Two years ago I was in Kenya doing some volunteer work when our van got stuck in the mud on the way to visit one of the local schools. We tried everything to get unstuck but nothing worked. We needed help.
In the workplace as well as other areas of our lives, we sometimes encounter people who apparently are stuck in the mode of complaining and unwilling to move toward resolution. I have discovered a simple process to help complainers move from whining to action.
1. Hear them out. First, hear them out one more time. When they complain again—and you know they will—take the time to listen to them, giving them your full attention and energy. It is best to do this in a private setting where neither of you will be distracted.
2. Summarize their issue. Next, when you are sure that you understand the problem at hand and the other person feels heard, interrupt them if necessary and gently say, “Let me make sure I fully understand.” Restate the situation and their frustration as you see it. For example, if they have been complaining about being micromanaged, you might say, “What I’m hearing is that you are frustrated because your boss is micromanaging you.” Get their agreement to your summary—but do not let them continue with their rant.
3. Help them consider their options. Now ask this magic question: “Understanding that this is the situation, what are your options?” In a best-case scenario, they will have some ideas and you can help them come up with an action plan. Chances are, however, that they are too stuck to think of any options. If so, lead with some ideas of your own and solicit their feedback. Either way, help them consider their options and decide on their next steps.
4. Make them accountable for next steps. To add an element of accountability, at the end of the conversation summarize the agreed-upon action plan. Ask the person when they plan to take the first step and set up a date and time to check in with them
What do you do if, despite all your efforts, the other person refuses to move on and seems as if they want to stay stuck?
At this point, I suggest a few options:
- Try to help them understand the effect being stuck is having on them and on those around them. Hopefully, you can stir them to action.
- Refer them to someone else for counseling. Perhaps the HR department has some options for them.
- Remember to take care of yourself. It may be time to ask yourself: Is this relationship worth the emotional drain I experience each time we are together?
I hope these thoughts help you to move others to action. Let me know any other ideas you have to help others get unstuck.
About the author:
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance and self-leadership. You can read John’s posts on the second Thursday of each month.
Have you ever played the game where you sit in a circle and one person whispers a story to the person on their left, who shares the story with the next person, and so on, until the story is retold to the one who started it—but it no longer resembles the original story? That is similar to many of the problems we face communicating across cultures.
The world is indeed getting flatter. Like many organizations, at The Ken Blanchard Companies we regularly interact with coworkers and clients around the globe. In my workshops, cross-cultural communication is frequently cited as a significant challenge for leaders who have teams spread throughout the world.
Communication involves an exchange of meaning through sending and receiving of verbal and nonverbal messages, either consciously or unconsciously. For a message to be understood correctly, there needs to be a vast amount of common ground between the sender and receiver. This makes cross-cultural communication difficult, because two culturally different individuals tend to have less in common than two people who are part of the same culture.
Many variable factors get in the way of mutual understanding within cross-cultural communication—differences in language, in communication styles, and in the interpretation of nonverbal behaviors. Within each of these differences are numerous subcategories that add further difficulty.
However, effective cross-cultural communication is possible. I suggest four approaches to increase understanding:
- Start with the assumption that you may not understand the situation or message and that cultural differences may get in the way.
- The most accurate way to gather information is to observe and describe what is actually said and done, not to evaluate or interpret words or actions. Evaluation and interpretation are influenced by each person’s own culture and background.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, boots, or sandals. Try to see the situation from the other person’s cultural perspective.
- Treat your explanation or interpretation as a best guess. Then, when you think you understand, check with the other person to see whether you’re on the right path or whether you need additional clarity.
What other suggestions do you have to increase understanding in cross-cultural communication?
About the author:
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance and self-leadership. You can read John’s posts on the second Thursday of each month.
- “Do unto others as you would have _____ ___ _____ ____.” (Yes, the Golden Rule)
- “Beauty is in the eyes of ____ _________.”
- “If it were me, this is what __ ______ ___.”
I trust you were able to complete these very common sayings. While well meaning and mostly true, these are not just sayings, they are mindsets. They are beliefs that determine behavior and how we act toward other people. This is all fine except when it comes to service.
Find your focus
In my last blog, I said that service was all about you: your willingness to serve, your decision to serve, your instinct to serve. But what you do—your actual behavior and how you approach a situation—has to be about the customer, if you are genuinely interested in wanting your customer to feel served.
In their original form, these sayings all sound as if they are actually focused on the customer. However, with careful analysis, you will see how they are not:
- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (There’s an assumption here that everyone wants to be treated the way you want to be treated. Not necessarily so!)
- “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” (Guess what? The beholder is you. The customer might see the situation in a completely different way!)
- “If it were me, this is what I would do.” (Oh, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all just like you!)
A better approach
If you were to finish those sayings with the customer in mind, they might sound something like this:
- “Do unto others as they want to be done unto.” (Ah yes, The Platinum Rule!)
- “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholden.” (Much better!)
- “If it were me, this is what….” (On second thought—rid your vocabulary of this one altogether!)
At least the first two can be “spun” to focus on the customer. But the last one—“If it were me, this is what I would do”—is one of the most dangerous phrases in the English language. It’s all about you in the worst possible way.
It is advocacy disguised as choice. It completely blocks you from understanding or giving any consideration to how other people think, feel, make decisions, or in any way might act differently than you would in a given situation. Unless you’re giving casual advice to a friend, stay away from this one.
A one word reminder
So what’s the cure for, “If it were me, this is what I would do” syndrome? In a word, LISTENING.
Listen to understand. Listen to be influenced. Listen to learn. And when you’ve felt that you’ve heard enough—listen just a little bit more—it really is the best way to put yourself in the customer mindset!
About the author:
Ann Phillips is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Ann’s posts as a part of our customer service series which appears on the first and third Thursday of each month.
It’s that time of year when we get together, give gifts, and rekindle relationships with people we haven’t seen since last year. No, no—not the holidays—I’m talking about the ongoing performance review season.
For the past several weeks (and several weeks ahead for procrastinators) managers around the world have been meeting with their direct reports to review last year’s goals, measure performance, and determine pay increases.
If you are in the middle of performance reviews with your people, here are two radical ideas inspired by a recent article Scott and Ken Blanchard wrote for Fast Company, The Best Gift Managers Can Give Their Employees This Season.
In the article, Scott and Ken identified that two of the most important ingredients missing in today’s manager-direct report conversations are growth and considering the employee’s agenda.
In some ways, that’s not surprising considering the cautious way most companies have been operating during our slow, tepid economic recovery. “Just lucky to have a job,” has become institutionalized after four years of a weak employment picture and little or no growth in many industries.
But 2013 feels different. There’s a small, but flickering sense of optimism in the air. (Maybe it’s because that Mayan calendar scare is over—it is, isn’t it?)
Are you ready to move forward? Here are three new ways of thinking. How could you add these components into your next performance management or goal setting conversation either as a manager or direct report?
- Think growth. Yes, GROWTH! It’s time. People can only tread water for so long. Eventually, you have to start swimming somewhere. Developing new skills in your present job—and seeing the next step on your career path are both important factors that lead to happiness, well-being and better performance at work. What can you add to your list of skills during the coming year? What move can you make (even a small one) that will get you one step closer to your next career objectives?
- Think connection. Who can help you along the way? There is only so much that you can do on your own and left to your own devices. We all need some help.
- Think helping others. The late Zig Ziglar (who passed away earlier this year) was famous for identifying that, “You can get just about anything you want out of life as long as you are willing to help others get what they want.” But it has to begin with you. Who can you reach out to this week or next? Who can you help take the next step toward their career plans?
In their article for Fast Company Scott and Ken Blanchard share an important paradox for anyone in business to remember. The more you give, the more that comes back to you.
Add a little bit of giving into your work conversations in 2013. Talk about growth issues with your direct reports. Find out how you can help. You’ll be surprised at how much comes back to you during the course of the year.
Are you working to create lasting memories this holiday season? Stop and think for a minute, how are YOU feeling right now? Stressed? Anxious? Happy? Sad? How are other people around you feeling? What does the average customer feel like now?
Typically this time of year people are feeling more emotional than usual. This is an opportunity for us to bring a little peace to people that we care about and help them relax and enjoy the holiday season versus being overwhelmed by it. It is important to know that the emotion zone in the brain is the same as the memory zone. You can leverage emotions to create lasting memories.
So, how do you bring a little peace?
P stands for Prioritize and focus. Help people (including yourself) prioritize and focus on the tasks and goals that are truly important. When people are overwhelmed they are usually taking on unnecessary tasks, producing worry that keeps their brain on spin. Creating laser-like focus reduces stress.
E stands for Energize to act. Help those around you with the one or two steps that they need to take in order to get started on their task or goal. Getting started is half the battle and task completion will increase as people just take that first step.
A stands for Acknowledge emotion. What happens when we don’t acknowledge emotions? They can get bigger and bigger and less manageable. Sometimes just the mere acknowledgement of someone else’s emotion, or even your own, can provide relief and support. Remember the last time someone did this for you and you said, “Phew, so glad to get that off my chest!”
C stands for Cherish Successes. Try to notice where others are doing things right and call it out. Listen to people and really make them feel special for who they are and what they have achieved. Cherishing success can be a wonderful gift that you can give to those around you this holiday season.
E stands for Enjoy the holidays. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the moments and the people that matter. Be grateful for all that you are blessed with by doing random acts of kindness. Sometimes it’s the little things we can do for people that really make a difference.
So give the gift of peace! Happy Holidays!
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Vicki’s posts as a part of our customer service series which appears on the first and third Thursday of each month.
Being aware of what is happening to you in the present moment without judgment or immediate reaction. It sounds so simple. The noticing and awareness part is one thing—but without judgment or immediate reaction? This requires practice: To notice when someone is pushing your button and take it in as information, but to not get caught up in the emotion of it. To be an observer of yourself in the world and not judge if what you observe is good or bad.
We are so caught up in the “busyness” of life, that practicing Mindfulness appears antithetical to producing the results and productivity required in our roles. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
When you notice and are aware of what is happening without judgment, you release yourself from patterns of behavior based on past experience, your dispositional tendencies, and your prejudices that limit your response. When you do this, you have a myriad of choices for how to respond or react. When mindful, you are able to choose a higher quality experience from your now unlimited choices. The benefits to your own health, success, and productivity are rewards enough.
Ready to practice some Mindfulness in your own life? Here are three ways to get started:
- Consider an important goal, task, or situation you currently have on your priority list.
- Notice the physical sensation in your body that occurs just by thinking about it. Does your stomach turn, your jaw clench, your chest tighten, your forehead frown? Do you break into a smile, have butterflies in your stomach, or feel your pulse race? Your body notices how you feel before you do!
- Now notice the emotion attached to the physical feeling. Is it positive or negative? That’s judgment. An emotion is your opinion of the physical sensation you are experiencing. What if you were to let go of it and simply notice? This would present you with a myriad of more choices than the one that so automatically came to your awareness.
Ripple effect with others
Donna, a participant in a recent Optimal Motivation workshop, told me that a major action step she committed to at the end of the session was to practice Mindfulness at work. Being a woman in a leadership role in a manufacturing environment, Donna described herself as extroverted, strong, vocal, and quick to react. She began taking a breath before calls and meetings; rather than immediately reacting to people and situations, she observed what was happening as “data.”
Donna reported that after a month of this practice her 17-year-old daughter said to her, “Mom, you seem really different; calmer.” Donna was amazed that her practice had filtered throughout her life and that even her teenage daughter had noticed.
I hope you will experiment with Mindfulness. Google it. Check out the research by Kirk Warren Brown. Travel to India and study with a yogi. Or better yet, join us for an Optimal Motivation session and discover how Mindfulness can help you experience greater energy, vitality, and sense of positive well-being.
About the author:
Susan Fowler is one of the principal authors—together with David Facer and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
No one thinks they are bad at listening, receiving feedback, or any other common leadership mistake. That’s why self-awareness is so important for a leader explains Madeleine Blanchard, a master certified coach and co-founder of Coaching Services at The Ken Blanchard Companies.
In Blanchard’s experience, all leaders can benefit from examining some of the mindsets that might be operating just below the surface of their consciousness. It can be as complex as a formal 360-degree assessment, but it can also be accomplished through less formal methods. As Blanchard explains, “Sometimes all a person needs to do is get on the phone with a completely objective person who has their best interest at heart. Someone who is going to say, ‘Hey, what’s up with that? What’s going on?’”
“And they learn about themselves by talking. It is like cleaning out your closet and getting rid of all the old stuff that doesn’t fit anymore or that you never really liked in the first place.”
3 ways leaders hold themselves back
In an interview for the October edition of Ignite, Blanchard identifies three ways that leaders often hold themselves back. See if any of these might be hampering your effectiveness as a leader.
Limiting self-beliefs—people often self-impose rules and expectations on themselves that don’t serve them—even when they know what to do differently. It’s a matter of giving yourself permission. When Blanchard asks, “What keeps you from doing those things?” clients often reply, “Absolutely nothing. It just didn’t occur to me.”
Playing small—Blanchard shares another story about a client who was very comfortable in her own playing field but wasn’t seeing her own potential—or taking steps toward it—the way that others in the organization were seeing her. As a result, she wasn’t building the relationships or networks within the organization that would make her more effective.
Time orientation—finally, Blanchard often works with clients on expanding their time orientations. As she explains, “Each of us has a preferred and habitual time orientation—past, present, or future. Aspiring leaders are often very good at being in the present and focusing on what is right in front of them, but to take it to the next level, they also need to develop skills for future planning.”
Be yourself—only better!
People can and do change. And it almost never requires as big a shift as you might think. Blanchard likes to use the metaphor of a ship on a long sea voyage. If you make even a two-degree change in your direction you completely change your destination.
Where are you headed? What are some of the behaviors that might be holding you back as a leader? To read more on Blanchard’s thinking, be sure to check out Three Ways Leaders Hold Themselves Back.
Interested in learning more about identifying and changing limiting leadership behaviors?
Also check out a special Leadership Livecast on October 10. Over 40 different business thought leaders will be sharing examples of “un-leaderlike behaviors” and how they—or others—overcame them. The event is free courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Learn more at www.leadershiplivecast.com
Trying to keep your internal (employees) and external customers coming back? Maybe it’s time to engage diversity, embrace new and innovative ideas from all of your customers, and be a learner with everyone you meet.
Last week I was with a client teaching a session on the topic of Legendary Service. There were people in the room from six different countries and we were beaming out to three more. The participants represented a rich blend of values, generations, depth of knowledge of technology, and history with customer service content. It was an amazing opportunity to see what service looks and feels like given different life views. The dialogue was frequent, fiery, and focused. Below are a few pearls of wisdom I captured from the group’s spontaneous suggestions—with important morals for interacting with anyone.
- Some of the women felt that a mentality exists that women are not as technologically savvy as men. These very smart women feel talked down to when a product or process is being explained to them. They are left feeling insulted, irritated, and humiliated rather than cared for. Moral: When explaining a new product or process, treat every customer as if they were the smartest person you know who is simply learning something new.
- Some of the men felt that women take too long to get to the point when sharing their thoughts. These men want to know up front what women want—their specific, targeted needs or ideas—as opposed to spending time reflecting on whys, hows, and back stories. This reminded me of a football metaphor regarding the difference in men’s and women’s communication styles. Picture the players on the line of scrimmage: “64, 56, 72, HIKE!” Like football players, these men are eagerly waiting to get the ball and run with it. Moral: Do your work ahead of time so you can speed up the focus and desired actions from conversations.
- From an international participant: People don’t seem to listen anymore. Most attendees agreed that people have lost the talent of listening. Many act as if they have heard every question a thousand times. They don’t focus on finding out specific details, but rush to generalize the question and dive into their prepared spiel. We had a rich discussion on the cost of NOT listening to people—it causes rework, doesn’t solve the problem, and leaves the other person feeling uncared for. Moral: Give people the gift of listening. Listen to learn. See each interaction as the first you’ve had with that person and clarify what you heard before you share your thoughts.
- From a brilliant Latin American woman: Many people think they are being efficient with others’ time by diving right into the task—but they forget that some people need to know that there is deep appreciation for their time, ideas, and culture before they can truly listen. Others in the room agreed that in many Latin, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries it is crucial to build a relationship BEFORE transacting business. Moral: Build the relationship and show respect before addressing the task.
It’s exciting to live in a generation where we can learn so much about the different ways people solve problems, leverage their history, and stay energized. Customers expect us to know their needs. We can learn about and leverage the rich diversity of their values, ages, and ethnicities and their competence at using our products, services and processes. Let’s deliver value to all customers by listening to their voice and communicating with them in a way that ensures they feel heard.
About the author:
Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their “others-focused” posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
Innovation also requires collaboration. Very few ideas can be successfully implemented without the cooperation and buy-in of others. Unfortunately, innovators often struggle in this area–especially if they fall in love with their idea and become defensive about feedback.
In an upcoming Leadership Livecast on Un-Leaderlike Moments I share a story about the way this sneaks up on unsuspecting innovators. See if this has ever happened to you.
The birth of an idea
You come up with an idea—it’s one of your best ideas—and you can’t wait to share it with the other people on your team. So you do. And you know what? They’re just as excited about it as you are. You decide to go in together and make this idea a reality.
But soon after, something you didn’t plan on starts to occur. Your teammates like your original concept, but they have some thoughts for making it better. They begin to share their thinking and give you some feedback. How do you react?
Dealing with feedback–two typical paths
If you are an experienced innovator, you take some time to really listen to what your team is sharing with you. You explore what they are saying, you ask for details, and you draw out the essence of their ideas. You realize that no matter how good your original idea may be, it’s always smart to treat feedback as a gift and to listen closely with the intention of being influenced.
If you are a relatively new innovator—and you are really attached to your idea—you may see feedback from your team in a completely different light. Ego can often get in the way and now you become defensive when others suggest changes. You dismiss their feedback as uninformed, uninspired, or just plain limiting. Instead of listening with the intent of being influenced, you listen just long enough to respond and remind everyone why the team should stay on course with your original concept. You become so focused on leading change that you don’t notice the energy, enthusiasm and participation of team members falling off as you march to the finish line.
It’s not until you get there and turn around for a group high-five that you see their weary exasperation with your leadership style. They congratulate you on your project.
A better way
Don’t let that happen to your next idea. Here are three ways to innovate and collaborate more effectively:
- Create space for other people to contribute. Take advantage of everything that people bring to a team. Utilize their head and heart as well as their hands.
- Listen to feedback. Explore and acknowledge what people are suggesting. Listen in a special way—with the intent of being influenced.
- Recognize that no matter how good your idea is, it can always be made better through the input of others. As Ken Blanchard likes to say, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
True innovation requires passion and collaboration. Create some space for others. It will make your ideas stronger, give you a better chance for success, and create needed buy-in along the way.
PS: You can learn more about the 40 different thought leaders presenting in the October 10 Un-Leaderlike Moments Livecast here. It’s a free online event hosted by Ken Blanchard.
Good listening skills are essential to any manager’s success—but sometimes it’s hard to find the time in today’s frantic work environment. As a result, it’s easy to fall into a habit of listening to a direct report just long enough to offer advice or solve a problem.
This might keep the line moving, but it is not going to do much in meeting a person’s need to be heard.
Could your listening skills use a brush-up?
Here’s a three-step model designed to help managers slow down and focus on what people are sharing. The magic in this process is remembering to take the time to explore the issue raised by a direct report by asking clarifying questions, then acknowledging what is being said and the emotion behind it, before going on to the third step of responding.
Explore—ask open-ended questions such as “Can you tell me more about that?” and “How do you think that will go?” and “What does that really mean?”
Acknowledge—respond with comments such as “You must be feeling …” or “So, if I’m hearing you correctly, what you’re saying is ….”
Respond—now that you have a good understanding of the direct report’s point of view, you can carefully move forward with a possible response.
Use this EAR model to stop and take an extra minute to make sure you really understand the situation before responding.
You also need the right attitude
In addition to a good model, you also need the right attitude when it comes to listening. Otherwise, you end up going through the motions but not having anything truly penetrate the noise in your own head.
To combat that, quiet yourself and focus.
Now, listen in a special way. Listen with an expectation of learning something you didn’t know and possibly being influenced by what you find out. This is especially important if someone is sharing a new idea or feedback with you. Remember to WAIT and ask yourself, “Why Am I Talking when I should be listening?”
Managers have to be open to being influenced and surprised by what they might hear. Sometimes it’s hard for managers to listen—especially if they have been doing the job for a long time—because they are sure that they already know what the direct report is going to say.
Remember: Listening means remaining silent. This will create a little space where you can explore and acknowledge before responding. Be sure to think about whether your thoughts are really needed, or whether a direct report just needs “air time” to process his or her thoughts. With a combination of the right attitude and the right skill set, you’ll still get to the answers, but you’ll do it in a way that allows you to make the best decisions and in a way that allows everyone to be heard.