Category: Change Management (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

You’re a Supervisor, Now What?

What do you do when you are promoted to a supervisor but feel like you are in over your head? Like so many people who become supervisors I started out my career as an entry-level employee and worked my way up. When I was chosen to move up into a supervisory role I wasn’t the best candidate for the job.

So often supervisors aren’t chosen because they possess good people and management skills. They are chosen because they possess strong technical skills within their chosen field.

Just because somebody has shown an aptitude for a technical skill doesn’t mean that they will be good at managing the people in that technical area.

It also doesn’t mean that they can’t learn it just like they learned their technical skill. The problem is that most companies do not prepare these people for this new, and very different role.

So, what do you do when you find yourself promoted beyond your skill set?

One thing you can do is seek out others who have gone through the same transition and done it successfully to find out how they did it.

This blog is a good place to start. I have been there and I have succeeded despite my deficiencies in personnel management. Also, check out my post: Supervising – Just Relax for more tips for beginners.

Here is what I believe the keys are to make the transition from a line employee to a supervisor.

First, practice humility. Remember where you came from and what the struggle is of the people doing the work. Admit what you don’t know and be generous in giving credit to others.

Have respect for the people you lead. You once were where they are – empathize with them so that you can keep your connection in your new role.

Second, don’t think you know it all even if you do. Just because you can solve a problem doesn’t mean you need to. Assist your people when they need it but let them own the solution to a problem.

So many technical people make the mistake of thinking they need to solve every problem because they are the expert. If you come at every issue with all the answers you will get labeled as a know-it-all and will lose the respect of your people.

Third, realize you’re not part of the line employee group anymore. As soon as you move into a supervisory role you become part of management whether you like it or not. New supervisors often struggle with understanding how to deal with this new reality. They want to maintain their old relationships but they are a bridge between the front-line employees and management.

Embrace your new role. You can make a positive impact by bringing your experience from the floor to the management group. Use your experience and your new elevated role to be a positive change agent and bridge the gap between production and management.

Finally, seek out a mentor. Find somebody in your management group who has gone through what you have and done it successfully. Ask them to offer you advice and critique your progress.

It can be difficult asking others for help, especially to ask them to evaluate you. But the biggest growth you will have is when you get out of your comfort zone and seek growth.

Being a new supervisor is tough. It is difficult to transition from being a line employee to a management role. You will face pressures from management as well as the employees who used to be your peers who you are being asked to lead.

Approach your new role with humility. Coach your people instead of solving all their problems. Embrace your role as a change agent between the line employees and management. And seek out a mentor to help you make the transition successfully.

Remember that this isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding. Every career progression comes with a little discomfort. If you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and maintain your humility you will succeed.

A Positive Attitude Can Overcome Any Problem

When problems are piling up and you feel like you are deep in a negative spiral a positive attitude can not only lift you up but it can lift up your whole team.

It can be difficult to find the positive in a negative situation but it is essential to overcoming any problem.

The more we focus on the negative the more we shut ourselves off to the potential solutions to the problem. It is hard to see the possibilities under a pile of garbage.

So how do you regain your positive attitude when things are going wrong?

First, start with a concern for other people. When we take the focus off ourselves, and our own problems, and look for ways to help others it helps put a new spin on the problem. It forces us to step outside ourselves and see a larger reality.

When we focus on others we see the problem through their eyes which will cause us to gain a new perspective on the issue.

It also changes our attitude from one of self-pity to one of service. This can be empowering. When we realize we have the power to make our little world better and improve the situation of other people, we quit feeling pity for ourselves and start acting in a positive manner.

Helping other people also fills us with positive feelings. When we have a positive impact on others their gratitude fills us with gratitude. It may be cliché but you get what you give.

For more on this see – The People Connections – Making for a Happy Workplace.

Second, practice gratitude. No matter how bad things are you always have something to be grateful for no matter how small.

Make a list – either write it down or mentally. Identify at least five things that you are grateful for. Focus on how those good things make you feel. Think about what life would be like without those things.

Gratitude can fuel a soul at the worst of times and empower us to see the world through a more positive lens.

Third, think back to another difficult situation or problem you have faced in the past. Realize that no matter what the problem you have faced similar situations in the past before and survived.

Focus on the temporary nature of problems. This will help you to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Consider what you did to overcome past problems and how you felt once they were overcome. Stay focused on the positive outcomes.

Like anything in life, good things come when we put in the effort and the work. Regaining a positive attitude when things are going wrong isn’t easy. It is much simpler to wallow in our own misery and wait for the situation to clear. The only problem is by doing that the outcome will not be good.

Instead, make the effort to change your attitude. To focus on the good. Focus on others. Be grateful. And remember, you have been here before and survived.

Staffing in an Age of Scarcity and What you can do About it

Staffing – Where have all the workers gone?

It has become increasingly difficult for employers in most industries to maintain adequate staffing. Businesses are having to do more with fewer people. In some cases, businesses are choosing to close their doors due to not being able to find the help they need to keep their business running.

Why is it so difficult to find employees? There are multiple reasons. The baby boomer generation is well into their retirement ages. Gen Xers and Gen Yers don’t have the numbers to make up the difference. Millennials have either decided to run their own businesses, work part-time, or have opted to not enter the workforce and live in their parents basements.

Regardless of the reasons, the truth is that there are fewer people looking for work.

Good Employees? I am happy with just a heartbeat.

It used to be that you could put out an ad, get a number of qualified candidate, and hire the best one. Nowadays I don’t even worry if they are a good candidate, as long as they show up to work everyday I am happy.

Even when you can find a good candidate, you should feel fortunate if they stick around. Today, people have far more employment choices and therefore are far less dedicated to any one employer. Maintaining staffing levels in the age of the worker nomad can be frustrating.

Gone are the days of people staying at one job their entire career. The new norm is people who have multiple employers and frequently change jobs throughout their working career.

What do we do?

So, what do we do about our staffing when fewer people are looking for jobs and those that are will be less dedicated and more likely to leave?

Here are some tips for managing people under these new, more difficult circumstances:

  1. Treat all employees with dignity and respect. This may seem like a no-brainier but it’s not. It is easy to treat the good employees well, but not so easy with the marginal or down right bad employees. Regardless of what kind of worker they are you need to be even handed and respectful with all your employees. Word gets around quickly if an employer treats its people fairly or not. You can’t afford to treat anyone poorly and get a reputation as a lousy boss or a bad employer.
  2. Coach up your marginal employees. Whether you like it or not you need everybody. It is more important than ever to try to find ways to coach up marginal employees. Have one or two of your high performers become mentors to marginal employees. Hold them accountable but always encourage them. Help them to see the short and long term benefits of improved performance. Let them know that you are genuinely interested in their success.
  3. Show gratitude and understanding to employees when they find a new job. I know its hard to loose anybody, especially really good employees, but that doesn’t mean you need to treat them poorly on their way out. Always wish them well, and if they did a good job and gave you plenty of notice, let them know that the door is always open. In today’s work environment people tend to boomerang. If you treat them well when they are leaving they will be more likely to return if things don’t work out with their new employer.
  4. Treat the employees you have well. It is to difficult and costly to hire new employees. It is far easier to keep the ones you have. While managers don’t always have the ability to change compensation and benefits, it doesn’t mean we are without the ability to influence weather people stay or leave our companies. Show gratitude for the work your employees do. Let them know they are appreciated and their contributions make a difference. If you have the ability to allow flex scheduling be generous with your employees. Say thank you and take advantage of opportunities to reward everyone on your team that does a good job. Go out of your way to recognize employees efforts.
  5. Focus on the positive. As tough as it is to manage people these days you need to do your best to remain positive. Not just for your own well being, but also the well-being of your team. If you come to work frustrated and grumpy every day it will not inspire others. Maintain a positive outlook and keep focused on the things that are going right. Allow our attitude to make others want to do their best and feel good about working with you.

Today’s workforce can be unpredictable, entitled, and fickle. Employees are no longer dedicated to a single employer throughout their career. The workforce has shrunk and will continue to be very competitive. These are the new realities we face and they aren’t going to change anytime soon. So instead of digging in your healing and feeling sorry for yourself you need to adjust and adapt. By focusing on ways that you can create a positive work place, focused on the success of each team member, you will have a better chance of maintaining staffing and attracting new talent.


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Change Habits Not People

Change Habits Not People

Recently, I was having a discussion with a fellow manager about a problem employee. This employee is a great worker; skilled and knowledgeable. This individual is also someone who cares a great deal about doing what is right. The problem is that they don’t have the best people skills. Time and again the manager has tried to coach the individual, and this person has even acknowledged their problem in dealing with people but is unwilling to put in the work to change the behavior. In talking with this manager, I told him that fundamentally you can’t change who people are; you can only set expectations and hold them accountable, you need to focus on changing habits.

Focus on the Development of New Habits

I truly believe that you cannot change other people. That is not to say people can’t change, only that they are resistant to change. You can only change yourself – if you really want to. Because of this you have to focus your time on changing habits. In order to change a habit you have to understand the basic process of habit formation.

Two great resources for this are 1) an article by James Clear titled The Three R’s of Habit Change and 2) a book by Charles Duhigg titled The Power of Habit.

Both of these sources go into detail bout the habit loop. Understanding this concept can allow you to help others change habits.

The Habit Loop and How You Can Utilize it

The habit loop states that every habit a person has follows a three-step process:

  1. Reminder (Cue)
  2. Trigger (Routine)
  3. Reward (Reward)

The reminder is the cue that initiates the behavior. It is something that starts you into the habit or routine. For instance an employee takes a break everyday at 10 a.m. Their reminder might be the clock, or the fact that somebody walks by their work area everyday at that time, or they feel hunger pains everyday at the same time.

The trigger is the actual behavior – in this case they go on break, get a snack, have lunch, or get something to drink.

The reward is the feeling of satisfaction or pleasure they receive as a result of the behavior.

If you have an employee who is engaged in disruptive behavior you can use your recognition of the habit loop to help the employee recognize the loop and put actions in place to create a new, more constructive habit loop.

Example of how to use the habit loop

You have an employee who is constantly focused on what other employee’s do. They see a fellow coworker doing something they don’t like (reminder). This makes them complain to their coworkers (trigger). They feel a sense of satisfaction in having complained to someone (reward).

First, you need to help them see how this behavior is counter-productive and not in their best interest. Explain to them how the behavior creates a distraction in the workplace and does not help to correct the problems they see.

Second, help them to create a new habit based on the trigger. In this case, suggest that when they see somebody doing something they think isn’t correct that they approach the person and offer a helpful suggestion for correcting the behavior. Make sure that they know how to do this in a courteous manner that is meant to constructively correct the situation and is in the best interest of the person being corrected.

Empower the employee to own the solution to the problem. And help them see how this is beneficial to them.

Finally, help them to see the satisfaction they will receive in helping a coworker improve their performance and how this will be of greater value than the feeling they get from complaining.

While this may seem like a simplistic example, I think it illustrates the basics of how you can utilize knowledge of the habit loop to redirect people from negative to positive habits. Instead of wasting your time trying to change people you can work toward changing the habits that individuals engage in, which is a much more successful strategy.

 

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