Tag Archives: Communication

Problems Talking With People

Have you ever had days when it seems impossible to talk to people effectively? Either they are being total jerks or they just don’t get what you are saying. By the end of the conversation you are ready to scream. I know I’ve had plenty of those days in my career, and at home. All my energy is drained by the end of the day and the thought of doing it all again the next day can be depressing.

The only way around that is to find a way to communicate more effectively, even when the other person isn’t cooperating. This can be very hard and at times it will feel like you are climbing a mountain, over and over again. However, if you practice a few simple things it will be easier in the moment and get better over time.

For those who don’t seem to understand the message these three steps will improve your communications:

  1. Meet the person at their level: It’s easy to start from your baseline and expect people to be right there along side of you. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. You need to figure out where that person is and meet them there. Then you can start to get your message across.
  2. Stop and listen intently: Once you’ve shared information take the time to ask if they understand you and then be quiet. Listen closely to what they say without judgment or rushing to correct them. Wait to see what they say.
  3. Acknowledge their response: Take a moment to reflect back what you heard from them. This lets them know you paid attention to them and heard what they said. They might be wrong, but they were heard. Now they will be more open to listening to you.

All too often we get in a hurry to dump information and run to the next person, task or meeting. We aren’t taking the time to make sure we are heard and then we blame the other person for “not getting it”. Is it really their fault? Maybe they didn’t listen or they didn’t care enough to retain what they heard. Maybe we didn’t take the time to be clear and verify we were heard correctly. Sure it takes more time up front, but it saves time, energy and money down the line because things are done right the first time.

The other side of the challenge is talking to jerks. Communicating with problem people is a topic I addressed in Energize Your Leadership, a collaborative book I had the pleasure to create with a group of 15 leaders from around the world. In my chapter I shared stories about some of the problem people I have crossed paths with and how I learned to be a better communicator because of the challenges they presented.

The three key lessons I shared in dealing with problem people are:

  1. Set boundaries to improve relationships
  2. Pause before hitting “Send”
  3. Come from a place of respect

It was a unique opportunity to work with 15 thought leaders from around the world to create a book whose purpose was to help others discover new ways to create energy, ignite/re-ignite their passion for leading, and break through their barriers. I have gotten to know many amazing and inspiring people who were willing to open up about their leadership journey. The stories are real world struggles and shared with the goal of helping others learn.

If you would like to learn more about the book, the authors and our story check it out at http://www.energizeyourleadership.net.

To buy the book you can go to Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Energize-Your-Leadership-Discover-Through-ebook/dp/B00WC5UI1C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431985874&sr=1-1&keywords=energize+your+leadership.

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Project Communication Challenges

Businessman sleeping at the presentationIf you have been part of a project, large or small, you have seen communication challenges.  These challenges seem to crop up often yet the good news is that they can be addressed.  When you take the time to pay attention to the project’s communications and work at doing it well things will go much smoother for you.

Here’s look at some of the biggest challenges: 

  • Poor Planning – This shows up in several ways: a lack of information, wrong information for the audience, and information at the wrong time.
  • Ineffective Messages – These cause delays in action or decisions, mistakes due to misunderstanding, and confusion about what is happening.
  • Organizational Issues – In some organizations team members are assigned to multiple projects which means the PM is competing for their attention, virtual teams are becoming more common which adds complexity to communicating, and working globally introduces delays due to time zone differences.
  • Language Constraints – As business becomes more global language barriers can get in the way of communicating effectively.  Different meanings for words and gestures, lack of a common language among a global team, and cultural communication styles are all issues the PM must learn to handle.
  • Style and Skills – The communication style and skill level of the PM can introduce challenges.  Very direct people can seem overbearing to those who are indirect while indirect people seem to never get to the point to direct communicators.   Being uncomfortable in front of a group can impact the effectiveness of the message.

The communication plan and its effectiveness is a key component to delivering a successful project.  If the PM or team leader has the skills to adapt to different audiences and different styles they will be more effective.  This helps the project in the following ways:

  • Decisions will get made in a timely manner
  • Tasks are completed correctly when due
  • Changes are handled promptly and with less conflict
  • Problems and issues are addressed properly and promptly
  • Stakeholders understand the changes and impact

Communication is the breakfast of Champions” – Ken Blanchard

If you are a Project Manager or a Team Leader take the time to focus on communicating well and develop your communication skills.  If you are seeing delays in decisions, mistakes, missed due dates, or confusion about changes then you may need to work on improving your project communications.   For more information how you can improve your skills check out a free White Paper on “5 Keys to Effective Project Communication” by clicking here.

Thanks to my colleagues in LinkedIn’s The Project Manager Network – #1 Group for Project Managers for their contributions to this topic.

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Quote for Oct 2nd

ListeningCritical in this process of wisdom being passed down is that you also need to take it in; you need to listen to it.
Andrew Zuckerman

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Are You Planning Your Communications?

Business Meeting NotesWhether you are a leader or not you need to plan your communications when you will be sharing ideas, changes or updates with others.  Have you taken the time to think about the message you want to deliver?

If you are involved in a project, particularly one that involves change, you need to stop and think about what you are going to say to people, how it will be shared, and how frequently you will update them.  Change is really difficult for the majority of people to accept so you need to pay attention to what you say to them and how you say it.

Here are 5 steps to follow to ensure your message gets through properly:

  1. Address WIIFM:  Each of us wants to know “What’s in it for me?” so address that is all your communications.  This may be the impact the change will have on them; it may be why the change is happening.  Helping them understand why they should care will help get them on board.
  2. Vary Delivery:  People need to receive information multiple times before they will really get the message.  Some people will want to hear it and others will want to see it, so mix up how you deliver the message, use presentations that include great visuals, send emails, use newsletter, send postcards, do posters, discuss it at department meetings, or have town hall type of meetings.  There are endless variations of how you can share the message so use a wide variety.
  3. Change the Message:  Make sure you change the wording of your messages.  Address questions is some, share vision for future in others, present information from different perspectives, give the business case, or share personal stories.  Change is often complex and breaking the information up into a variety of different messages will make it easier for people to absorb.
  4. Repeat Often:  Since it takes multiple times for people to grasp the entire message you will need to share information more often than you think is needed.  Keeping the lines of communication open means that you will need to be frequently sharing information with others.  You can enlist the help of your project team and early adopters to spread the word.
  5. Be Open for Questions:  There will be questions about what, why, how and when.  Make sure you have a forum for people to ask the questions and get answers.  Maybe it’s a meeting or series of meetings.  It could be a Q&A area on your company intranet.  Use a newsletter with FAQ’s.  Let people share their fears by asking question and honor their concerns by taking time to provide answers.

Take the time to craft a solid communication plan to help ensure a smoother project.  Address why this is happening, how it impacts people and what they should expect.  Find different ways to share information by using different media, different words, different pictures, and so on to make sure people get all the information they need.

The hardest part of almost every project is making sure the people involved or impacted understand what is happening and what they need to do.  Take the time to plan your communication well and your project will encounter fewer people issues.

How do you make sure your message is getting to all the right people?

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Tips on Handling Micro-Managers

Micro-managerYears ago I was going to a meeting in place of my boss.  As I was leaving for it he told me he trusted me to make good decisions and if I didn’t he would just fire me.  My response was “promises, promises.”  From this exchange it’s pretty obvious that John did not fully trust me to act in the best interests of the department, or in his best interests.

Needless to say when I think about the “bad” bosses I’ve had over the years John comes to mind right away.  In reality he was a nice guy and he wanted me to succeed.  Unfortunately he was so worried about us doing well that he didn’t let us make our own decisions and take our own risks.  His concern showed up as micro-managing all of us.  His behaviors lead the group to act like a herd of sheep.  Most of the group was not willing to make a decision without checking in with him first.  A few of us went against this grain and regularly had issues because of it.

I was not willing to abdicate my ability to think to the boss.  If I was out supporting our customers, both internal and external, I made decisions about what needed to be done on the spot.  There was no efficiency in checking in with the boss for every little thing that needed to be done.  Our customers had no interest in waiting for someone else to approve my actions.  My position was supporting production which means problem solving most of the time.  I learned a few tricks in dealing with micro-managers like John.

  1. Touch base regularly.  Even though I was not willing to handover all decision making to John I would stop by and let him know what I had done and shared the results of my actions.
  2. No surprises.  Part of the driver behind micro-managers is a need for control so it was important to let John know what was happening, particularly anything that went wrong.  He responded better when he heard of problems from me before he heard about it from someone else.
  3. Use as a sounding board.  One great technique was to identify a problem, come up with a complete solution and then run it by John for his take on it.  Using a micro-manager as a sounding board gives them some up front input to your solutions.  With time the changes he made to my ideas dropped significantly.
  4. Own your issues.  John was asking a co-worker and I what was delaying implementation of a project.  Mike answered “that would be me”.  John just asked why.  When Mike explained the cause John said “get it done” and left.  That type of delay would normally earn the person a dressing down in John’s office.  By owning the issue there was nothing left for John to say.
  5. Provide solutions.  Micro-managers love it when people bring them problems to solve.  However, for your career success you need to be able to act independently.  Bring solutions to problems when you meet with your boss.  This will earn you respect from them and eventually they will relax their control.

In the long run I learned a lot from John, some of which was how not to treat my employees and some was the danger of sheltering people from the tough decisions that must be made.  I had a good relationship with him and he did support me when I moved onto another factory.  By holding my own and showing him that he could trust me to make good decisions I was given more freedom to act than most in my department.  It was much harder to earn his trust, I had to force it.  Learning how to succeed with a major micro-manager also showed me how people want to be treated and how to respond properly to them.  When you run across a micro-manager tread carefully but stay true to yourself.  Being aware of their issues will help you be heard and you can succeed in spite of their restraints.

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Celebrate Different Ideas

Team CelebrationOdds are that the people on your team have very different ideas and opinions of various topics.  If so, celebrate it!  This is a key to having a high performing team.  When everyone thinks exactly the same way there are no new ideas and innovation fades away.  The challenge is to find ways to keep the conflict of opinions from becoming negative or destructive.

Here are five strategies to help you celebrate the differences:

  1. Be Open.  Keep an open mind and listen to their point of view.
  2. Show Respect.  Remember that they have a right to their opinion as do you.  Respect each other.
  3. Value Them.  Tell them that you value their ideas and opinions, particularly when you disagree.
  4. Seek Commonality.  Look for areas of agreement, even in the midst of differences.  They will exist.
  5. Be Thankful.  Thank teammates who are willing to disagree and look for new ideas or options.

If you follow these five strategies you are showing those around you that you value them as individuals with individual ideas and opinions.  Giving them the freedom to express opposing thoughts will open doors to higher levels of creativity, trust and performance in any team.  As well, if you are the team leader or boss your creditability increases because you include the team in the process.  People will be more likely to admire and support you if you include them and their ideas.

Recently I had a conversation with someone whose thoughts were basically the exact opposite of mine.  I’m comfortable with my take on the situation and he is highly committed to his position.  In reality the topic does not affect our ability to collaborate, but if we couldn’t reach some level of understanding it would be out there as a possible sore spot.  We both shared our thoughts and why we felt that way.  At the end I told him that I admired his commitment to his position.

Be willing to listen to other’s ideas and opinions with an open mind.  Take in their thoughts and then share your position without judging theirs.  Keep it to facts and your feelings or opinions.  This allows room for their position to be heard.  Once the information is out there you can look for ways to reach some form of agreement so you can move forward.  It maybe you agree to adopt their position, they agree to adopt yours, you find a new option that works for both, or you agree to disagree.  All of these are viable solutions and keep the lines of communication open.  As well you are celebrating the differing experiences, ideas and opinions within the team.

How do you celebrate different ideas with your team?

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Quote for Mar 28th

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
Peter Drucker

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Quote for Mar 21st

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.

Tony Robbins 

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FREE Webinar – Keys to Critical Thinking

keys

We make hundreds of decisions each day.  Some are simple and take little or no work while others are more complex and can be paralyzing,   Critical thinking provides a process to help you make solid, well thought out decisions that lead to effective problem resolution.  Learn to improve your critical thinking skills in a FREE webinar.

Topics:

  • What is Critical Thinking
  • Critical Thinking in the Workplace
  • Keys to Success
  • Next Steps
  • Questions and answers

***

I spent 20+ years in corporate America, moving from process engineer to supervisory positions overseeing people in multiple factories both domestically and internationally.

I started with little training in critical thinking.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: March 20, 2013

Webinar Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register atKeys to Critical Thinking

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

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Critical Thinking – FREE Webinar

keys

In today’s workplace people who can think critically, evaluate the situation, develop options and analyze risk are highly valued employees.  Critical thinking and its application to problem solving are seen as some of the most sought after skills by employers.  Learn to improve your critical thinking skills in a FREE webinar.

Topics:

  • What is Critical Thinking
  • Critical Thinking in the Workplace
  • Keys to Success
  • Next Steps
  • Questions and answers

***

I spent 20+ years in corporate America, moving from process engineer to supervisory positions overseeing people in multiple factories both domestically and internationally.

I started with little training in critical thinking.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: March 20, 2013

Webinar Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register atKeys to Critical Thinking

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

Leave a comment

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