Truly Crucial Conversations Are About …………

Posted on December 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Communication skills and communication at work are topics that have been in the media consistently and have had a variety of books written.

And yet those of us working with or in companies often still hear others – perhaps ourselves at times – bemoaning the fact that colleagues are not:

  • dealing with tension or conflict effectively
  • complaining to each other rather than to someone who can take action
  • effective at getting their message across
  • dealing with customers as well as we’d like
  • interacting well with each other

We could go on for hours (at least) about why this is the case: changing trends in society, different expectations and styles of different generations, the impact of social media and technology where people type more than they speak. And the list goes on…… and on…..

In workplace terms and my view: truly crucial conversations are about behaviour not about the content of policy or guidelines.

The truly crucial conversations are about how employees interact with other to create a workplace culture.

Truly crucial conversations are about why a policy (such as prevention of bullying or harassment exists) and what people need to do.

Too often out policies canvass the reporting and complaint making process with a focus on the person who is experiencing that negative behaviour and its impact. There is not often guidance for what other staff can or ought to do. In fact many policies rightly say that a formal complaint can only be lodged by the person who has been negatively impacted by a situation (or situations).

That begs the question of what I am doing writing this post.

Let’s consider an example of a person who feels that a co-worker is bullying them.

In most cases the first reference point a person will seek out is their co-workers – and silent co-workers may well be interpreted as co-workers who agree with or endorse the statements or actions of the potential perpetrator. In other words, the silence is interpreted as not only a Yes, but as endorsement and agreement.

This can then even further isolate the individual and also create a belief that there is little to be gained from saying something to a manager because if all others agree then clearly the bully is correct. Can you understand how pervasive this is? How insidiously the actions or words or taunts of one person, through the silence of others, can be interpreted as a new form of “right”.

Human beings a tribal creatures and we typically seek to fit in. When an individual feels that they do not fit in the most typical response is to alter personal behaviour in order to fit in. What happens to a culture or a society when the behaviour that is being followed is  not actually socially acceptable or endorsed?

The crucial conversations are about what others can and ought to say in day to day workplace interactions relating to harassing or bullying behaviour.

The crucial conversations are about how the OHS policy and documentation is put into practice and how to role model and mentor new members to the team.

The crucial conversations are about how to approach someone that you may have observed speaking or behaving inappropriately to another staff member.

The crucial conversations are about supporting managers to open tricky topics with their team members to address issues before they get out of hand or become habit.

The crucial conversations are about being aware of your self and how your moods affect you, and how they affect others.

The crucial conversations are about being aware to the signs that your intended impact with someone either has or has not worked.

The crucial conversations are about people and their performance.

They are about coaching and enabling people to improve their future behaviour and their future outcomes.

They must be had.

They are founded on skills that can be taught.

They are enabled by coaching that can be provided – from self awareness to conversation planning.

The crucial conversations are about to happen – what have you done to ensure that you are prepared?


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Stop Using Sport as a Work Team Reference Point

Posted on June 27, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

There, I’ve said it!

As a person who loves my sport and who loves my work with teams and leaders I often find it frustrating and misleading when people use a sporting team as a reference point for how a work team should operate.

Stop it!

There are major, major differences that make the analogy inappropriate and misleading.

Sport teams do not spend extended periods of time together for the majority of the week like work teams do. Teams at work must be able to get along with other on an ongoing basis and be able to handle tension, conflict, humour and ongoing/routine tasks and work.

Work Teams are not given the same amount of public praise for success (or public outcry for errors) as a sporting team – their experiences are generally behind the scenes.

Sport teams have an extensive network of support coaches and health/fitness/well being experts on hand and at their beck and call. Work teams usually rely on their supervisor or line manager for support (one person for the whole team) or they may individual have limited access to a coach or mentor, but not always.

Sport teams have very specific and clear goals and measures of success, unlike work teams who may be responsible for providing services or products over a period of time and adapting as they go to consumer and management expectations. Not all work teams have visibility of the impact of the work that they do.

Stop the sport analogies because they do not apply in full.

There are some elements that may apply,

– such as a sport team of stars does not necessarily win the premiership/championship. And a work team of star performers does not always perform well together. Every team needs a balance of styles, skills and talents that suit the purpose/goal of the team.

– at work performance is affected by what happens outside the workplace, so just as sport stars need to hone their sport skills as well as manage their nutrition and lifestyle, so must work teams take care of the whole and not just the work skills.

– good leaders often come from within, but not always.

From the perspective of me being a leadership skill builder and coach I ask that you look deeper than sporting credibility and performance when seeking someone to guide and build your team.  Leaders and teams at work need to deal with a complex array of work, personal and interpersonal dynamics in order to be effective. Those dynamics change daily, even hourly.

Let’ s work on identifying other suitable reference points for an effective team.

Perhaps otters who when the weather is rough, modify their behaviour so they stay together and survive the rough weather as a unit (or dare I say a team)

Consider the manner in which different types of animals work with their own species as well as integrating with other species to aid the health and survival of each (the obvious example is the birds who eat the bugs off rhinos or crocodiles without fear of harm.

Reflect on an effective landscape or garden eco system where the diversity of plants increases the health of each plant without draining the soil of all its nutrients because they are complimentary.

I’d love to read any other ideas or suggestions about different analogies that we can bring to the world of work.

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Purpose of leadership

Posted on February 21, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Recently I received an update email from LinkedIn with The 7 Things you need to do with LinkedIn – and not it was not 7 ways to get more connections!  Although I do see some people who just seem to seek random connections. 

My personal gripe is receiving invitations from people claiming they are my friend – when I do not even know them, have any groups in common or have had any (remembered) contact in the past.

Those ones I choose “Ignore”.

This post is about the use of LinkedIn and social media to connect – be a connector not a collector.  And I thought to myself – the same or similar could be said for leadership,  Isn’t a leader someone who connects:

– people in teams to the wider purpose

– the dots in events and thinks strategically

– events into trends and gets a proactive action plan in place

– individuals within a team and helps them to be coherent and united in the results they deliver

Of course I am talking about an Effective Leader aren’t I?

And the principle of connecting rests on a generous spirit and approach to work and life.  It is about being authentic and acting with integrity and not being self serving.  It is about contribution and success as an outcome rather than a direct goal – success comes as a result of effectively connecting these areas (and more)

So if you are in a leadership position what do you do to create these sorts of outcomes?  Some of the work I do helps people to do this – it is about communication, calm leadership when under pressure, keeping a strategic and high level focus – being on the balcony rather than the dancefloor. and scoping what skills and styles are needed in the team to meet and exceed goals.

This is why I am passionate about the work that I do – by helping individual leaders and managers be better at what they do I can be a part of what it is that delivers better andmore positive outcomes for the companies and the people within them.

Leadership as connecting – does it make sense to you?

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Are your expectations whales or mermaids – or neither?

Posted on October 8, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

During the week I saw a great post on facebook – yes there can be some positive comments and posts! – and I think it’s relevant to my blog. Thanks to Delphine Fieberg I am going to re-post it here.

A while back at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way
Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.
Mermaids do not exist.
But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side
Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.
At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I orefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.
We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself “How amazing am I?”

The girl in the picture is a French model by the name of Tara Lynn.

This post is neither putting down thin women nor encouraging unhelathy weight levels- either too big or too thin.
This post was prompted by two things:
1) the wisdom of the wording
2) a friend’s response to a tweet/facebook update of mine from a couple of weeks ago about calm leadership and setting of expectations. Her observation was that this is workable as long as the expectations are realistic.
You see I assumed that expectations would be – and we all know what assumptions do! Thanks to my friend for picking that up. And the facebook post above reminded me – many times we have an “ideal outcome” in mind – yet is it really ideal?
Who wants to be a mermaid…….in that queue at the psychologist office?
A better question is who wants to be in good shape for their body, feeling fit and healthy, with the energy to do the things you love (including have fun, eat and drink with family and friends).
Sure there might be some extra words needed in those expectations for them to become clear and positive and encouraging. And I believe those extra words are worth it. Striving for and achieving a realistic expectation is far more satisfying than striving for one that has a whole host of unintended and unhelpful connotations and side effects.

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Who can show leadership and how?

Posted on June 3, 2010. Filed under: Leadership and teams | Tags: , , |

In my last post I mentioned the book “The Courageous Follower” and I’ve also since been teaching a unit of the Certificate IV in Frontline Management called “Show Leadership in the Workplace”. And it has (once again) made me wonder – who is expected to show leadership and what might it look like?

Some people describe leadership characteristics as they relate to being a public figure: charisma, public speaking ability, media savvy, good presentation skills, negotiation and persuausiveness.

Others describe leadership characteristics in terms of personal interaction: integrity, trustworthy, confidentiality, impartiality and objectivity, fairness, approachability and support.

And in my view they are all correct: leadership is not necessarily embedded in a single role, it is something that we all can do and at times it will be demonstrated in a personal one on one manner while at other times there will need to be a more public display. An example comes to mind: a team member gets a request from another department to do some work (it’s been done befor eto help out, yet only when time permits). This time the staffer is busy and goes to the manager asking for help: do I do this for another team or keep working on my current task for our team? Naturally the manager responds that the local work needs priority.

The next step is where the leadership decision is – should the manager:

a) tell the staffer to decline the request

b) tell the staffer to decline the reqeust by email

c) tell the staffer to forward the email so the manager can decline by email

d) contact the other person and explain that the request is being declined

Please assume that all contact is professional, friendly and appropriate. At this point.

Personally I’d go with option d. It demonstrates leadership and accountability inside and outside the team.

What actually happened in the instance I’m thinking of: the manager chose option b.

The result was a significant escalation of the situation (to the second highest level of the organisation) and a demoralised staffer who has received an email bullet from more senior staff and seriously eroded relationships between the two areas.

Every one of us faces this sort of leadership decision on a regular, if not daily, basis.

How do each of us show leadership?

Have a great day and let me know your feedback.

My next post will include a little more on the psychology at play at work and in leadership.

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5 Tips to Build Credibility with a Team

Posted on January 19, 2010. Filed under: Leadership and teams | Tags: , , |

Well this blog is about leadership although I suspect some of the themes explored may widen over time, here’s another post specifically about being a good leader.
We started off with a gardening analogy – because I was doing a lot of gardening myself at the time and as I worked I began to think that there are a lot of similarities between the two activities. (I won’t repeat that post here – suffice it to say that pruning, weeding and careful selection were some of the major items.) Some writers refer to leaders as those who tend and harvest from others (in a good way) and others talk about resonance from being grounded and I think gardeners are pretty grounded because they work the soil and demonstrate patience, planning and ongoing effort.

In all seriousness, that first post was really about key management actions that can be over-done and therefore just as damaging if not done at all.

For today’s post I’m going to link that to the Top 5 Things a Manager can do to build or lose credibility. Certainly too much of any single behaviour (such as the gardening comments) can be unhealthy, just as anything done on an ad hoc or temporary basis can be. These 5 tips can help you build and maintain good rapport with your team:

5 things that will build credibility with your team:
Honesty. Not brutality – be open and honest, even to say “I’m sorry I can’t share more detail about this upcoming project because…..” rather than just clamming up or claiming it’s for Executive/senior staff ears only.

Inviting their input and ideas. Provide an outline first and some boundary and then ask for opinion on a proposal or ideas to expand or improve it. You could host a brainstorming session if you want their ideas up front and to retain your role as creative lead. Getting them involved makes them feel valued and important.

Behaving as if you trust them. What does this entail? Not checking up on work progress or sitting at the desk, delegating some key tasks, inviting them to a key meeting. Naturally this assumes that they have the skills and your trust, and that you have accurately judged the environments you introduce and expose them to.

Sticking up for them. There are times when others criticise our team – rightly or wrongly – and word will spread about the manager who goes along with the gripe and the one who defends the team. I’m not suggesting you go all out and deny any wrongdoing – your teams are human like you and we all make mistakes. The thing is to make a statement that clarifies your support and faith in them as well as a shared commitment to fixing things that may have gone awry.

Dealing with set backs professionally. This is where you as a leader need to show some, but not an over abundance of emotion if a proposal is rejected, a budget declined or a promotion is given to someone else. Save the ranting or histrionics for your friends and selected people outside the workplace. Your team need to know that you are human, not a human volcano. Trust me, they’ll know when you are really het up about something – the intent here is not to frighten or intimidate them with an uncontrolled response that makes them wary or reluctant to approach you until the emotional barometer has been checked.
The flip side: 5 things to erode credibility: always smile and never show any shred of other emotion, take credit for the work of others, always have a fall guy or stooge, pick a favourite and treat them differently, and last but not least lie.

If you would like to see more on those 5 Not To’s let me know – I’ve presumed that they are self explanatory, yet am open to a conversation about situations where it may not be so clear cut.

Obviously it’s going to be easier to apply these approaches to a new team. And those of you who haven’t changed jobs or company may wonder what use it is to you – well the reality is that we can all make changes at any time. If we want to. If you really want to improve your standing with your team then you can try any or all of these approaches. The choice is yours about whether you try them and let your actions announce the shift or if you engage the support of your team by openly stating something like “I’ve had some feedback on my leadership approach and am going to be trying some new approaches to improve. If you notice me doing XXX then it would be good to hear how I’m doing. If I slip back into the old habit of doing YYYY then please let me know gently that it’s happened.”

And if those lapses involve any of the 5 items then you need to take care because these are almost guaranteed to erode or destroy any credibility and trust you have had. And these can affect more than your direct reports.

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