I am amazed at when I talk to people in general conversations about something I am trying to accomplish, to purchase or to obtain, I get a plethora of advise. Sometimes it is even good. They give me recommendations, connect me with other people, and even let me in on the deals. If I didn’t talk about my goals (which I define as anything I am aiming to obtain), I wouldn’t be where I am today.
It has worked well for me because I can small talk to anyone on many subjects. If my goal is to visit somewhere I have never been before, I simply ask them if they have or know of anyone that has been there. I don’t start off with, “Here is my list of current goals. What can you do for me?” No, that simply doesn’t do. I do think of my goals and talk about them in general. Travel goals are easy to relate to the weather. Business or education goals are easy to relate to: “Where did you go to school?” or “What do you do?”. If there is something in your way of obtaining a goal, sometimes asking the person if they ever had a similar experience can lead to new ideas of ways around the obstacle.
If someone has truly helped you attain a goal, let them know. Handwritten thank you cards are still in style and appreciated. I keep a supply of thank you cards and stamps in my computer bag. If I get exceptional service somewhere or someone catapulted me toward success, I take a few minutes to write out the card and send it off. Putting it off gets forgotten. Including a gift card can make an impact, if appropriate for the situation.
Going into a situation with the expectation of getting the missing piece to the puzzle can be disapointing. The current contact or conversation might not be that last piece, but it might give you ideas or connections on the path to find it. Even if you don’t find the people you get the opportunity to speak with can help with any of your goals, you still might get to hear some interesting stories. I find most people enjoy talking about themselves or their experiences or making recommendations that they feel good about.
Don’t be shy. Talk it up and get another step closer to the things you desire.
There are a lot of things getting ready to end: 2012, the work day, possibly even life as we know it. Some people say that life as we know it has already ended after the last election. I don’t get into politics so I won’t go there. There is also a proficy that says the world as we know it will end on 12-21-12. And, if you look at the current calendar you will see that 2012 is set to end on December 31st.
No matter which ending you choose to acknowledge – an ending generally means a new begining. Are you wrapping up the important things that should be done before your end? Are you gearing up for the things to begin after the end has completed its cycle? We put so much focus on putting out the fires around us rather than experiencing the right now and preparing for the new things to come.
The amount of time we have in a day doesn’t change. It is what we choose to do with it that makes the difference. If you find yourself just not able to get things done – look at what you are “getting done”. How much time is wasted looking for things because you are disorganized? How much time is wasted trying to figure out how to do something because you haven’t been given the tools or clear instructions? How much time is wasted pushing things around because you just don’t know what to do with it? We tend to waste a lot of the time we are given. Once we realize what those time wasters are, we can make a decision to do something about them – accept them, stop doing them, or change them. Don’t wait for the new beginning to try something new or different. Recognize the anxiety of the end and the amount of things that need to be done as well as make a change regarding a time stealer. I think you will like the results of looking forward to an end with a new beginning.
“That’s not what I said.” “But that’s what I heard.” Have you had this conversation? Many people spend so much time paying attention to the words they use; they forget to give attention to a part of the conversation that is even more important – the tone of voice.
More people connect with the tone that is used rather than remember the words word-for-word. Don’t believe me? Try to discipline your kids while laughing or give someone a directive in a whisper. You more than likely won’t get the results you are looking for. Using too much tone may not get you the desired results either.
There is also history of previous interactions between the speaking and receiving party that will have a say in what is heard. If the two previously had a disagreement, a simple statement can seriously be skewed. I had such an interaction the other day. I was instructing a group of people to move to the next room for a briefing. One of the people was complaining about having to move. I hurriedly told her that it would be fine if she just sat there as she already knew the information. She told me to “be nice”. I and two of the other people stopped in our tracks and looked at her for an explanation as to why she said that. After giving it a minute’s thought, I realized that my tone did come across as short and obviously snippy to her. She thought I was being mean and telling her to just sit there. We quickly cleared it up and continued with our briefing in the next room.
Paying more attention to how you say something rather than spending so much time on the exact words will get you better results. Be conscientious of slowing down and smiling when you are being pleasant. If you need to be stern, stop giggling. The next conversation you have, listen to your tone to see if it matches with your desired message.
Did you look at your shirt? Is it really wrinkled? If it is wrinkled, at what point is it still wearable and at what point should you pull out the ironing board before you put it on your body? A group of us were having this discussion today as to how it was important in business for businessmen to have a starched straight look. Some people still take pride in that today and some don’t even know what starch is.
The point of the conversation came around to setting expectations in your business. One owner was bothered by the fact that some of his employees had wrinkles in their shirts (their dress code is full business suits). The question was asked if he had posed that it was a requirement for them to not only wear a suit but to also make sure it was proper-looking according to his specifications. He didn’t broach it with his staff as he didn’t want to start a conflict. The problem is that the conflict exists even though it is on the inside of the owner. When he has to deal with the person on other matters, there is already a layer of bile sitting in his stomach created by this unannounced/unaddressed issue. Unfortunately, unaddressed issues can cause really unimportant issues to be blown out of proportion.
If the situation that needs to be addressed is only with one or two people, pull them aside individually and address it. If the situation has run rampant throughout the office, you may need to hold a meeting. First let them know you value the fact that they are there; second, inform them that there is a situation that needs to be addressed; third, be clear about exactly what needs to be done to fix the situation (without being accusatory or calling anyone out but yourself for not making it clear in the first place); fourth, ask for their input or commitment to the fix. If the excuses start flowing, gently cut them off and let them know you will help where feasible and that since we are all adults (assuming you are) that we expect the situation to be remedied.
Most people will be receptive to the situation as long as it is handled with respect and as close to the situation happening in the first place. The longer you put off a correction, the more it will irritate people as they feel you are making a change to something that was already established or accepted instead of clarifying a misunderstanding. If it has been on-going and you have just been ignoring it until now, you may need to apologize for not stepping up earlier.
I have days where I pull the shirt out of the closet and hope that the wrinkles will come out once I pull it over my head. Unfortunately, that tactic doesn’t always work and I have to take the few extra minutes to get out the ironing board. For the days that I choose not to take the time and just let my wrinkles be, I find that the rest of my day may be going just as bumpy and sloppy as my shirt. How wrinkled is your shirt?
Sometimes I think I have been speaking in some foreign tongue because it appears people are not getting what I am saying. I teach people to give clear directions, the appropriate tools to get the job done and then provide feedback when they have done something for you. However, lately it appears I have been having issues with step #1 myself.
People really do want to do a good job and help you out. So, let them know how they can help. I have been attempting to do that. People have been bringing me meals, running errands, bringing things from the store, but they just aren’t exactly what I was expecting. The size is too small or the food is too spicy or the item is one off from what I needed. Because it is happening with a variety of people, it must be my instructions.
What I did to fix it was to stop taking things for granted. If there is a specific product I need, I give them the number and the specifications and what I am using it for. If they don’t have the exact product I am looking for, then I have to arm them with the knowledge of is it possible to substitute for something else or just say forget it and don’t buy anything. Don’t leave out the details and make assumptions – that’s the key. Once I started doing that, I have returned to Earth and am speaking understandable English again.
In my management coaching I get asked quite often what to do about a particular employee or a particular problem. The place I like to begin is at the beginning. Sometimes easier said than done because most people don’t realize that there is a beginning.
My first question is, “What was the expectation you set?” I generally get a response of “What?” People don’t understand that if they don’t make their expectations clear, people can’t attain them. We keep so much in our heads and just expect others to get what we want them to do without being explicit.
So, how do we do it? Draw them a picture either literally or at least verbally. Tell them what you want done and by when. Be careful about just inferring statements. Don’t play games. People need to know what you mean and not try to decipher the code. Keep in mind that this also goes for things you don’t want people to do. Let them know that as well.
Clear expectations will lead to clear results.
I have heard that comment by a few people in the past couple of weeks. It is usually following some negative statement they just made or a negative tone they just used. Most people don’t understand that being negative can be a good thing. In the world we need both negative and positive to exist.
Consider a magnet. For it to work, it needs both negative and positive attraction. They balance each other to create the force of a magnet. Consider the cells of your body. We need both negative and positive ones. And what about electricity? Yup, more positive and negative.
So, what’s the problem? Too much of one can cause a major problem when you need balance. It would be great to have a positive attitude as much as possible. However, there are times when you just need to be negative. People that hold their negativity inside, generally explode. Whether literally or figuratively. If you hold in your negativity – it will find its way out. Generally, this will happen through the tone of voice you use, the words you choose or your body language. Holding in negativity can cause many people to get sick. You need an outlet.
Learn to be negative in a constructive manner. Step 1: Stay calm! Step 2: If it needs to be verbalized, state what the “issue” is and what needs to happen to get to the result you desire. Placing blame or adding tone doesn’t help. Be factual. Step 3: Take a breath – you usually need one here. Step 4: Do a reality check. If no one is bleeding or dying, you might just need to “let it go”. Step 5: “Let it go” by breathing out and changing the subject immediately. The more you dwell on it, the longer you hang onto it and the more negative it becomes.
“But I am a Yes person and don’t like to cause conflict.” I am not asking you to cause conflict. I am asking you to let reality breath. You don’t have to be a jerk and you don’t have to let others be a jerk to you. Saying yes when you really mean no is an irritant to both you and the person to whom you said yes. When you are not truly committed, you don’t give it your best. Your words, your actions, your body language, your tone and your efforts will give you away.
How do you say no when you aren’t good at it? Practice it. Say it to yourself first. When you are deciding what to eat for breakfast, make a few suggestions to yourself and verbalize “no” to the ones you don’t want and a resounding “yes” to the one you truly do want. You won’t hurt your own feelings. You are just being honest in your decision. Then go get dressed by pulling out a few different outfits. Return the ones you don’t want to wear to your closet and tell each one, “no, thank you.” When you get to the one you are actually going to wear, let it know by saying, “yes, this is it.” You will find yourself practicing “no” more often than “yes”. Time to go to work, but there is probably more than one way to get there. Think of the ways you are not going to go and say “no, thank you” to each one. Then when you think of the way you are going to go, verbalize, “I am choosing to not go the other ways, however I think this would be the best way to go.” Then get to work.
Once at work someone might ask you something that you feel will need a negative response (if you are being truly honest with yourself). If it is a clear “yes” or “no”, just smile and politely say “no, thank you.” You already practiced that one a few times earlier so it should be pretty easy. However, if it is not that simple and you think there is a better way, state that. You practiced that one by getting to work. If the answer is no, then what would turn it into a yes? Never lie or make something up. You will only feel worse, so stay true to yourself. In most instances a simple polite “no, thank you” does the trick.
Let your negativity out in a calm fashion. If you keep tucking it inside, it will ooze out of you without you even realizing it. Keep it in check and stay in charge. A little properly-placed negativity will balance out your overly positive side by letting you be true to yourself and others. If you truly are a negative person, that’s the subject of a different blog for a different time.
Some people think that just because the people are behind them and going in the same direction that they must be an effective leader. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. Have you ever considered that they might just be chasing you? Good leaders do three things: set the direction, lead the right people, and let them know where they are during various intervals.
Setting the direction lets everyone know where they are attempting to go. It doesn’t mean that they have to get there exactly the same way. It does mean that everyone has the opportunity to get to the same end or result and put their efforts into getting there. Too many organizations do not set expectations appropriately or at all. When a client comes to me complaining about something an employee did, my first question to them is, “What is the expectation you set for that person?” I usually get the response of, “The what?” or “I just expect them to get it done.” If I get the “it” response I then ask further as to what “it” means. I normally get some vague response. With the answer of, “The what?” I explain to them that they got what they set as an expectation – confusion, frustration, not done because they didn’t know what was expected. Something as simple as remembering to give someone a deadline along with a task or giving an example of how you want the end result to come out will significantly reduce the confusion, frustration, and perception of ineffectiveness.
Once the direction has been clarified, it is now time to take the right people along. It is nice to give people job descriptions so everyone is on the same page as to what they are supposed to do. However, not everyone has the same skills even if they are in the same job. Take a look at the people around you and see who has what strengths and who has what weaknesses. Align the strengths with the tasks to be completed and support the weaknesses. Many assessment tools are available to help determine who has a tendency toward which skills. If they aren’t an employee, but a vendor or independent contractor that you are aligning with, make sure they have the skills and tools to do what it is that you need to get done. Many frustrated people align themselves with friends and family and then are disappointed because they don’t perform up to expectations (if they were even set in the first place). Pay attention to the ability to do the skills, not the social position.
The final effective piece to leadership is to let them know where they are during various intervals. People need feedback. If you were going to take a trip from California to New York, there are many ways to get there. If the only thing we tell people is to get there, they then must figure out how. Some may fly, some may drive, some may take other modes of transportation. If you need them there the next day (but didn’t tell them that), you will be highly disappointed with those that chose to drive or even those that booked their flight later in the week. If the expectations were set appropriately and everyone planned to fly to get there, there are still steps that need to be taken in order to complete the trip. When they make it to the airport on time to make the flight, it is nice to let them know you appreciate that they are there. Then they get on the plane, take the flight and disembark on the other end and make it to the hotel. Let them know you appreciate seeing them at the hotel. This is an over-simplified example to make a point that you need to set clear expectations and then let people know that they are appreciated and on the right track at various times throughout the process. If any of those critical steps were missed, they wouldn’t make it to the end result. So, look at critical steps and give feedback there.
People that are not given clear expectations nor given feedback as to how you feel they are meeting those expectations will tend to disappoint you, because they don’t know what you want or are looking at. In order for most people to figure it out, they will watch you and attempt to mimic you – or chase you. They figure that if you are doing something a certain way, then that must be the thing they should do or the path they should take. If you are okay with that and don’t mind being chased, then that might be your leadership style. However, I find most leaders want their followers to grow and contribute to the success of the journey. Then, one day, out of the group of followers may emerge another leader that can either lead with you or succeed you. If you have people chasing you, a new leader may just emerge by running you over and taking the lead spot and continue the race to the unknown.
Photo by Ambro http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1499
We implemented technology in our companies to make us more efficient, effective, and lean. So why did it make our employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and, for some, like jumping overboard? It was because we didn’t do it right.
What went so horribly wrong? We didn’t match reality with expectations. A salesperson came into the office to show us this great product that was going to be the wonder savior of the industry. It could do so many great things, reduce the number of employees we needed to get the jobs done, allow us to go on vacation and still know the company was running smoothly, and connect with our customers almost seamlessly. Was it too good to be true? Yes.
When we are looking at new technology, we need a plan. First, why do we need the system? What is currently lacking that the new technology is going to fill? We might not actually be lacking anything. The new technology might just be a shiny object that catches our eye. However, it is truly is going to fill a hole, then we need to define the hole. What is it that we expect it to accomplish?
Second, we need to see it in action. I highly recommend that you get a couple of referrals that are currently using the system and see how they use it. Get a free trial and actually test it out. Don’t just sign up for the free trial and then purchase it just because the time expired and you will “try” it out later. Schedule the time to give it a true run.
Third, most systems need to be set up. To accomplish the many things that the program promises, there is almost always some set up that must be done for it to be used effectively. This takes time and many people don’t schedule in the time to do this. They expect the system to just “work”. When you do set it up properly and take advantage of the various options it probably has, that is when you will recognize the true benefits.
Fourth, we need buy-in. When you are asking your employees to do something that they don’t normally do, why should they change? What’s in it for them? It is great if it brings many benefits to the company, but what about the employees. Just promising it will make their job easier and more efficient doesn’t cut it. In fact, for a time, they will be less productive and have an increase in frustration just from the fact that they have not experienced the system before. Give them plenty of time for training which will mean you need a plan to assist them in getting their regular job done during this decrease in productivity.
Finally, we need to make sure the system is delivering on its promises. This might mean an occasional audit, checking to see if the increase in productivity is happening or if your employees went back to their old way, or checking the effectiveness of the system. Match the plan you made earlier to see if the hole you were planning on plugging is now plugged or if it just got wider. Are you satisfied with the system enough to become an advocate of the company or give them a recommendation?
You can have success with new systems when you pay attention to the return that you are getting from the use of it. Make sure you know you have a need, make a plan to get to know the system, educate your employees and be understanding during their temporary decrease in productivity, and then make sure reality is matching with expectations. There are many good systems that can help your company advance or deal with logistics, just take the time to make sure it is the right one for your situation.
What do they do? They arrive at a situation prepared. Nothing is more true than when you are relying on your technology – be prepared for it to fail. I know, sad statement, but it’s true.
Last night I was convincing our Toastmasters club to to start using the new website and our Facebook Page. You should have felt the apprehension in the room. Thoughts were swirling around:
Ah, another user name and password to remember.
What am I going to get out of this but more work?
What was wrong with the old system?
These are all great questions and pretty common whenever a new system is introduced to an organization. I was prepared to answer them all. After all, I had been using the new system for a month or so and I had the same questions when I started. However, because I took the time to learn it, set it up, test it, tweak it, and finally get to use it – now it is a piece of cake (or at least easy as pie).
To do this, I needed the group to have clear instructions as to what was expected of them and show them how cool the new tools are. The problem, I wasn’t sure if the Internet connection was going to be available and even if it was, was it going to work. My preparation consisted of creating a handout with the important screen shots and step-by-step what they would need to do and in what order when they got home. I also took some screen shots of the pages and pasted them into a PowerPoint presentation, just in case I couldn’t connect to the Internet. I was ready.
Show time! When I arrived at the City Hall where we meet I noted that we were not meeting in our usual room. The screen that I was relying on to be there was locked away and unavailable. The room was full of angles with sconces on every straight part of the walls. The wallpaper was light grey and there wasn’t a white wall to be had. Luckily for me, this was a small board room and I was able to find just enough wall to show the presentation. Remember, they also had the key screen shots in their handouts. And because the room was so small, I took advantage of having a member that was going to be in charge of large sections of the website take the keyboard as we walked through the program. If she can do, everyone can do it.
The group asked good questions as we went through the new site. Enthusiasm was rising. They could see how it was going to save them time and improve communications. BTW, the Internet connection worked just great. The only problem we had was while I was showing the Facebook Page, I had a couple people trying to send me an Instant message. Closed that down quickly. Problem is, I don’t know what they were trying to say to me. Lesson learned, when showing a live Facebook Page, remember to shut down the chats, but that’s a post for another time.
The other night I was at my sister’s house for a party. I walked in and there sat my niece and her grandmother at the computer. They were registering Grandma’s coupon book card and Grandma wasn’t happy about it. When I asked her what was up, she said that she called the company to register her card like she had done every year in the past. This year they were not allowing phone registrations, you had to get online to register your card and no, they don’t do it for you.
What happened to customer service? Just because we have some new technology, should all of our customers be forced to use it? I do agree in setting a level of service expectation and then living up to it. However, does that mean we can’t accommodate reasonable requests. If we don’t start looking for ways that we can easily serve our customers, someone else will. I just hope it won’t be the government.