Impressforsuccess.com/signup.html

From Lynda Goldman, author of 30 books including How to Make a Million Dollar First Impression

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Internal Communication – Workplace Magic or Myth?

Communicating at Work for Better Results

Communication at Work—5 Strategies for Developing Leadership and Building Trust

Trust in the workplace, trust in leadership and connecting with others were the key phrases I found in a recent search for the best selling business books. It’s a sign of the times. A lack of leadership and trustworthiness in the workplace appears to be the norm.

Leadership is something everyone in the workplace can practice—not just CEOs and business owners. Communicating trustworthiness starts with honest intention and self-awareness. Additionally, you cannot be an effective communicator or leader if you do not provoke trust in others.

Here are 5 strategies for developing leadership and establishing trust:

1. Tell the truth. Easy to say—difficult to practice. Yet truth is what your customers, co-workers, employees, shareholders and vendors want from you. If a product is going to be delivered late, if a report is not completed, if quality is a problem, if earnings are down tell the truth about it. Most people CAN handle the truth. And, it prompts others to be honest. Truth requires no managing or memorization. Tell the truth—it’s easier.

2. Take action. Leadership means evaluating the available information and moving forward. The best leaders make difficult and timely decisions with about 70-80% of the information. You may never get all the details and waiting to act may result in tragedy. Evaluate and be proactive.

3. Do what you say you are going to do. Okay, this may be a combination of the first two strategies but it bears its own heading. Both actions and in-actions influence others. If you promise to return a call, handle a matter, or show up on time—follow through.

4. Be consistent. Leadership requires consistency in behavior, mood and communication both at home and at work. Nothing kills trust like in-congruency between what you do and say to one person and what you do and say to another.

5. Model what you expect from others. Don’t ask others to do something you wouldn’t do. Trust is developed when you live to ethics.

Communicating leadership requires an inner confidence and an outer personality that can convey that confidence to others both verbally and non-verbally. Many leaders possess the self-confidence to perform tasks and reach goals but lack the ability to connect with people. Trustworthiness is earned through communication not just results.

If you’re serious about developing your leadership qualities start by assessing your communication skills by filling in your name and email address in the boxes on your upper right and grabbing  your FREE 6 part audio on the Power of Effective Communication . You’ll be surprised by your answers–try it it’s fun!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! the Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up.

Communication at Work: 3 Ways to Improve Communication and Avoid Misunderstanding

Probably everyone has experienced a misunderstanding, misinterpretation or a miscommunication at work. It seems that communication breakdowns are so common they are accepted as business as usual. Each time I ask someone if they have ever been misunderstood at work the answer is always yes– demonstrated with a shy smile, a nodding head and maybe rolling eyes. I suspect some guilt in those answers.

When I ask what the cost of such a misunderstanding might be the immediate response seems to trigger a train-of-thought ending in ‘aha’ moment. Suddenly, the real costs associated with even a simple miscommunication begin to appear like a magicians unending scarf trick. Loss of a customer today due to a misunderstanding could mean lost revenue in the future.  Loss of production time now might result in a missed opportunity later. Miscommunication with a co-worker might result in bad feelings, poor morale, less productivity or costly mistakes. In some professions the result of a misunderstanding can result in death.

Here’s how you can decrease misunderstandings and communicate more effectively:

1. Take responsibility for your communication. Whether or not you have initiated a conversation does not let you off the hook for confirming what was said and intended. Create a mind-set that releases you from being right so you have the opportunity to learn.

I recently encountered a sales clerk who refused to shift her thinking about a situation even when her supervisor explained why a garment I was returning had a different number than the receipt. As far as the clerk was concerned, I did not have a receipt and she proceeded to handle the transaction as such. This resulted in more issues, more time lost and a second round of a managers intervention. Not to mention my growing aggravation.

To the manager’s credit she did an excellent job of explaining what probably happened and after overriding a computer default she expected the return to be handled smoothly. Unfortunately, she failed to confirm the clerk’s interpretation of her message assuming she understood.

Responsibility means verifying that your message was interpreted as you intended.

2. Match your listener’s communication style. If you are a fast talker but your listener is slower paced they may miss what you are saying as they struggle to process your message. If your style is less direct and you prefer to use a lot of words when communicating you may find that someone with a direct style may lose interest, become distracted and misunderstand your message.

Observe your listener and adjust your style accordingly. If you are the receiver, listen from the speaker’s point-of-view and confirm what you’ve heard. Context is as important as content. Your frame of reference can easily distort a positive intention if it doesn’t match the speaker’s point of reference.

3. Handle a misunderstanding immediately. If something has gone wrong in the communication process open up the lines of communication as soon as possible. Often the result of a misinterpretation doesn’t come to the forefront until a further action has taken place. Rather than place blame, seek to rectify the situation and move forward.

The cost of misunderstandings is too big to ignore. Be a part of the solution by taking responsibility, shifting your style and handling misunderstandings quickly.

If you’re serious about improving your communication skills but don’t want to go back to school just pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Do it now!

Don’t forget to pick up your FREE 6-part audio on the Power of Effective Communication.
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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.