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5 Keys to Effective Communication
Ineffective communication can lead to errors, wasted time, team conflict, broken relationships, even business failure. Here are five important keys to communication, written or verbal, that can lead to success rather than strife.
Remember the telephone game you played when you were little? Someone would whisper a sentence into the ear of the person next to her. That person would then pass the comment to the person next to her. The secret was whispered along to each person in the line until it reached the last person…who’d then announce what she thought was the original whispered sentence.
The end message was always completely different from the original, got huge laughs at its crazy endings and clearly showed how communication can go awry!
What's NOT funny, however, is when ineffective communication leads to errors, wasted time, team conflict, broken relationships, even business failure.
Below are five important keys to communication -- written or verbal -- that leads to success, not strife, in your business and in your personal life, as well.
Choose your words wisely.
Whether writing or speaking, communicating involves taking a bit of time to think about what you’re going to say. Will the listener understand what you’re saying? Or will it be misinterpreted?
A Good Laugh Is Good for Business
“The arrival of a good clown into a village does more for its health than 20 asses laden with drugs,” observed Thomas Sydenham, a seventeenth century British physician, who may have been the first doctor to recommend laughter as the best medicine. Science has proven the doctor correct. It’s good for the body and for business.
Executives and managers today are increasingly acknowledging that laughter is good not only for personal health and well-being, but for career success and overall workplace wellness as well. Around the office, laughter can motivate and facilitate team building, improve stress management, and increase productivity and morale...
• The Harvard Business Review (September 2003) reported that executives with a sense of humor climb the corporate ladder more quickly and earn more money than their counterparts.
• University of Wisconsin professor Stu Robertshaw cites one corporate study in which the firm experienced a 21 percent decrease in staff turnover and a 38 percent decrease in Friday absenteeism after incorporating humor into the workplace.
• In a study, David Abramis of California State University determined that employees who have fun on the job are more productive, more creative, are better decision-makers and team players—and have fewer absentee, sick and late days.
Bridging the Gap: Improving the Emotional Connection to Work
Overwork, anxiety and lack of challenge and recognition have colored the overall emotional connection of workers to their jobs. This article explores pointers on how to bridge the gap between how workers feel and how managers perceive them to feel—and how to help workers plug into a more positive emotional connection to their jobs.
Overwork, anxiety and lack of challenge and recognition has colored the overall emotional connection of workers to their jobs, according to a Towers Perrin study. And workers’ attitudes are going to need more than just an economic recovery to emerge feeling positive about their work life.
Here are some pointers gleaned from the study on how to bridge the gap between how workers feel and how managers perceive them to feel—and how to help workers plug into a more positive emotional connection to their jobs.
Focus on ways to build self-esteem in your workers. The study showed that workers can feel intensely positive about their jobs from the self-esteem they get through feeling connected and competent in their work. While that ought to be obvious, the managers in the study predicted that this would matter little.
You’re not as important as you think, either. And that’s good. While the workers ranked management as a negative factor, it was one of many. Managers, however, predicted that management would have been much more important—on the negative side! So while you expect to bear the brunt of your employees’ negative feelings toward work, they may be cutting you more slack than you realize.
Bring Humor to Work (It’s Good for You & Good for Business!)
Humor has numerous benefits in the workplace, creating happier workers and increased productivity.
The physical benefits of laughter are well documented. Laughter decreases stress hormones, boosts the immune system and raises the heart rate, bringing more blood and oxygen to the brain. It also increases the level of alertness and memory as well as the ability to learn and create.
Benefits for the Office
It makes sense that all that extra brain power and relaxation would lead to enhanced performance at work. But laughter has other benefits around the office, which include:
Stronger Teams. Laughter breaks down barriers, builds relationships and allows for better communication among coworkers. People with a sense of humor often have the ability to deal effectively with people and work issues, and they keep the severity of problems in perspective.
Disconnect: Exploring the Emotional Connection to Work
What do workers feel about their work? How can managers redirect their employees’ emotional energy from the negative to the positive side of the ledger.
A year ago human resources consultancy Towers Perrin created quite a stir when it revealed its newest study showing the deep emotional connection that workers have with their work—and clearly documented just how negative those emotions are for most workers….
Using sophisticated market research techniques that actually measure the intensity of emotion, Towers Perrin surveyed 1,100 workers in mid-sized and large companies. So instead of the usual “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree” scales, workers’ feelings toward job recognition, for example, could be directly compared to their feelings about their workload.
Overall the study showed that workers have a tremendously strong emotional connection to their job—both positive and negative. More importantly, the overall emotional balance was negative, and one-third of the emotional content was “intensely” negative. The key factors were:
• An excessive workload
• Concerns about management’s ability to lead the company
• Anxiety about the future, particular longer-term job, income and retirement security
Employees’ Engagement with Work
A look at the level of employees’ engagement and the effect upon business success; what managers can do.
Employee engagement is golden. That’s the key finding of the Towers Perrin Global Workforce survey.
“Engagement,” as the company defined it, is the willingness of an employee to go the extra mile to help his or her company succeed.
The survey of 90,000 workers in 18 countries found that companies with the highest level of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees than companies with lower levels of engagement.
Those companies with the highest percentage of engaged workers increased operating income 19% and earnings per share 28% year to year, while those with the lowest showed declines of 33% in operating income and 11% in earnings per share.
The 2007-2008 study also found that less than 5% of engaged workers were actively looking for another job, while more than a quarter of disengaged employees were looking.
Giving an A: Possibility, Not Measurement
Give them an A and encourage the best in one’s employees, co-workers, and family.
Michaelangelo said that in sculpting his masterpiece “David” that he was merely chipping away from the marble everything that was not David. In other words, one needs only remove the excess stone to reveal the work of art within.
When we apply this notion to human beings, we discover that we are all works of art in all our varied manifestations. Life’s true journey may be the process of uncovering and removing what’s in the way of our shining through with beauty and brilliance.
In support of helping us find the best in ourselves and others, consider the practice called "giving an A" that comes from the book The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. This practice asks us to choose the perspective of seeing everyone (even ourselves!) as holding great potential. You can give an A to anyone—your spouse, children, employer, co-workers—even strangers.
Taking the familiar classroom example first, notice that when students think of themselves as C students, they may not bother trying very hard. If the teacher expects them to do poorly, the students are likely to fulfill that expectation. What would happen if the expectation were that the students were A students?
How Intelligent Is Your Decision Making?
A quiz to explore whether your decision-making skills are as sharp as they could be.
We make decisions every day. While simple decisions require a fairly straightforward decision-making process, complex decisions usually require more effort to properly deal with challenges such as uncertainty, risk, alternatives and consequences.
Because of the possibility of conflict and unwanted outcomes, making decisions can be stressful. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and those of your team, helps alleviate that stress, and puts you on the road to taking decisive and intelligent action.
To determine whether your decision-making skills are as sharp as they could be, answer True or False to the following questions.
1. Prior to making decisions I ensure that I have established clear objectives that identify the desired outcome.
How to Build (and Keep) a High-Performance Team
Explores the ways to create and build a strong team that is focused on success.
Employers and entrepreneurs often think they have to “do it all themselves,” as reflected in the following statements:
“No one can do this as well as I can.”
“It’s easier to just do it myself than to explain how to someone else.”
“I don’t have time to train anybody.”
When you think that way, however, you may be overlooking a critical component for success in managing small-to-medium sized businesses. And that is, building the right team.
What’s in a Team?
A team is basically a group of people with complementary skills who are mutually committed to working together toward a common goal with shared rewards.
Highly Effective Teams...
See “the big picture.” This promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality. Each team member knows the greater goals of the organization and understands the context of their own (and each others’) roles and responsibilities toward those goals.
How Well Do You Delegate?
Whether a person work with others, or alone, he or she may still suffer from the “Lone Ranger Syndrome”—that managerial malaise that causes folks to work excessively long, hard hours because only THEY know how to do something right. Whoa, Silver! There is a cure.
Effective delegation is a learnable time-management skill that can dramatically increase your effectiveness at work. To find out how well you delegate, take the following Self-Quiz.
1. In most cases, I can do tasks quicker and better myself than if I delegate.
2. Before I delegate something, I take the time to visualize the end result and to communicate that to the delegate.
3. I work longer hours than others doing the same kind of work.
4. A written outline or sketch of what I want always accompanies my oral description of the tasks I delegate.
How Well Do You Motivate Others?
As the quiz reveals, there is more to motivation than the three Ps.
Pay, praise and promotions may have some effect on motivation levels in the workplace. But these three Ps pale in comparison to more personal factors, such as the Top 5 of the oft-cited research by Rewick and Lawler: job challenge, accomplishing something worthwhile, learning new things, developing skills and abilities, and autonomy. Take this Self-Quiz to see how you’re doing in lighting and kindling the fire of enthusiasm in your employees.
1. I know things about the personal lives of those who work with me, such as how many children they have or their special hobbies or musical taste.
2. I try to ask questions rather than give direct orders.
3. When making a request, I match the benefits of the task to the goals and values of the person I am asking.
4. I give specific and sincere praise for improvements in performance, so as to let people know that I have noticed. I celebrate successes.
How Well Do You Recognize Those Who Work With You?
What’s wrong with employee-of-the-month, coffee mugs, and length-of-service awards? This quiz will show more effective ways to express a job well done.
Gone are the days when length-of-service awards, employee-of-the-month recognition and merchandise rewards were valued ways to recognize people who work with you. In fact, many people find such formal recognition programs stale and irrelevant, and their effectiveness has declined. This is true whether speaking of colleagues, direct reports or subcontractors.
The problem is that these methods don’t really express appreciation for a job well done or gratitude for a commitment to quality. Take the Self-Quiz below to discover how well you score.
1. Forget employee of the month! I try to acknowledge employees each time they do good work.
2. I make proactive changes and improvements to my recognition programs. I don’t wait until the evidence of ineffectiveness is overwhelming.
3. One way I express how much I value those I work with is by ensuring meaningful work, offering flexible work hours and encouraging greater work/personal life balance.
4. I am clear about what kinds of incentive merchandise not to give, including coffee mugs, paperweights, pen sets, plaques. In fact, I stay away from “stuff” altogether.
Parenting as a Management Tool
Parents and managers have many tasks and skills in common.
Parenting doesn’t come with a job description—and that’s probably a good thing for the sake of the species. But if it did, it would be a long one. In her book, If You’ve Ever Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything, author Ann Crittenden lists a dozen distinct “jobs” within the umbrella of raising children and managing a household, ranging from crisis management to tending the pets. She cites other studies that have come up with even longer lists.
But to parents, “managing” isn’t high praise. Managing is equated with getting by, coping, surviving.
In the corporate world, on the other hand, “managing” is a job. Managers almost always have job descriptions, often with a dozen or more separate tasks. But the heart of what they do, the “managing” part, often looks very much like, well, being a parent.
One of the key similarities can be found in the term “multitasking.” Though coined only 40 years ago, the word has come to represent one of the core dimensions of modern working life, particularly as communications channels have proliferated.
Playing Around: The Role of Games in Creating World-Class Workplace Teams
Great teams don’t happen overnight, and working in teams is not always easy. That’s why businesses are turning to team building games to foster cohesion and understanding.
Basketball great Michael Jordon once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
Jordan might have been referring to basketball, but it’s no less true of teams put together to produce champion results for businesses large and small. And while Jordan’s team was all about playing games, businesses sometimes need the help of games to mold and cement effective work teams.
“Team building games are designed to help team leaders transform a group of loosely connected employees into a dynamic and productive team—a process that seldom occurs naturally,” according to John Newstrom and Edward Scannel, authors of The Big Book of Team Building Games.
Games are certainly not the only way to build high-performance teams. Classroom training, role-playing, profile testing and other structures all play a positive role. But when team members go away from the office, dress informally and get outside their “business as usual” selves, what tends to happen is that “positions” are forgotten and people show more of their true nature. In this way, games create understanding. And when this understanding is in place, synergy can happen, that magic that makes ideas and results much greater than the sum of their parts.
Putting the Value Back in Performance Evaluations
Looks at the common problems with performance evaluations, explores the elements of a valuable appraisal and offers five recommendations for how to write one.
Performance appraisals for all employees are often completed annually within a short timeframe, which doesn’t usually lend itself well to careful, honest, well-thought-out evaluations for each employee. The standardized forms may end up looking like cookie cutter documents with similar wording, strengths and weaknesses.
Other problems with the typical employee review system are:
• Doing all the appraisals at once can create a tendency to compare and rank employees, which takes away the individual assessment of strengths and weaknesses, and can put employees on the defensive. It fosters an atmosphere of competitiveness rather than excellence.
• Salary increases, bonuses, promotion opportunities are directly connected with the appraisal. Ideally, these matters are kept separate from performance appraisals.
• Performance appraisals are too often used to document performance issues that should have been addressed throughout the year. Or, the results of performance appraisals are ignored the rest of the year.
Top 10 Ways to Have Productive Business Meetings
Business meetings: stressful, a waste of time, nothing ever changes or gets done. They don’t have to be that way.
Like a football team’s huddle, meetings should be held to bring players together, assign individual responsibility and energize the participants—all as quickly as possible. And yet a common complaint is that too many meetings are stressful and a waste of time. Below are some guidelines for successful meetings.
1. Define the purpose of the meeting. Without a clear purpose, achieving results is almost impossible.
2. Make an agenda. Be sure to focus meetings on key issues that require a meeting. As with anything else, poor planning produces poor performance.
3. Rigorously stick to your agenda. Allow discussion only on agenda items.
4. Begin and end on time. Doing so shows that you value the participants’ time and builds trust.
Top 10 Ways to Set Clear Expectations
Too often, managers seem to lead through mental telepathy. Rather than set and communicate clear expectations, they assume their employees know what to do and how to do it. The results are hesitation, indecision, and uncertainty while teamwork, initiative and productivity go out the window.
Properly setting expectations for employees or team members is a critical dimension in quality workplaces, according to a huge study of managers undertaken in the 1990s by The Gallup Organization. Below are some tips on setting clear expectations that will set standards for excellence and results.
1. Start with a vision of what you want the end result to look like. Not just what you want done, but the results you want to achieve when the project is completed.
2. Discuss how you define “excellent performance.” Paint a complete picture. Refer to your performance review form. Don’t assume.
3. Keep your focus on the desired outcomes, not on describing each and every step to follow. Your goal is to guide, not control. Letting individuals find their own route toward productive outcomes enc
Top 10 Ways to Support Your Team
A leader’s job is to ensure that the highest level goals of the organization are realized. Here are ten ways to accomplish that.
As long as you are committed to the success of the group, you are leading. Below are 10 ways to support your “team,” whether that is a formalized project team or an informal grouping of employees.
1. Set direction; don’t give directions. Trying to tell everyone what to do is micromanaging, not leading.
2. Ask yourself the question: “Is what I’m doing helping the group to ¬succeed?” Ask the group, too. If the answer is no, stop!
3. Remind the group why it exists. A team’s charter can sometimes get lost.