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Monthly Archives

December 2016

5 Reasons to Start 2017 with Communication Skills Training

By | Civil & Healthy Workplaces, Leadership | No Comments

You know this already, but I’ll say it anyway-

Effective communication among employees and managers is vital to your organization’s success. If people aren’t communicating well, they aren’t producing quality work.

Yet, so many organizations don’t offer communication skills training.

So here are five reasons you should start your year off with employee and manager communication skills training.

Effective communication creates positive relationships and thus employee engagement. Read any article or book on employee engagement and it’ll tell you positive relationships are a hefty part of the engagement equation. Without effective communication, you can’t have positive relationships, and so employee engagement can’t exist. Ineffective communication creates anger and frustration, which most certainly thwarts any engagement initiatives you might be working on.

Effective communication facilitates innovation. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s highly regarded research found that when we experience positive emotions, our mind literally opens up and becomes more aware, flexible, and explorative. The positive emotions give us courage to act on those explorations, and we then build skills over time. Fredrickson calls this “broaden and build.” Negative emotions, however, narrow our thinking as we get focused on immediate solutions in the moment.

Think about this…

One of your client representatives has a positive, effective interaction with a co-worker, and then answers the phone immediately after (likely with a positive tone). The client on the other end has a problem, and due to the positive emotions your rep feels, he is innovative in his troubleshooting and solves the problem. He has added to his repertoire of problem solving and customer service, and is able to broaden and build his skills.

Now think about a rep who has a negative interaction with a co-worker, and then answers the phone immediately after (probably not with the best tone of voice). The client has a problem in need of a solution, but with his mind narrowed, he isn’t able to solve the problem as well as our first rep, and customer service has suffered. All he’s learned is not to interact with the rude co-worker.

Effective communication facilitates learning. In line with Fredrickson’s work, when people experience positive interactions their minds are open and able to learn new things. In order to learn, employees must feel safe to disagree, ask questions, and make mistakes; they must value competing ideas and feel encouraged to take risks. This can all happen with effective communication. Check out this HBR gem for more insight.

Effective communication promotes effective teamwork. When information flows easily between teammates, it increases the ability to interact and provide each other the right information to make good decisions and ultimately produce better work. Effective communication also reduces the chance for conflict, and inspires collaborative conflict resolution.

Effective communication decreases absenteeism and presenteeism. There is so much research that negative relationships cause people to get distracted and call in sick, it’s not even funny. For example, one study found that people who feel bullied take an average of 10 more sick days per year than those who don’t feel bullied (Agervold & Mikkelsen, 2004). Another study found that when employees are on the receiving end of an uncivil encounter they intentionally reduce their commitments to the organization as a result of being the target of uncivil behavior, and they waste time thinking about the incident as well as avoiding the instigator (Pearson, Anderssen & Porath; 2000).

What about accountability for implementing what was learned?

If you wrangle some budget for a training, you want it to have some lasting effects.

There are several steps needed to ensure accountability, but one important step is to get your managers involved in holding their employees accountable, and get your senior leaders involved in holding their managers accountable.

Before the training, all managers and senior leaders should review the learning objectives, and begin conversing with their employees about them. After the training, leaders should meet with managers and managers with employees, to discuss what was learned, what and how it will be implemented, and measurements of success.

Other ideas for accountability include adding effective communication to the performance management process, or training managers to coach employees who do not engage in effective communication.

All my training programs include a personal action plan, where all attendees are required to complete their plans for personal improvement. My manager training provides guidance on how to set expectations, and how to coach employees.

Check out my communication skills training program. If you’re interested in kicking the year off right, let’s talk!


7 Interview Questions to Weed Out Bullies and Meanies

By | Workplace bullying | No Comments

I recently picked up the book, The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence, by Adele B. Lynn. As you know, I like tangible, actionable, “tell me what I am supposed to do right now” types of books, and this one fits the bill.

Lynn defines emotional intelligence “as a person’s ability to manage herself as well as her relationships with others so that she can live her intentions” (p. 7).

She also points out that emotional intelligence is not the same as social skills. Social skills are about how we interact with the world, which is only one piece of emotional intelligence.

Lynn’s model for emotional intelligence includes five areas (and several components within each area):

  1. Self-awareness and self-control – fully understanding your own emotions and using that information to manage emotions productively
  2. Empathy – understanding the perspective of others
  3. Social expertness – building genuine relationships and bonds, and expressing care, concern and conflict in healthy ways
  4. Personal influence – positively leading and inspiring others as well as yourself
  5. Mastery of purpose and vision – being authentic and living out your intentions and values

We can all use regular tune ups on our emotional intelligence. Everyone needs reminders about healthy conflict, empathy, managing emotions and more. That’s why we have books like Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and StrengthsFinder 2.0. (I’m sensing a theme here.)

While you’re working on your own emotional intelligence, you might also be hiring in new people and hoping they are emotionally intelligent. So, I took the liberty of picking out a few great questions from Lynn’s book (and in some cases added a few follow up questions I thought were important).

Ask these questions in your interviews to weed out bullies and meanies:

  1. Describe a time when you knew you did or said something that caused a problem for a coworker, a customer, or an employee. What problem did it cause? How did you know it caused a problem? What did you do? What did you learn?
  2. How do you know when your words or behaviors have a negative impact on others? How do you resolve that negative impact?
  3. Describe some situations or circumstances that bring out your worst at work. How do you behave during those times? What do you do about those times? What do you learn in those times?
  4. Tell me about the time you were the most stressed out at work. What caused the stress? How did you handle it? How did your stress affect others? What did you learn?
  5. Tell me about a time when you deliberately planned the tone of a conversation. How did you do that? Why did you do that in this particular situation? What result did it have? What did you learn? How often do you make plans for tone like that?
  6. Tell me about someone who is resistant to you. Why are they resistant? What have you tried to overcome that resistance? How have you adjusted your behavior to “win them over”? What have you learned?
  7. Describe a time at work when others wanted to move forward on something you disagreed with or didn’t think would work. Why did you disagree? What did you do? What did you learn?

Of course, Lynn’s book offers some guidance on what to look for in the answers.

Her book has over 250 questions for a variety of components, including, emotional expression, inner awareness, respectful listening, feeling the impact on others, collaboration, conflict resolution, and many more.

In the end, the one thing I suggest you look for, that Lynn’s book doesn’t necessarily mention, is whether the candidate learned from their mistakes. We’ve all engaged in ineffective conflict resolution, interrupting, talking without thinking first, and fighting aggressively to get our way.

But, it’s what we learned from those experiences that count.

Happy interviewing in 2017!