Archive for May, 2015

When It’s Right to Muddle Your Words

Posted on May 5, 2015. Filed under: coaching, personal leadership |

Most people that I meet admit to some level of fear around public speaking. Even more people admit to feeling awkward about certain workplace conversations to the point that they will either put them off or not have them at all.

Please let me assure you that not being word perfect is, in many of those situations, exactly the way you want to be.

Who wants to hear praise from someone that sounds like it has been scripted and is being read off the page? Where is the sincerity in that gesture? Giving praise is supposed to be genuine, honest and personal feedback.

Sure if you are giving praise in a public forum such as an awards night or event then you want to be prepared to some degree – but the heartfelt connection and language is something that is very obviously missing from far too many conversations.

And as for performance feedback or workplace change conversations where a manager needs to deliver what can be described as disappointing or unsettling news. Well. Too many times as a HR consultant I have been asked to help as a result of conversations that were never had.

Would you believe that one client of mine had a situation where a team leader was so unwilling to give anything except positive feedback that an employee who wasn’t suited to the role (in terms of stress felt by them and performance below par) that the team leader shifted work away from that employee and onto others in the team. This went on for eight years – yes years – and was only called to a head when a new team leader was appointed. The new team leader had a conversation with the employee that ought to have occurred many years previously. It was never going to go well was it? The employee was upset and confused as everything had been ok and acceptable up until now – therefore this must be a case of harassment or bullying and it is all because of the new team leader. Others in the team had been struggling under the weight of workloads and the pressure of picking up the pieces for their colleague. If that conversation had been held earlier it would have been much less devastating for all involved.

Me presenting MV Coaching courseMy point is that there are some conversations where there is emotion and it should be acknowledged. My tips are:

– it is ok to state that “this is not an easy conversation for either of us”

– it is ok to pause – in fact sometimes shutting up is exactly what is needed to allow the other person to take on board what has been said

– feeling emotional is not permission to be unprofessional or rude. If the emotion gets overwhelming for either party, it is fine to request a break or suggest that we meet again later today or tomorrow

– not every piece of news is received in the way you think it will be. For example, one client had a situation with an employee who was not performing to the required standard and he was really worried about the reaction he was going to get from the employee. He and I worked through the situation and I suggested a couple of key phrases he could use, and also some points in the conversation where he should stop talking! The outcome was that the employee agreed that his performance was below standard, said that he didn’t really like that type of work and would prefer to do something else! Problem solved with no stress, no long term ramifications and both people leaving the room feeling like a load had been taken off their shoulders

– honesty sometimes mean speaking about the principle of something and having evidence while being willing to work on a solution

– if you need to advise an employee that their role is no longer required in the organisation, choose a time when they are not in back to back meetings and don’t ever do it on a Friday. This news often takes 24 hours or so to have it’s full impact and if that happens on a weekend the employee may not have access to support or a friendly ear.

When you are speaking to an audience or a group, once again sounding scripted can actually destroy rapport and lead to the audience feeling conned rather than engaged. That said though, ums and errs are never acceptable in my view! (I shall avoid that particular soapbox unless specifically asked) There is nothing wrong with pausing and taking a breath.

Too often we seem to think that being professional and an expert is to talk all the time. When we speak we share what we know, yet when we listen we might just learn something new.

Being word perfect has its place but that place is not everywhere.

Go well with your communication. Connect with others.

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