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.
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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
For years we heard about Google’s infamous job interview brainteasers (“How many times a day do a clock’s hands overlap?”), but the company has declared them useless in hiring (http://bit.ly/nobrainteasers)
According to Laszlo Bock, that company’s head of people operations, pedigrees from elite colleges and even high GPAs are also not strong predictors of job performance.
Bock told The New York Times (http://bit.ly/morehumility) that Google looks instead for “the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better.” This “intellectual humility,” as Bock calls it, is fundamental to learning. It is expressed as an ability to process information on the fly and to absorb the lessons of failure. Google interviewers screen for it by asking how applicants handled tough situations.
Being intellectually humble does not mean being wishy-washy. As Bock describes it, employees who possess this quality will “fight like hell” for their position. But if a new fact is introduced, they are unafraid to say, “That changes things. You are right.”
We have long talked about the value of genuinely listening to the ideas of others. Successful teamwork and emergent leadership depend on this sort of open-mindedness and on the strength of character to trade certainty for curiosity.
We want to hear: Can you describe a circumstance where a willingness to embrace another point of view led to success? Does your organization have a way of screening for this quality in prospective employees? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Alain Bachellier https://www.flickr.com/photos/alainbachellier/
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace finds that only 13% of people around the world feel engaged at work. Silicon Valley high-flyers may lure and retain talent with perks like free massages and gourmet buffets. But according to a recent SHRM survey “the opportunity to use skills and abilities” is now the top driver of satisfaction,
Researcher Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts, Why Leaning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work takes this finding one step further, saying, “Employees don’t just want their skills used; they want them stretched.”(http://bit.ly/workchallenge)
When Wiseman’s organization asked 1,000 people across industries to indicate their current level of on-the-job challenge and their current level of satisfaction, they found a near-linear correlation. In other words, “As challenge level goes up, so does satisfaction.” Further investigation revealed that people who received a challenging assignment, in general, mastered it within three months and were ready for the next one.
The lesson for managers? While pausing to appreciate success is important, employees are not happy resting for long. If employees seem restless, allow them to apply their skills to a new problem and invite them to collaborate with co-workers to increase their expertise.
We want to hear: Are you more engaged and satisfied at work when your abilities are being stretched? Can you give us an example? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: David Kracht https://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_kr8/
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
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The art of storytelling in business has been getting quite the buzz lately. For decades we have introduced this skill in our Persuasion and Influence course. But as storytelling consultant Shawn Callahan, who works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, and Microsoft, says, “We see lots of people talking about stories but very few telling them.”
Callahan says understanding the simple framework of a story will help.
How do you know if you’ve got a viable story?
*A story begins with a time or place marker (when/where did it happen?).
*It recounts an event, with feeling.
*It includes dialogue (“And then he said…”).
*It has a business point (the reason for telling the story is…).
People pay attention when you tell a story – and stories are remembered. So mining your experience for stories is time well spent. We want to hear! Have you told or heard a good story recently? What was its impact? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
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If you say, “Let’s go around the room” in a meeting, you've failed, according to Seth Godin, author of the books Linchpin and Purple Cow. Says Godin, “You've abdicated responsibility and just multiplied the time wasted by the number of people in the room.” (http://bit.ly/bestmeetings)
We agree that this approach to meetings can be counterproductive, because many of us stop listening. We become completely caught up in our own heads, rehearsing what we are going to say in order to sound impressive--or drifting away to something more entertaining.
As we’ve long said, meeting facilitators should find ways to invite quieter people into the conversation, but a better way to do this is to give each person 45 seconds to offer a PRES (Point, Reason, Example, Summary) statement (check out our 7/29/2014 Capsule). Also encourage active listening and interaction. If you find yourself in a “go around the room” scenario, you can make the best of it by paying attention, asking open-ended questions, and paraphrasing. Resist the temptation to tune out or plan your “moment in the sun.” Deeply listening to what others are saying and staying plugged in allows you to be an emergent leader.
We want to hear. What ideas do you have for getting group members connected and updated without the boredom and wasted time of long “go around the room” scenarios? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
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Are you getting enough acknowledgment for your hard work and commitment? If not, it could be because you are reluctant to take credit. A study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests the “Imposter Syndrome” might be at play. That’s when high-achieving people don't feel they deserve the success that they have earned and so they divert the credit onto others.
Sure it’s great to be a team player, but a little self-promotion can also be important. A recent article by Cornell psychology professor Peggy Drexler (http://bit.ly/brag3) suggests three ways to highlight your accomplishments: 1) acknowledge your achievements internally; 2) inform your boss directly of exactly what you did even while acknowledging your team; 3) enlist a “co-bragger” to call out your successes while you do the same in return.
We have long pointed out the many benefits of acknowledging co-workers, but failing to acknowledge yourself is needless self-handicapping. Owning your success need not undermine your team, and it isn’t boastful if it’s true.
We want to hear: Are you ever reluctant to point out your own accomplishments—and, if so, why? Have you seen others being successful at self-promotion while still being team players? What might you do to promote yourself going forward? Join the conversation and click "comments" below.
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Does your boss regularly email you a high-priority assignment or question at midnight? If so, your productivity may be negatively affected.
Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership, surveyed white-collar workers and found most were tied to email13.5 hours a day, well into the evening -- some not even taking a break during dinner. What haunts such workers is the expectation that they are supposed to reply immediately, no matter the hour, or face dire consequences. This endless, reflexive checking comes from dread—not true engagement.
This research (http://nyti.ms/1puscUX) discovered that continual emailing often masks poor management practices. When employees face endless questions and “cc’s” to every team member about each niggling detail, they often don’t feel empowered to make decisions. In contrast, when employees are actually empowered, they make more judgment calls and start using phone and face-to-face conversations to resolve issues quickly.
Limiting workplace email is actually a trend in high-productivity Germany, where Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have adopted policies that limit work-related email during evenings and weekends. Can it happen in the U.S.? Only if it comes from the top. We believe that leaders should assess their use of email and make sure they are not inadvertently using it as an enabler of timidity and procrastination.
We want to hear! Are you tethered to email 24/7? What changes in email policy, if any, would you like to see in your organization? Join the conversation and click "comments" below.
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We have previously blogged about expansive body language as an expression of power and confidence. But what should your body convey when you want to encourage engagement and inspire and express confidence in your team? In Forbes (http://onforb.es/1peKVES) Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. discusses the link between body language and leadership.
To encourage collaboration, she says, it’s critical to pay attention when others are speaking. Leaders should adopt open body postures (no crossed arms or legs), lean forward, align their bodies with and mirror the stance of the person with whom they are speaking. She also acknowledges the importance of nodding—noting that research shows people will talk three to four times more than usual when the listener nods in clusters of three.
We endorse these suggestions—and contend that they will also make you more persuasive. Be especially mindful to pay attention. Giving in to the temptation to sneak a peek at your phone (or let your mind drift away from the conversation) will result in broken eye contact and broken rapport.
What body language cues do you look for to tell whether someone values and respects what you say? What body language tip would you give your boss if you could? Join the conversation: click "comments" below.
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Do you perform better at tasks you find both interesting and meaningful? You are not alone. Recounting her research in The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1tWZtQh) Paula A. O’Keefe, assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, describes an experiment where she and a colleague asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. “Before they began, we had them tell us how exciting and enjoyable they thought the task would be. Then they read a statement that framed the task as either personally valuable or of neutral value.”
Those who read the first statement, and who also thought the task would be enjoyable, solved the most problems. It wasn’t simply because their interest made them want to work longer. Their engagement was more efficient because they were focused and “in the zone.” A follow-up study showed that this group was also the least “mentally exhausted”(as measured by their ability to squeeze a hand-grip after the task was done). By contrast, those who were uninterested in the task not only performed worse, but also were mentally fatigued.
The lesson: liking our work matters! Leaders of any sort (managers, teachers, parents) should do all they can to frame work in a meaningful context—not only in terms of its immediate end but also its broader impact. Why is this work significant? What part does it play in achieving a greater goal? And—because related research shows that social engagement can foster interest—whom will it help?
We want to hear. Does your performance improve when you enjoy what you do? How do you motivate others to see work as interesting and meaningful? Join the conversation: click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Sebastaan ter Burg https://www.flickr.com/photos/ter-burg/
The pernicious effects of a bullying boss can replicate like a virus, says a new study in The Journal of Social Psychology (http://bit.ly/1C1qlQh). Abusive bosses not only demoralize employees in their direct line of fire, but also demoralize the co-workers of those they mistreat.
The study, which examined 233 workers, looked at the effects of second-hand or “vicarious” abuse--the impact of simply hearing rumors about how badly a boss treated a colleague. Results revealed that both personally experienced and vicarious abuse had negative impacts. Second-hand abuse, like firsthand, lowers employees’ effectiveness as well as their opinion of the organization as a whole. “When vicarious abusive supervision is present,” the authors write, “employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly.” What leaders permit, they promote.
We agree with the study’s authors, who recommend that managers take a close look at the impact of their styles and the ripple effects of those styles throughout their organizations. Toxicity starts at the top, but then—unfortunately—takes on a life of its own.
We want to hear. Have you been impacted by abusive firsthand or “second-hand” supervision? How does it affect you and your organization’s culture? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We recently blogged about the abysmal rates of successful change initiatives in organizations (70 percent fail!), and mentioned that one reason is unwritten rules that discourage change. Another reason is that change programs are often linked to an incentive that actually doesn’t incentivize very well: Money.
In “The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management”, (http://bit.ly/1woQGIJ). McKinsey & Co.’s Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken note that while many leaders attempt to link change programs to employee compensation, this type of motivation can be expensive, impractical, and not all that effective. More effective by far are small, unexpected rewards. For example, Gordon M. Bethune, who turned around Continental Airlines, sent a surprise $65 check to every employee when the airline made it to the top 5 for on-time flights. John McFarlane of ANZ Bank sent a bottle of champagne to every employee for Christmas with a card thanking them for their work on the company’s “Perform, Grow and Breakout” change program.
Why are small, unanticipated rewards more effective? Because employees perceive them as a “social exchange” versus a “market exchange.” A social exchange has the feel of a personal “thank you”—like bringing a bottle of wine to your dinner hosts, as opposed to a business transaction—like asking for the bill in a restaurant. In short, as we have long said, unanticipated rewards are invaluable because people work best when they feel personally recognized and appreciated!
Please share your experience. What was the last time you got an unexpected reward at work? How did it make you feel and how did it impact your performance? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.