Please Don’t Do This

Please don’t do this. This is a dick move. If you need me to explain why in detail, I’ll send you my hourly rates…
Dick Move

Unfortunately the company in question had a mealy-mouthed values-based response, including:

“Issues related to that message have been handled internally. The message sent does not align with our core values of personal growth and diversity.”

This kind of corporate-speak damage control that makes employees everywhere roll their eyes every time CEO’s start talking “values”, “vision”, and “mission”.

Try harder next time. Maybe say something authentic and meaningful.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/canada/comments/4q69fy/a_sickening_piece_of_corporate_propaganda_on_the/

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Everybody Sees the World the Same Way I Do – It’s a Trap!

Fifth in a series about communication and change management

Frustrated They're Not Learning? It May Not Be Them
Frustrated They’re Not Learning? It May Not Be Them

I love words. As a child when I discovered books, that became  my world. It’s where I escaped to. I write daily. I journal. I have plans to write a book. I love the smell of books. I have a library that I measure in hundreds of linear feet. Some books go back to the late 18th century.

It’s a lovely place. Coffee on, music in my ears, typewriter keyboard under my hands. Or a new book on my e-reader. When I learn or process I usually do it through words. Words are beautiful. Words are powerful. Words are magical.

Yet I’m closing myself off from most of the world. Not everybody has a sensual association with the written word like I do. Saying that out loud it seems that might be a good thing. My point is, not everybody processes the world through words. There are five senses, not just eyes scanning shapes laid out linearly.

Words are a visual media, yes, but there are also photographs, drawings, and pictures. Movies, models, and sculptures. There are many visual media, and many different ways to understand the world. The best writing (and speaking), in fact,  invokes the visual in concrete and tangible ways.

Fix #5 Appeal to All Five Senses

Learn to tell compelling stories. Tell them in different ways. Consider all the senses. Persuasive, moving arguments invoke all five senses and more. They invoke memory and emotion. We act because of how they make us feel.

I saw one of the worst examples of killing all enthusiasm for a great idea at an after-dinner presentation last week, in which a simple story from the audience rescued the evening.

The presentation was on workforce management. The slides that accompanied the presentation looked like a random collection of numbers and letters thrown at the page. The presenter read from the slides. It was horrible.

I felt sorry for the poor guy. He was trying to jazz things up by having a little drawing of a flow-chart or something in the bottom corner once in a while. Ironic really. Yet it was a simple metaphor from the audience that brought his concept  to life:

There are two kinds of shoppers at the hardware store on a Saturday morning. The first kind has a list, knows what she needs to complete the entire project, and gets in and out just the once. She spend the rest of the day executing the project, finishes early, and has a beer on the patio at the end of the day.

The second kind makes a trip to the hardware store every time they figure out they’re missing another piece or tool. This was me last summer when my outside faucet sprung a leak inside the house – six trips to the hardware store before I had the drywall back on the ceiling!

There. One simple visual metaphor and the jargon-filled, esoteric project management concept is distilled and made clear. Now the details (and project managers love details) have a skeleton to hang from. Oversimplified? Perhaps. Understandable? Yes.

One Email Outta Do It

Fourth in a series about communication and change management.

http://flic.kr/p/diquZA
Face to face communication is always best

I love email. It’s fast, it’s easy, its’ cheap. It also provides us a record of what was said. Sometimes it’s important to have a record.  Also I don’t have to ask people how their day’s going, or remember their kids kids’ names. But maybe that’s just me.

So what’s the problem with email? Words themselves make up only as much as 40% and maybe as little as 7% of communication. Words themselves are only a small part of what’s being communicated. So for trivial or strictly objective communication (“Where are we having lunch?”, “Please send me the numbers for the third quarter.”) email works just fine. After that, the chance of mis-communication goes up.

The more complicated the message, the greater the chance for mis-communication. The more emotionally laden the communication (“I think you have an attitude problem.”) the greater the likelihood of misunderstanding. The more people involved, or the less time people have worked together, the greater the opportunity for misinterpretation. Add all those together and the chance of added drama, resentment, and wasted effort is almost certain.

My experience, both as a manager and as a facilitator, is that mis-communication is really easy. You have to work really hard to *not* mis-communicate. Yet we often choose on one of the worst ways to talk to others about complicated, potentially emotional issues with people we don’t really know that well – email.

Fix #4  Talk to a Human

Talk face-to-face. Wash , rinse, repeat.

Mark Hortsman has an amusing saying (I paraphrase): “I’m glad to hear you want to work with people. All the jobs with trees and dogs are taken.” As managers and leaders we manage and lead people, not email. If our jobs were to manage email I wouldn’t have to write this blog post.

Keeping a record isn’t going to engage and influence people to change behaviour or create enthusiasm. Repeated human interaction, building relationships and trust, is the only thing that does.

Phone calls are better than emails for engaging human beings. Video-conferences better than phone calls. In person meetings better than video-conferences. One-on-one, face-to-face meetings are better still. Regular, repeated contact.

If you need a record of agreement, write it afterwards. First pick up the phone, walk down the hall, learn to speak publicly. Tell stories, have a vision, be passionate. Email is efficient  but it’s ineffective. If you’re a manager of human beings, learn to manage human beings. If you’re a manager of trees or dogs, carry on.

I’m Going to Provide an Overwhelming Rational Argument, and then Fail

Third in a series about communication and change management

An Aurora Police Department detective takes a witness statement following a shooting outside the 16 movie theatre in Aurora. Aurora Police responded to the Century 16 movie theatre where police confirm at least 14 people are dead and 50 others injured. AP Photo/Karl Gehring Shooting at Batman screening

“Fact, just the facts ma’am.”

Great if you’re investigating a murder. Insufficient if you’re inspiring action or driving change. It is a mistake to believe that any solely rational, logical, or well-constructed argument will persuade people to set aside their own perceived best interest in favour of doing what’s right or doing what’s correct.

Many people will listen to a rational arguement, analysis, or well-constructed thesis and wonder what you’re up to. What do you really want? What are you trying to hide? Even executives – especially executives – know that any one set of numbers and facts can be tortured to confess whatever is needed to support both sides of the same arguement  Most of us make decisions based on gut, and rationalize that decision with facts and analysis afterwards.

I’m not saying you don’t need to be skeptical, or that you don’t need to do that analysis. As Stephen Lynch once said, “You can run your business with discipline, or you can run it with regret.” But rational  arguement is not going to overcome behavioural inertia in others.

You are going to need more than just the facts.

Fix #3 Appeal to Their Hearts Too

Martin Luther King didn’t say “I have a plan.”

He said “I have a dream.”

Stories, vision, passion, vulnerability. These are what persuade. Concrete, tangible, visual goals are what drive action.

Yes, your plan has to be based in reality. Businesses have to make money to live. But the purpose of a business cannot and should not be just to make money. Your body needs to make red blood cells in order to live, but that’s not your life’s purpose. A doctor gets paid well, but doctors don’t exist to make money.

Businesses need a higher purpose too. Maybe you’re not going to solve world hunger, but you should have a vision beyond just X percentage growth, or Y dollars revenue. Have the guts to stand for something. Something that inspires people to leap out of bed in the morning and eagerly embrace their work.

Amazon’s goal is to provide “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” Henry Ford wanted to “Democratize the automobile.” Google wants to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Not every purpose is going to appeal to every person, but you want it to appeal to the people that are working for you.

Hopefully your change is tied to the higher purpose of the company. An emotional, human connection that impels the actions, and energy needed to overcome inertia and drive change deeply and quickly in your team or company.

Or you could write another policy change. Your choice.

Being Understood When the Dragons are Dancing

or How I Learned to Love to Communicate

My wife and I were at a Chinese New Year’s dinner at the beginning of February. It was a wonderful dinner with dragon dancers, drummers, musicians, photo ops with politicians, and a fantastic menu.

At one point, over the noise of the crowd and music, I tried to ask her if she wanted another drink. I pulled out the drink tickets and pointed towards her empty rum and coke. I mimed “yes” and “no” by nodding shaking my head.

She nodded yes, but there was something about her facial expression that made me pause. So I bent closer to hear what she was saying. “Yes, but later please.”

“So no then.”, I stated in my best patronizing, task-oriented voice.

This was a very simple, almost intimate, communication with a woman I’ve known for over thirty years, and we mis-communicated. Then I thought about the managers and executives whom I work with every week. Executives who are trying to make significant  long-term changes to their businesses and organizations with less forethought and planning. Changes like introducing corporate performance measures and evaluations, talent reviews, strategic priorities.

Then they wonder why making those initiatives are such a struggle or just plain fail. Which costs them and the company time, money, emotional aggravation, and goodwill among their customers, employees, and shareholders. 

The lesson for me, I think, has been that I need to do a better job of helping my clients plan and execute their communications. Some of them get it and don’t need my help. Some of them need more than a little help.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll be enumerating some of the most common mistakes I see. I’ve come up with eight so far, and I’m sure you’ll let me know of others. In the meantime, I invite you to think about how you communicate. I bet you aren’t as clear and concise as you think you might be…

Future-Oriented Feedback

Look forward, not backwards
Look forward, not backwards

The point of giving feedback is to encourage the behaviour you want to see repeated, or something you’d like change in the future. Try not to dwell on the past.

Especially when giving corrective feedback. Unless you’re just trying to make somebody feel bad.  Otherwise ask them what can be learned, and what they’d do differently next time. Staying future focused gives them a much better chance of doing things differently next time, rather than thinking about and then repeating their past mistakes. 

And if you have to give corrective feedback, let them come up with the solution / correction / change. It’s much more powerful if they own it, even if it isn’t exactly what you’d do in the same situation. Even if you think their solution is less effective than yours. Their poor solution enthusiastically implemented is better than your better solution dictated

Focused Feedback

https://secure.flickr.com/photos/mikeriela/7611385110/
Focused Feedback: Timely and Specific

Some of us have met, or even worked for, the boss that thinks they’re great at giving feedback. The particular self-delusion I’m thinking of is the “Hey, great job” variety, perhaps even accompanied by a pointing / clicking gesture.

This kind of generic, blanket praise is nice, but also totally ineffective. Effective feedback needs to be focused.

By focused I mean actionable and timely. Tell them exactly what behaviour is good (or bad) so they now exactly what to repeat (or change), as soon as possible. Feedback is useless if the target of your feedback doesn’t know what to do with it. A general “good job – keep it up” is meaningless unless it’s tied to a recent, repeatable action.

For example: “Scott, you did a great job getting all those videos recorded before the start of the conference. Having that is going to make the conference so much better.”

How to Stop Chasing Cats

A Shiba Inu not chasing a catI have a great life. One of the best parts of it is the brilliant people I get to talk to, interact with, and discuss the great ideas of life with. For example, Sunday I was chatting with a Feminism Studies major formerly a professional dog trainer about my new Shiba Inu and its propensity to chase the cat.

So her very self-regulated response was “Shiba getting along with any other animal is not something I would have suggested. They have a high protective and hunting drive.” We then went on to talk about training approaches, positive versus negative reinforcement, and which was more effective in the long run.

Her recommendation, although it takes a bit more patience and effort, was positive reinforcement. At first we might have to wait for Bjorn (that’s the dog) to just even look away from the dog before using a clicker, offering praise, and then giving him a treat. Or maybe just blink.

The key was for Bjorn to quickly identify the behaviour (avoiding the cat) we wanted. Pretty soon he’d start associating the praise with a treat, and begin offering other behaviors hoping to get a treat. Then we would just have to watch to select the behaviours we wanted to reinforce and keep reinforcing them.

The problem with using a spray bottle (or shock collar, which we inherited from the previous owner) is that it often accidentally reinforces “superstitious” behaviour. That is Bjorn might associate the spray bottle with a person, or a coincidental noise like a cough. Not the desired behaviour. In other words, we have to praise him towards a desired behaviour. Not punish him to not do something.

Just writing that last sentence makes my head hurt. Imagine the dog trying to figure out what we wanted him not to do.

I’m not saying that people are like dogs, or skateboarding monkeys, that are endlessly manipulable. People still need mastery, autonomy, and purpose to thrive and engage. But (big but) if we want to adopt a feedback strategy, all my reading and research strongly suggests positive reinforcement is the way to go. And that the less time between the feedback and what we’re giving feedback for the better.

Question for the Comments:

How many times a day do you give feedback?

Other Reading

Manager Tools Feedback Model
Your Brain At Work
The Four F`s of Feedback

Bernie works as a leadership and strategic business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well. He believes that not doing anything about bad leadership, once you know about it, is abuse. And poor business practice. He believes organizations are founded on their values. He believes that the workplace is a place for both people and businesses to thrive. Not just survive. Check out his other articles at practicalmanagers.com

The First Question to Ask After You Delegate

Short posting today. This is such a simple idea that I wish I’d learned it years ago. I’ve started asking my clients this question, and it even seems to work with my teenage daughter.

After you’ve decided how to delegate, and you’ve asked the person you’re delegating to set their deadline, a great way to close the delegation is to ask:

How would you like me to hold you accountable if you can’t meet your deadline?

See how that works? Now go try it.

Question for the Comments

What happens when you ask people how they want to be held to their commitments?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

The First Question to Ask Before You Delegate
Four Different Ways to Delegate
Why Delegating to Your Staff is Good For Them

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not doing anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com

The First Question to Ask Before You Delegate

There are two important questions you should consider when you’re delegating a task. Especially if it’s beyond the level of “Take action, don’t report” type. Two questions that will improve the probability of success. But asking the questions isn’t enough. How we react to the answers, and how well we follow through have the greatest impact.

The first question is:

When Can You Get This Done By?

It’s a pretty straight-forward question, and you might think I’m kidding. There are times when it’s appropriate to arbitrarily set deadlines. In reality most work isn’t life or death. And one of the biggest motivators for even rudimentary cognitive work is autonomy. The ability to govern oneself.

Many times the most productive action bosses can take is to get out of the way. Let the people working for us do what they do well. Let them figure out how to do the work instead of being treated like a cog in the machine. Maybe they don’t do it exactly the way you could, and that’s OK. It will still get done.

So when you ask this question or any question please, actually ask a question, and then have enough intestinal fortitude to respect the answer.

Actually Ask A Question

“I need you to do this.” is not a question. It doesn’t even have a question mark at the end. Yet that’s often how tasks are assigned. How much autonomy are we granting the person assigned the task when we do this? None.

If you really ask a question, use a sentence with a question mark at the end. Can you do this? and When can you do this by? are both examples of actual questions. If you need the work done by a specific date, then ask “Can you do this by Tuesday?” (or whatever the date is).

Asking puts the responsibility for completion with the delegate, increases their commitment to the task, builds a relationship, and allows them to develop their priority management skills independently. All things good managers who are committed to developing their staff will want.

And don’t worry that it will diminish your status. It won’t. Treating people like cogs in the machine will.

Respect the Answer

A wise sergeant once told me to never give an order I knew wouldn’t be obeyed. I say never ask a question that you don’t want to hear the answer to. You may have to negotiate, re-balance workload, or ask questions about priorities. And you may not like some of the answers.

Yet your job as a manager is to deal with reality, not react to the pressures put on you and pass them down. If you’re not going to manage the priorities put on you and your staff, then you’re not really needed, are you?

One of my clients called this being “a window”, just trickling down the directives and orders from on high. He’s the regional manager for a recruiting and placement firm. Last week they had no new starts in all of Western Canada, which was a huge under-performance for him and for the region. His CEO asked him “How can a region your size have no new starts in a month?”, a question for which there is no good answer.

Yet he didn’t start banging the table and  demand that people start producing. I’ve seen leaders who know better, cave under the pressure and threaten their staff with the boogey-man of “heads are going to roll” and their boss being “not happy”. And really what does anybody at the front line of an organization care if the CEO is happy or not, even if she knew what to do about it?

He has a plan for measuring, coaching, and increasing performance across the entire region, and he’s sticking to it. He’s putting the right people in place, he’s showing confidence in his staff, and they’re working their tails off for them.  He’s leading, not letting himself be buffaloed into a knee-jerk reaction.

Question for the Comments

How have you handled push-back to your delegations in the past? What do you do when somebody tells you they can’t and won’t do the work you’d like them to do?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

Four Different Ways to Delegate
Why Delegating to Your Staff is Good For Them
You Need to Get Good At This to be a Leader

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not doing anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with RESULTS.com