Category: Accountability (page 1 of 2)

Good Communication – 8 Tips for Giving and Receiving

Who is Responsible for Communication?

Communication is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. It can be a subject that makes a lot of managers and supervisors cringe.

As leaders, we face a lot of heat for not communicating well enough. This is sometimes an honest assessment. But what about our employees? What responsibility do they play in good communication in an organization? And what can we do to improve our communication and encourage them to communicate better?

When it comes to communication issues the onus is generally placed on management. Fair or not this is the reality.

Even if we think we do a great job of communicating it doesn’t make a difference if the people we lead don’t think so.

Also, we can gripe all we want about how poorly our employees communicate the reality is that we can only control our own actions.

So, how do we overcome a sense of poor communication on our part and get our employees to communicate better?

In this post, I will discuss what I believe are the keys to good communication and discuss how we can use them to get our employees to communicate better.

Some of these tips may seem rather basic, but as you go through them really analyze how well you practice each one. I think you will be surprised to find out that there are at least a few you do not do so well.

Tip 1 – Minimize distractions

Too often we allow ourselves to be distracted when we should be listening. Distraction comes in many forms including looking at our phones, checking our emails, or just allowing our thoughts to wander.

If we are not focused on the concerns and questions of our employees when we are communicating, then we are only going through the motions.

To establish a clear line of communication we need to be focused on those we are communicating with.

Before you set out to have any type of communication make sure that you have freed your schedule and put aside anything that might offer a distraction. Finish up important emails ahead of time. Leave your cell phone on your desk. Put your phone in silence. Clear your mind of everything but what you need to be focused on.

Tip 2 – Practice Good Listening Skills

Is this one a no-brainer? Not by a long shot. Listening is something we can all do better no matter how good we think we are at it.

Good listening requires attention, genuine concern, empathy, and feedback.

Attention means we are not distracted (see tip #1 above). It means we are focused on the individual(s) we are communicating with at that very moment.

To truly listen to others (i.e. hear and understand what they are trying to say) we need to have a genuine concern for them. This means we care about understanding their position. Saying we are listening without care for the individual is disingenuous. Employees can see through false concern and it will end with damaged trust.

Finally, good listening requires feedback. This can come in two forms: 1) repeating back in your own words what the employee told you, and 2) discussing your own thoughts based on what you heard.

By giving feedback, you demonstrate not only that you heard the employee, but also that you understand their perspective. When you give your perspective, you are engaging the employee in an open back and forth. This builds trust and opens the lines of communication.

Tip 3 – Follow Up on Questions and Concerns

Good communication requires a feedback loop. We receive communication by practicing good listening. It is then continued through the way in which we respond to what we hear.

We can encourage or discourage communication in the way in which we respond to it.

How we respond to communication will tell our employees how important their ideas and concerns are to us.

Make it a point to follow-up on all communication in a timely manner. Get back to employees regarding questions and concerns they have. Even if you can’t resolve an issue to their complete satisfaction at least follow-up with them to let them know you acted to try to find a resolution.

Tip 4 – Always Make Time to Listen

Finding time to listen is in many ways tied to minimizing distractions, but it is more proactive.

What I mean here is that when somebody stops you take the time to hear them out. Let them know that they are important and that you genuinely care what they have to say.

Don’t blow people off. If you are too busy let them know you want to hear what they have to say. Let them know that while you have something important to do at this moment you want to listen. Then schedule a time to get back to them. Finally, keep your commitment.

One other aspect of making time to listen – schedule time to just walk the floor and engage your employees. Pick a time when you have nothing else vying for your attention. Then just talk to, and listen to your people.

Tip 5 – Ask for Your Employees Opinions

Too often managers and supervisors think they must have all the answers. This just isn’t true. The best leaders always seek out the opinions of their team before making important decisions.

Besides getting the best ideas from a wide range of people another benefit of seeking input is that it builds trust in relationships.

So, the next time you find yourself struggling with a problem, try asking the people on your team for their opinions. By doing this you will demonstrate that you trust and value their opinion. Then use their ideas to solve your problems.

Don’t forget to give credit when you use an employee’s idea. Make sure you show gratitude and never take credit for an employee’s idea.

Do this often enough and you will find your team coming to with ideas without your needing to ask.

Tip 6 – Communicate Face to Face as Often as Possible

In the era of modern communication, it is easy to send a text or email and think that we are communicating properly. And while these tools can offer an effective and easy way to communicate they cannot replace the human side of relationship building.

Therefore, it is important to make sure we are communicating face to face as much as we can. This is especially true when we are required to deal with HR or personnel issues.

We can become too reliant on technology when it comes to communication. To show concern and interest in others we need to be physically present to them. People need to see us and be able to connect with us on a personal level.

It is hard to make personal connections through emails and text messages. I go into more depth on this subject here.

Tip 7 – Offer Constructive Criticism

Sometimes we are required to give criticism to others. This should not be a bad thing. If we have a genuine concern for others we should want to see them improve. For others to improve they need to know what they are doing incorrectly and where they are falling short.

When we offer this criticism, it should always be constructive. It should be approached with a concern for what is in the best interest of the other person.

Your communication with your employees should always be focused on what is best for them and want to improve things with their interest in mind. The goal should be about aligning the employee’s interests with the interests of the organization.

Check out more on employee feedback here.

Tip 8 – Get to Know Your Employees

If you really want to get your employees to communicate better get to know them. This means getting to know them on a personal level. Who are they outside of work? What interest do they have? Are they engaged in any hobbies? Do they have a wife and children?

Taking time to get to know our employees on a personal level is another way to demonstrate your concern for the individual. Again, getting people to want to communicate requires trust. If you show that you care about them as a person, and not just an employee, you will build that trust.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can gripe all we want about how poorly employees communicate, but it doesn’t really make a difference. The only thing we have any control over is ourselves and our actions.

This doesn’t mean we can’t change how employees communicate. It does mean that we must do a better job of getting them to communicate better.

By practicing the 8 communication tips I laid out in this post you will become a better communicator and you will bring out better communication in those you lead.

You can choose to do nothing and sit around and complain. Or you can get to work and create a team that communicates better, trust more, and achieves more. It is up to you.

Here are some other resources that I think you will find helpful. I used these in doing my own personal research and thinking about this topic. Comment below to share your thoughts on this post and share ways that you have engaged your employees in communication.

How to Encourage Open and Honest Communication

5 Ways to Get Your Employees to Speak Up

How to Communicate with Employees

4 Tips for Encouraging Communication

Playing Favorites – And Why Sometimes It’s Alright

Do you play favorites with your employees?

Playing favorites might not be as bad a thing as you think. Often, we get told that we need to treat all employees the same. And on the surface, that seems like the right and sensible thing to do. But that is not always the case.

Let’s take two different scenarios

Scenario One:

You have two employees. Employee A is always picking up extra hours, stays late, takes on additional responsibilities without complaining. This is your superstar. Not a brown nose, just a hard worker willing to do whatever is required and with a positive attitude.

Employee B is always complaining. This employee has an attitude and complains anytime they are asked to do anything that is outside of their job scope. This employee doesn’t do anything wrong, but they don’t do anything extra. Employee B does everything that is expected and no more.

Scenario Two:

Employee A is a friend of yours. Everybody likes them. This person does just as much work as everybody else. Maybe on occasion, they do a little extra because your buddies and they like you personally.

Employee B is a person who has a personality that doesn’t mix with yours. You’re not unfriendly with this person but you don’t go out of your way to talk to them. This person doesn’t do anything wrong, they are good at their job, and they are occasionally willing to pick up additional job duties.

Now let’s suppose that in each of the two scenarios both employees want a certain day off and the only one can have it. How do you choose?

I would argue that in scenario one it is o.k. to play favorites and give the day off to the employee who has done more work, has a better attitude, and takes on additional responsibilities.

In scenario two it isn’t so clear-cut. In this case playing favorites by rewarding the person you like more with the day off would be unethical. Instead, you need to weigh the merits of each employee and determine who will get it either based on equivalent contributions or use a non-biased method for determining who will get it when all else is equal.

Not Black and White

Playing favorites with employees on the surface isn’t always as black and white as it would initially seem. There are times where employees have earned preferential treatment through their own hard work and initiative. And there are times when employee’s efforts are evenly weighted and the only thing separating them are personal factors.

Where there is no clear separation in effort and attitude favoritism is not just unfair, it is unethical.

In situations where there is a clear difference in effort and attitude playing favorites can set up an incentive structure whereby employees are rewarded for going above and beyond. You just need to make sure that you are being fair about how you are judging people’s efforts.

A Word of Caution

Caution must be given to how we approach our personal feelings about employees. We need to ensure that our personal friendships don’t color our opinions and lead us to favoritism because of these relationships.

It is best to keep your friendships out of the workplace and hold all employees to the same standards. But if you maintain consistent standards and are judging all employees through the same lens than favoritism can be an ethical motivator.

Use Your Best Judgement

The bottom line is to use your best judgment. Don’t avoid playing favorites to motivate a hardworking employee who is always giving extra just because you are afraid of playing favorites. Be consistent in your expectations and how you reward your employees.

Use caution when giving additional benefits and favors. Make sure that you are not doing it out of personal feelings and friendships. Reward good workers even if you don’t personally connect with them.

Playing favorites, when done ethically and fairly, can create incentives that encourage employees to go above and beyond.

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Not My Fault, It’s Somebody Elses

But It’s Not My Fault Because…

Do you have an employee who never accepts fault for anything? Does that person always try to change the conversation with the purpose of putting the focus on the faults of others? These employees try to use deflection to ensure the conversation doesn’t focus on their actions.

This is one of the more maddening problems that a manager or supervisor can face. We are trying to get the employee to see their error and then get them to improve on it.

I have written about the problem of employees who won’t accept accountability before here and the same rules apply. But my focus in this post is to dig a little deeper into the problem of those who want to focus on other people’s actions.

The Purpose of Addressing Fault

If as managers and supervisors we are acting correctly the focus of our actions should be on identifying the actions that are causing the problem and addressing them. The focus should not be about attacking the person or viewing at a personality issue.

Remember, you can’t change people. Your focus should be on establishing what the requirements of the job are and then holding people accountable for their actions. It shouldn’t matter if you like them on a personal level or not.

The Underlying Issue is Insecurity

Generally, when an employee is unwilling to accept fault it is due to some insecurity on their part. They may feel deficient in their skills or knowledge. Or perhaps they feel that their manager or supervisor has a negative opinion of them. There may also be underlying team friction that is causing their defensiveness.

Identifying the source of the employee’s insecurity may be important to get them to accept fault and then work on correction. If you understand why a person is reacting the way they are you can develop a strategy that will address the issue in a positive and productive manner.

Not understanding the underlying causes will only lead to stress and conflict.

Addressing the Cause not the Person

When dealing with a person who won’t accept fault the first, and most important thing is to not lose your cool. Yes, they drive you nuts but don’t buy into it. They succeed when you lose your cool because it takes the focus off the problem.
Always keep the conversation focused on the problem, on the actions of the person. Avoid letting personality enter the discussion. Keep focused on actions – what did or didn’t happen.

If the conversation turns to the actions of others don’t take the bait. This is what they want. Say, “I understand there may be other circumstances or reasons but the only thing you can control is your actions” or “I will deal with those issues with those individuals but I want to talk about how you can improve”.

Keep the focus on helping the individual to improve. Don’t focus on punitive or disciplinary action unless you are at a point where it is necessary.

Your goal should always be about helping your people improve. When your people do well, your team does well, and the organization does well.

The most problematic employee will respond in a positive manner if they truly believe their manager or supervisor has their best interest in mind.

As the Manager or Supervisor, You Need to Direct the Conversation

As the manager or supervisor, it is your job to ensure that the conversation focuses on the correct things. You must have the emotional intelligence and the skill to turn the conversation to a productive end. You do this by keeping the focus on the actions that are in the employee’s control.

Help them to understand that what is in their best interest is focusing on their own actions. Your concern needs to be about helping them to succeed. If you can get them to focus on their actions and keep the conversation their you will demonstrate your concern for their success.

At the end of the day hold them accountable. Do not let them redirect fault. Help them understand how it is hurting them personally and how correcting the problem will benefit them personally. Help them understand that you have their best interest in mind – you want them to succeed. Don’t focus on personalities. Focus on actions.

 

What is Accountability – Podcast Episode 2

What is accountability?

In this podcast, we flesh out in greater detail what accountability is and how to maintain it in a way that positively engages your team. Check out my blog post on accountability that is a companion piece to this podcast.

In my blog post and podcast, I dispel the myth that accountability is the same as discipline. Further, I assert that discipline is not the first step in accountability, but is the last action that should be considered.

Why is this important?

There are too many managers who want to attack problems. They see every problem as a nail and they are hammers. Because of this, they fail to achieve true accountability and destroy trust with their team.

Today, people need to be engaged in a positive manner. Discipline is often used to cover up for the failures of the manager. Accountability starts with good communication. It starts with establishing what the end goal of the team’s action is.

What will you learn?

You will learn what the goal of accountability is. What actions are important for you to ensure your people are being held accountable. And, you will learn tips and strategies for maintaining accountability. You will also learn why discipline should not be the primary focus of accountability strategies.

Accountability is About Correction not Discipline

Accountability Not Blame

Accountability is at the heart of leading and managing people. It is about holding people to a standard and then ensuring that they are maintaining that standard. What it should not be about is blaming people and punishing them.

Holding people accountable for their work and addressing underlying issues that are the cause of performance deficiencies should be the goal of a manager or supervisor. Blame assignment should not be a part of this process. And in most cases, the first response shouldn’t be about discipline. Instead, you should be looking for the root cause of the problem, assigning responsibility, and then working with the employee to correct the cause.

Too often managers and supervisors shoot from the hip when addressing performance issues. Instead of taking the time to gather facts and think about what the long-term consequences of their actions are, or what they are looking to achieve, they just jump into blame and punish mode.

When this happens, it serves the opposite purpose of what should be the intended outcome. The manager’s or supervisor’s goal should be the discovery of the root cause of the performance deficiency and then working with the employee to resolve it. Improvement of the individual’s performance should be the focus.

The Goal of Accountability

The purpose of holding people accountable isn’t the same as discipline. Accountability is about establishing performance expectations, communicating them, and helping employees understand where they are falling short. Correction of deficiencies and improvement of performance are the key.

Accountability is not discipline. Discipline may become part of the process after you have performed the other steps necessary to address root cause and help the employee improve performance, but it should not be the focus.

Begin With the End in Mind

Anytime a manager or supervisor is addressing a performance issue they should be thinking about what the end goal is. What does the ideal state of performance look like and how does it differ from the current state. But you also need to consider what the goal is with your relationship with the employee and their relationship with the team. If you have read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you will recognize this as Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind.

So often we are operating from a state of putting out fires that we don’t always take the time to really think about what the end goal is and what affect our actions are having on individuals in our organization and our team.

When addressing performance issues, the key is to identify what you hope to achieve in the correction of the problem. And to make sure that those actions are in line with overall company and team goals and objectives.

In most cases, the end goal is to maximize efficiencies to ensure profitability. To accomplish this, you need to motivate your employees to want to perform to a level that meets these objectives. Your accountability objectives should be focused on the best way to improve employee performance by engaging the employee in the solution and motivating them to want to correct it.

Placing blame does not motivate people. Being concerned about them and their performance does. Having a genuine concern for the success of the individual, and framing the problem resolution in that light will motivate much more than placing blame.

An Accountability Strategy

When accessing your accountability strategy consider the following:

  • What is the end state that is desired?
  • What actions can I take to try to reach this end state?
  • How will the employee perceive your actions?
  • In what way will your actions affect the team?
  • How will your actions help reach organizational goals?
  • What is the best way to identify the root cause of the problem?
  • How can I help the employee improve their performance?

Accountability is about setting clear expectations, goals, and consequences (both positive and negative). The goal is to help employees improve their performance with the end goal of meeting organizational objects. It is not about placing blame but is about identifying the root cause of performance problems and correcting them with the end in mind.

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