Tag Archives: Active Listening

Communication - Meaningful Conversations

The Bat on the Table

Sometimes, or is it all the time, we get so wrapped up in our own little world that we fail to grasp what’s going on around us.

A few years ago, I rushed home after work to pick up my son for a chiropractic appointment. “Jeffrey, get in the car!” I bellowed. Since I am not one to waste time, on my way out the door I grabbed the baseball equipment in the foyer and stashed it in the garage where it belonged.

We were on time for our appointment, but the chiropractor was not. As we languished in the waiting room, I received a text from my husband, Bill, that said, “You must have left in a hurry, the TV was on, there are dishes on the counter, and there’s a bat on the table.”

Slightly insulted, but deciding to take the high road, I responded,“Thanks for cleaning up and starting dinner.”

He replied, “Do you want fish or hamburger? And, what do you think I should do with the bat?”

 

What was his preoccupation with that darn baseball bat? I typed back, taking a deep breath and remembering all his many amazing qualities, “Put the bat in the garage with the cleats.”

To which he responded, “But I’m concerned about rabies.”

Wait. What? All this time he was talking about a flying rodent in our kitchen? I’m concerned about rabies too!

He referenced the bat several times, but I was so wrapped up in my own concerns — being tired, hungry, and frustrated — that I failed to truly understand what he had said.

Miscommunication happens all the time in business, and in life. And it’s often the result of not looking outside of ourselves and truly appreciating the efforts and words of those around us. I bet you have had a miscommunication today, and certainly this week. Pretend that I am Ellen Degeneres and send them to me. I can’t wait to read them!

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Employee Feedback - Meaningful Conversations - Workplace

A Thimble or a Beer Stein?

You’ve followed all the rules for a effective performance review with your assistant:  you found a time that works for both of you; you booked a private spot; and you made sure you wouldn’t be interrupted.  It all seemed to be going well until he suddenly turned defensive and withdrawn. What went wrong?
You may have misjudged his capacity for feedback.
feedback-graphic
I like to think of feedback as being something you pour.  Some people have a huge beer stein-sized capacity for receiving feedback and they are appreciative the more you fill their metaphorical glass (to a degree). Others have a tiny thimble – and if you overpour, all you do is make a big mess. So how do you tell whether someone is receptive to what you’re saying? It’s all in the body language.
Keep talking if:
  • they are asking questions such as, “Can you tell me more?  Can you be more specific?”
  • they thank you for sharing your insights
  • they appear relatively calm
  • they are attentive and listening
Put a cork in it if:
  •  they start giving excuses
  •  they aren’t making eye contact
  •  they appear agitated
  •  they are red in the face
  •  they tell you why they did what they did
The key is to not let the session turn into an argument, or even a milder form of disagreement…
You’re going to lose their respect and it won’t be a productive dialog.
Understanding a person’s ability to handle feedback is a valuable tool for productivity, retention, and the bottom line.  In fact, it’s so pivotal – and so hard to get right – that we offer training on the art of giving feedback.
When have you been on the receiving end of positive feedback?   How has someone enhanced your career by sharing their observations and suggestions?  Feedback really can be a gift.
I would love to hear your experience.
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Communication - Conflict Resolution - Employee Feedback - Workplace

The More Specific, The More Terrific

You can’t improve if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. Makes sense, doesn’t it? In reality, many of us complain about underachieving co-workers, but don’t give them the type of feedback they need to do their jobs better.karen-small-mtg
Let me give you an example: Several years ago, I was the training director for a regional bank. Our assistant, Keri, was an efficiency wiz. Her grammar was impeccable and when she proofed a document, she not only made corrections (in red), she made stylistic suggestions (in yellow) that improved documents tremendously.
Keri handled the workload of six vice-presidents with time to spare, whereas our previous assistant had always been behind. She revamped our filing system (yes, they were paper files back then!), cross-referencing everything, without being asked.
You’re thinking, “What a joy!” right? Wrong!
Within a few months, it became clear that no one liked Keri. All six VPs were avoiding her, and she was being left out of meetings because no one wanted to deal with her.
Roger, one of the VPs, tried to give Keri feedback. He told her that she was grumpy. “You would be grumpy too,” she nearly screamed, “if you were up all night with a toddler, had to get up at 5:30am to get her to daycare, and your life was nothing more than drudgery!”
Well, that was the end of Roger giving her feedback.
We decided Keri needed a performance improvement plan, but what would we write? She was so talented and efficient. My colleague, Laurel, said she would take Keri on as her project and see how she could help.
Laurel asked what specifically Keri did that annoyed us. What made her grumpy?
We weren’t sure. We talked about it for a few minutes. Finally, Juan said, “I don’t like that she grunts when I walk in each morning.”
“I thought she only did that to me,” Gary said. “I think it’s because she’s focused on what she’s working on,” said Bea.
Laurel scheduled a meeting with Keri. She said simply, “In the morning, when each person arrives, please look up from your work and say any polite version of good morning.”
Keri turned red. “It rarely is a good morning!” she exclaimed. “I don’t want to stop what I’m doing. It’s not in my job description.”
Laurel responded calmly, “You are the first person your colleagues and our visitors see each day. It is important that we create a positive work environment. If you would like, we can modify your job description to include greeting your colleagues and visitors professionally.”
The next morning, Keri grumbled a greeting as people entered the office.
Many of us greeted her back and smiled. Each day her greeting seemed a tiny bit more sincere.
At the next staff meeting, everyone mentioned the difference. Laurel said, “Next we will work on asking Keri to keep us updated on her status on our projects.”
Within a year, Keri applied for a role as an entry-level consultant-a position that was a much better match for her considerable abilities. We were able to give her excellent recommendations and she got the job!
So what made the difference between Roger’s and Laurel’s approaches? Lauren modeled direct, supportive feedback.
How can you use direct feedback?  Is there someone in your office who is awesome?  How so?
Someone lazy?  What are the actual behaviors of laziness?
Give us a call if you are having trouble isolating the behaviors, and we can help you figure it out.  The more specific, the more terrific!
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