The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
Monthly Archives: March 2013
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
It is easy to hang on to the things that happened in the past, some are good and some are bad. Either way they are familiar and comfortable. Moving onto new ideas and new challenges can be scary so we often stay in our comfort zone and avoid change. Unfortunately, without change there is no growth or progress.
The greatest destructive power the past has is when we hang on to past hurts, slights and disappointments. These eat at us and cause more problems now, most likely the issues from lingering anger and resentment are greater than the original problem. The problems of the past are poisoning the present which will lower morale, reduce productivity and impact quality because we are not paying attention to the present.
As leaders we set the example for those around us. If we are letting the past impact the present, our team will as well. It is important to learn from the past and apply it to the present, and then let it go. Every one of us has things we wish we could do differently; the key is to learn from those situations and use the information to create a better future. Show your team how to move forward in a positive manner by how you handle your own past and how you handle their mistakes.
See the parable below for an interesting look at how the past can shape your attitude in the present.
A Story of Two Monks
Once there were two monks traveling when they arrived at a river. At the river they discovered a woman struggling to get across. Without a second thought, the older of the two monks asked the woman if she needed help, then swiftly picked her up and carried her across to the other bank.
It should be understood that for monks, especially in ancient times, any contact with the opposite sex would be strongly frowned upon, if not forbidden. The actions of the older monk greatly troubled the younger monk, who allowed his feelings to fester for several miles while they continued their journey.
Finally, the younger monk confronted the older monk, “How could you have done such a thing? We are not even supposed to be in a woman’s presence, but you touched her, carried her even!”
The older monk calmly replied, “I put that woman down miles ago, back at the river. But you are still carrying her.” The younger monk realized the older monk was indeed correct and they continued on their journey.
How do you keep the past from negatively impacting your present?
Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
C. S. Lewis
To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.
I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.
If you are like most of us there days when you just can’t focus on what needs to be done. You sit and stare at the computer in a futile attempt to get you brain engaged. All of us have days like this, how we overcome these slumps is what differentiates the highly productive from the average. There are projects and tasks that require us to concentrate to ensure they are done well and without mistakes. Being able to focus your concentration when needed is a skill that will help increase your productivity. Concentrating can be improved with practice and habits.
Here are five tips to help you increase your ability to concentrate and focus more effectively:
- Close email and chats: The pop-ups from these can be very distracting. They create a false sense of urgency so close them when you are focusing on tasks and plan time later to go through everything. The frequency that you check your emails will depend on how timely your responses must be. Many people can get by with checking in once an hour.
- Take breaks: We can only focus for short periods of time, so allow for a short break periodically. Plan on a 5 – 10 minute break every hour and your productivity will increase. This can be used to check those emails, but make sure you get back to work on the task at hand.
- Switch tasks: Alternate between high attention and low attention tasks. This gives your mind that break it needs to refresh and stay at peak performance. Use the breaks to help recharge.
- Plan your peak time: Take time to figure when you are most productive. For some it’s the morning and for others it’s the afternoon. Then plan to do the items that require the most attention and focus during the time of day when you are at your best. Everyone has a peak time when they really get things done. Use it wisely.
- Deal with worries: It is hard to focus when we are worrying about other things. These worries range from deadlines to personality conflicts and everything in between. When you find your mind wandering off to worry, write down the issue and set aside time later to address it. This will free your mind from holding onto it and it allows you to concentrate on the current task now and problem solving the worry later.
If you plan how you will deal with distractions it will help you when it’s time to get serious about concentrating on the task at hand. Establish methods that help you reduce the interruptions and carve out time to spend on the high attention tasks. The more you make focusing a habit the easier it becomes and the faster you will recover when you find yourself getting pulled into the interruptions.
Increasing your ability to concentrate requires a plan and methods for dealing with the daily distractions. When your priorities are clear, you know what needs your undivided attention, and you have methods for clearing your mind and reducing distractions you will increase your productivity and get more done.
What is your favorite method for staying focused?
Are the members of your team focused on the success of the team or their personal success? If they are focusing on their personal needs the team is not going to be high performing, even if it is just one person falling into that trap. This is not to say personal success is irrelevant or unimportant. It matters, to each of us individually and to the team as a whole. As the team leader it is up to you to gage and focus each person’s attention and efforts on the success of the team.
To keep people focused on the success of the team it is important to have the following three items in place:
- Clearly defined team goals
- Individual goals that include team success
- Visibility to teams progress
If people know what the team’s goal is and they know that as an individual they will be judged on how well the team performs it helps keep them working towards the team’s goals. However, if there is no visible measure of the team’s progress it is easy to lose track of what matters. Think of a football or baseball game. The scoreboard tells everyone who’s winning which helps keep the team that is behind focused on what they need to do to win. The same principles apply to business success. Many companies have adopted scoreboards that show status of a variety of items. This can be done at a team or department level as well.
Having a scoreboard that people see regularly will help them know what area needs work. If the team trusts each other, is open to debate and feedback, is committed to the goals, is willing to hold each other accountable then giving them a visible target will improve their performance and their ability to reach the goal. This could be something posted on the wall that is updated regularly or it can be electronic. The method is less important than having it visible.
If you decide to have a visible scoreboard then make sure that what is on it is tied to the goal of the team and is something that the members can impact. Measuring and reporting something that is beyond the scope of the team will actually demotivate them and drive them to focus on individual success. Tie the measurement to the goals of the team and once they have committed to reaching the goal it will help them adjust and adapt to get there.
Lastly, the team has to recognize that individual success is important to each person and must be respected. Acknowledge that the team as a whole succeeds when each person succeeds and each person succeeds when the team succeeds. Think of the Three Musketeers motto of “One for all and all for one”. This helps keep a balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the team.
To truly become a high performing team each person must be willing to put the success of the team ahead of their personal success. The team then owes it to the individuals to help them advance on a personal level. When people feel supported by their team they will in turn support the team.
How do you balance the goals of the team with your personal goals?
Quality is not an act, it is a habit.
As a leader do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Have you examined the things that have helped you get to this point and that have gotten in your way? Most of us are well aware of the things we have done wrong over the years and we can name a few strengths, and yet to move ourselves and our teams forward we must be more self-aware. Progress only happens when there is change and forward progress happens when the right changes are made.
To become more self-aware requires a commitment and consistent practice. You have to be willing to take hard looks at yourself and solicit feedback from the people around you. As well, this isn’t something that you do today and it’s good for life, you need to do it on a regular basis. Timing will depend on how fast changes are happening in your world or on how fast you want to change your life. When looking for quick change or when dealing with a situation that is in flux you need to evaluate your situation more often. Otherwise, use the evaluations as course corrections to keep you moving in the right direction at the right pace.
Here are five steps to take to become more self-aware:
- Write down five strengths and how they have helped you succeed
- Write down five weaknesses and how they have slowed you
- Get feedback from at least five people around you, your boss, subordinates, peers
- Ask them for five strengths
- Ask them what they would like to see you do more often and do less often
- Compare their assessments with your own, reflect on the differences
- Using your goals determine what is helping and what is hindering your progress
Once you have determined what you want to address make plans to change your behavior. Set goals and start small to gain traction. As you get more comfortable with the new habits and behaviors you can take the time to look back and see how it’s working out. If it’s moving you forward in the direction you want to go, keep up the good work. Otherwise, make some new adjustments to get on track. Doing this regularly will help you grow in the right areas and move you forward.
Another benefit of these five steps is that people will see you as more open and approachable. Your credibility goes up when you seek feedback and then make changes based on what you learned. Demonstrating your self-awareness, being open to feedback and changing will make it easier for you to drive change in your organization. People will respect your thoughts on their development more when they see you doing the same thing. Change is easier when a leader is willing to change first. Change starts with self-awareness of what must change.
What steps do you take to evaluate yourself?
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