How should a manager react when an employee makes a mistake or underperforms? Some managers reprimand; others show curiosity (how did this happen?) and compassion (how can I help you through this?). Research cited by Emma Seppala, PhD, a Stanford University research psychologist writing in the Harvard Business Review, shows the compassionate response yields more positive outcomes.
In particular, a study by Jonathan Haidt of NYU shows that the more employees look up to their leaders and are affected by their kindness and compassion (a state he calls elevation), the more loyal they become. And the results magnify: When compassionate behavior is shown toward one employee, anyone who has witnessed that behavior may also experience elevation and feel more devoted.
It’s not always easy to show compassion when we are frustrated and under pressure ourselves, but we agree with Dr. Seppala, who recommends taking a moment to step back, detach, and then imagine what the other person might be experiencing. The resulting empathy can help you resolve the problem constructively.
We want to hear: How do you handle it when someone makes a mistake? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Decades of research have shown EQ (Emotional Intelligence) to be a critical differentiator for leaders. EQ affects how we manage our own behavior and how we interact with others. In a recent Inc. article, Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, recounted the chief characteristics of people with high EQs and we were struck, once again, by how many of them are related to communication.
Many aspects of EQ affect how we communicate with others. These include curiosity about other people, the ability to read others’ emotions, and a talent for neutralizing toxic people by not allowing their anger to fuel a tense situation.
Other equally important aspects of EQ, however, affect how we communicate with ourselves. Those with high EQs have what Bradberry calls “a robust emotional vocabulary”— they can identify and differentiate among many subtle states of emotion. They can joke about themselves, let go of mistakes and grudges, and “stop negative self-talk in its tracks.”
Whether your communication is internal or external, self-awareness and self-management are the keys to EQ, and to a high-impact life.
We want to hear: What communication practices do you think are measures of EQ? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, once shared a “dirty little secret” about business: A certain quality can effectively chain an organization to mediocrity if it is not developed. That quality is candor.
Likewise, Carlos Brito, CEO of InBev, says companies can never grow unless they face up to the negative truth as well as the positive. "I like people that can tell me the good and the bad with the same urgency and clarity," he says.
Hudl, a sports video software company based in Lincoln, Nebraska, has a system for honest feedback that they refer to as #RealTalk. It’s a phrase used to inspire genuine candor among the team. Hudl co-founder John Wirtz says RealTalk— one of six values read off at the start of each company retreat—has been “absolutely critical” to the company’s success.
Not every company has a culture like Hudl’s, but every organization must recognize that candor is an art. While honest feedback about performance is imperative, “brutal” honesty that picks people apart is more demoralizing than enlightening. Getting the balance right ensures that trust will grow and that conflicts can be mined for their productive value.
We want to hear: Does your workplace value candor, and how do you go about delivering honest feedback in a constructive way? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Want to create a positive new habit? Consider the language you use. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research tested the words people use when confronting temptation. One group was instructed to use the words "I can't" while the other used "I don't" when considering unhealthy food choices (“I can’t eat sugar” vs. “I don’t eat sugar”). When the study finished, subjects were offered a chocolate bar or granola bar as thanks. While 39 percent of those who used the words "I can't" chose the granola, 64 percent of those in the "I don't" group picked it over chocolate.
The study authors believe that saying "I don't" rather than "I can't" provides greater "psychological empowerment." For example, by saying, “I don’t smoke,” we reinforce our commitment by making non-smoking part of our identity.
We believe this finding can be applied to communication habits as well. Consider the power of saying “I don’t interrupt” or “I don’t use silence as a weapon.” If you want to build a positive communication style, try identifying yourself as someone who “doesn’t” engage in unproductive communication.
We want to hear: Is there a habit you want to break? How does substituting “I don’t” for “I can’t” work for you? Join the conversation by clicking "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We have long taught that breakthroughs are most likely to occur when criticism is fully heard and the positive potential of conflict is mined. In her new book, Collective Genius, The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, Professor Linda Hill, faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School, says that leaders whose organizations innovate best are those who act as “social architects,” creating a safe collaborative space where team members can “keep pushing and challenging one another.”
The research of Hill and her co-authors suggests that successful innovation leaders have a capability they call creative abrasion: They are able to spark heated but constructive debates that amplify differences as opposed to minimizing them. “Conflict is what generates a marketplace of competitive ideas,” says Hill in an interview with strategy+business.
Generating a wealth of ideas is pointless without a second capability, creative agility, which Hill says “is about testing and refining ideas with feedback, reflection, and adjustment…The idea is to act and learn as quickly as you can, and then make necessary adjustments. When you do an experiment, it’s OK to get a negative outcome, as long as you learn from it.”
We want to hear: What do you think about the link between conflict and innovation? Can you give us an example of productive disagreement on your team? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Change can seem frightening. So it’s not uncommon for individuals—and organizations—to resist new ideas and default to justifying their current behaviors. However, a new study suggests that focusing on important values is a less threatening way to initiate new behaviors.
Researchers used brain scanning to observe how people respond when given advice about positive behavioral change (e.g. increased exercise). Before being given the advice, half the group was given a self-affirmation exercise involving thinking about a value important to them. The hope was that these kinds of thoughts would trigger activity in the part of the prefrontal cortex responsible for processing information about ourselves. Then each participant was tracked to determine whether or not they heeded the advice.
The result: Those primed with self-affirming thoughts not only displayed a lot more activity in this part of the brain, but also engaged in actual behavioral change in the following month. The control group showed no changes.
We believe priming for change with shared values can be incredibly valuable in an organization. Leaders can inspire others to embrace change by affirming the long-term goals of their organization and emphasizing the ultimate good that can be accomplished.
We want to hear: How have you been successful in initiating change—either on a personal or organizational level? What over-arching values have helped you navigate change? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In parts of India and Southeast Asia, monkeys are sometimes trapped by placing food in a vessel that has an opening just wide enough for the monkey to reach one hand through. Smelling the morsel inside, a passing monkey will reach in and grab hold of it, forming a fist—only to discover that it cannot pull its clenched fist back out through the hole. If the monkey remains clinging tightly to the food, it is caught. This attachment trap is often a springboard for discussions on a core philosophical principle: that by clinging to external sources of satisfaction, we lose our freedom. http://www.rubinmuseum.org/brainwave.
The Attachment Trap is also relevant to communication. When we cling to a particular attitude about a person (“I don’t get along with him; we will always argue.”) or a situation (“My co-workers don’t take my ideas seriously and never will”), we remain stuck in a paradigm that we are helping to create. When we relinquish biases that are based in the past or on incomplete information, we free ourselves to create new possibilities. Opening our fists equates to opening our minds.
We want to hear! What experiences have you had with un-attaching from an attitude or belief? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Good communication and interpersonal relationships are as important for families and schools as they are at work. Aggression and coercion are harmful to the wellbeing of adults and children in any setting. The principles we teach to help make work environments more nurturing are the same as those prevention scientists are now following to help families and schools become more nurturing.
In his new book, The Nurture Effect, Anthony Biglan, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Oregon Research Institute, describes numerous family and school programs that help reduce the use of coercive behavior. For example, beginning in the early seventies, psychologist Gerald Patterson began to observe moment-to-moment interactions between family members. Patterson and colleagues showed that the main reason families interacted aggressively was that each person got a brief respite from others’ adverse behavior by engaging in adverse behavior themselves. A child might do something a parent didn’t like and the parent might say something nasty or raise their voice. Often the child would cry or whine and the parent would escalate even to the point of hitting, and the child might then desist. The parent’s aggression just got reinforced! Likewise, a mother might ask a child to do something and the child might whine. Perhaps the mother became more demanding. If the child further escalated, screaming or breaking something, the parent might back off. This time the child’s adverse behavior got reinforced.
Our communication programs develop skills for responding to others’ adverse behavior in ways that don’t escalate conflict, but instead promote patient listening and cooperative problem solving. Now family and school programs greatly increase positive reinforcement in order to generate more prosocial behaviors. As Biglan writes, “There is a growing understanding of the importance of prosocial behavior and values, and a growing movement to make all of our environments more nurturing. As this movement progresses we will see lower levels of conflict and problem behavior than we have ever seen in history.”
We want to hear! What proscial skills do you use in the workplace that might also also be effective at home and in schools? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, consider giving your loved ones these gifts – each with more staying power than flowers, cards, and chocolates:
1. Listen when your impulse is to argue. Listening, a rare and pure gift from the heart, requires us to be quiet long enough to ponder our partner’s message.
2. Edit accusations that could make your partner feel put down and judged. Instead, describe your feelings. “I feel lonely” has a different ring than “you’re selfish and unresponsive.”
3. Acknowledge your role in a problem. Every issue has another side. When we describe how we contributed, even unintentionally, to a problem, we encourage our partner to hear us out.
4. Agree on a solution. Reach an explicit, collaborative agreement about what each of you will do differently in the future.
5. Follow up on your agreements. Many attempts at resolving conflict end in failure and fighting, but following up proves your commitment to view conflict resolution as a process rather than a one-shot deal.
As marriage and business partners for 40 years, we can attest that while confronting issues is never easy, avoidance is worse. And we still endorse chocolate too. It’s good for your heart.
We want to hear: What communication behaviors would you like to change in your relationships this year, and what steps are you taking to do so? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We all resolve to build new habits, but many of us lose steam before long. Writing in Entrepreneur, behavioral scientist James Clear offers three tips to stick with it.
1. Start with a really easy habit. Our example: Suppose you want to have more engagement with the people you work with. Making it a habit to say “good morning” to your team members is a simple starting point.
2. Figure out what’s holding you back. Clear says it’s our judgments about ourselves and others that get in our way. Our example: “I am too introverted to be more interactive with co-workers.” Or: “If I become more interactive they might think I’m being insincere.” Of course these are not sound rationales. Everyone is more nuanced than that!
3. Develop a failure fallback. No one changes a habit without setbacks. When (not if!) it happens to you, get back on track as soon as possible.
We want to hear! Are you building any new good habits so far this year? What techniques are you using for making them permanent? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you’re familiar with bifocal eyeglasses, you know they allow you to view the same scenario from different perspectives. Anthony Kronman of Yale Law School uses “bifocalism” as a thought-provoking analogy. As he put it: “Anyone who has worn bifocal lenses knows that it takes time to learn to shift smoothly between perspectives and to combine them in a single field of vision. The same is true of deliberation. It is difficult to be compassionate, and often just as difficult to be detached, but what is most difficult of all is to be both at once.”
Seeing a situation from another’s perspective is key to any successful negotiation, compromise, or conflict resolution. Recently writing in The New York Times, David Brooks posited that we get better at this skill as we age (http://bit.ly/bifocialism ) But why wait?
We can aid detachment by asking ourselves, “How would an outsider view the situation?”, or “How would I view this if I set my emotions aside?” As for compassion, it is essential to remember that all of us have our own perspective, because everyone is unique. As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” We view situations, through the prism of our own experiences, values, and culture. We may never fully be able to step into another person’s world, but we can set a goal to regard our own perspectives as just one way of understanding, among many other ways.
We want to hear. Do you find it easier to view situations with detachment and compassion as you mature? If so, why do think that is? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/
This New Year, consider making a resolution to practice 12 months of healthy communication. Most people navigate through important moments of communication on automatic pilot, reacting from emotion rather than intention. But we can transform our relationships by getting off autopilot and being proactive with positive communication.
As communication researchers and partners in work and marriage for over 40 years, we’ve experienced both the joy and challenge of personal and business communication and have found some simple steps to resolve conflict and build trust in relationships:
*Listen when your impulse is to argue.
*Edit accusations that might make someone feel put down, and instead describe your feelings.
*If you have a grievance, pinpoint details and specific examples.
*Acknowledge your role in any problem.
*Reach explicit, collaborative solutions that specify what each person will do differently in the future.
Confronting issues is never an easy matter, but avoidance can be hazardous not just to our relationships but also to our own health.
Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy, communicative 2015!
We want to hear. Do you have a New Year’s resolution that could lead to stronger communication? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Joan M. Mas https://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypic/
Whenever we ask people to share stories about stressful family encounters at the holidays, we are amazed at the outpouring of fraught memories. But reliving the conflicts of holidays past won’t help us deal with the present. This season, try something new. When Uncle Joe or Aunt Blanche blurts out an unwelcome opinion, resist the temptation to engage in point/counterpoint. This quickly devolves into a situation where everyone feels the only way to “win” is to get louder and LOUDER!
Instead, ask for more information about your relative’s point of view—and actually listen to that information. (Do this even if the point of view they are sharing is a direct criticism of you.) Only true listening can provide you the information you need to have influence. And it is only when your “opponent” feels heard that they will even begin to consider another point of view.
*avoid conversation killers like “You always…” and “You never…”;
*tell the other person you understand how they came to feel the way they do;
*own your part of the situation and acknowledge how you may be contributing to it.
Be realistic: You are not going to achieve perfect harmony with everyone at the dinner table. But with a little resolve you can certainly improve your batting average. Happy holidays!
We want to hear: How did this advice work for you this holiday season? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Michael Porter https://www.flickr.com/photos/libraryman
Can you work well on teams, solve problems, and communicate well with people inside and outside your organization? If so, you possess the top three skills employers are seeking in today’s job market.
We were delighted to see the “big three” when The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a non-profit group that links college career placement offices with employers, surveyed hiring managers from large companies like Chevron, IBM, and Seagate Technology about what skills they will prioritize when recruiting from the class of 2015 (http://bit.ly/topjobskills). But we were certainly not surprised! We have devoted our entire research and consulting careers to developing programs that teach these very skills because we believe they are key to organizational performance and culture.
So grads—and all job-seekers—take note: Employers emphasize universal skills that are applicable across all disciplines and industries. No matter what you studied in school, no matter what your field, it is crucial to demonstrate to employers that you can collaborate creatively and communicate effectively. Stress accomplishments that show these abilities on your resume, in your cover letters, and during your interviews. These initial points of contact are opportunities to show prospective employers just how well you communicate.
We want to hear! If you are hiring, how do you screen applicants for these skills? If you are job-seeking, how are you demonstrating these skills? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
A massive Gallup employee engagement survey found that there is no more important job satisfaction predictor than whether an employee has recently had a conversation about how they’re doing on the job. Yet a large percentage of employees at all levels crave more feedback from their managers than they receive. This is what Anna Carroll, author of The Feedback Imperative, found when she interviewed 2100 individuals in the workplace. (http://bit.ly/morefeedback)
Feedback is information, and all of us--especially Millennials--are used to processing massive amounts of it daily. So why are employees kept in the dark about their own performance? Carroll says many reasons are emotional: Fear, avoidance, and fight-or-flight stress on the part of managers prevent them from delivering feedback--sometimes outsourcing the process completely and promoting “an anonymous feedback culture.”
One excuse managers give is that feedback will cause unhappiness and lead to turnover. But exactly the opposite is true. We believe the dissatisfaction caused by lack of feedback dissipates when managers are properly trained in the art of giving feedback, including our Raising Delicate Issues model.
We want to hear. Are you getting enough feedback from your manager? How would you improve the feedback process in your organization? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum
Image Credit: Het Nieuwe Instituut https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenewinstitute/