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4 Essential Steps to a Clear Compelling Message

During difficult times it’s even more important that everyone in the company knows exactly where the company is headed and the reasons behind strategic decisions, in order to feel energised and motivated to contribute their best and make sure the business goals are achieved. Communication is the only vehicle that allows all employees to understand this vision and direction, which may be why my newsletter subscribers consistently place effective communication at the top of their list of priorities.

As a manager your role is to act as a conduit for information; ensuring that your team has a clear understanding of the company’s way forward and all the information that they need to be effective in their job.

When you think about any communication you need to be structured and consider:

  • What are the key messages that need to be delivered?
  • What are the best ways to deliver the messages to the individual or team?
  • How will this be achieved?
  • How will you measure the effectiveness of the communication?

Think of someone you know who is outstanding at delivering clear and compelling messages.

  • What makes their communications so effective?
  • How do they choose the medium through which to communicate?
  • What is it about their personal style that works for you?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Making a Change?

I was coaching a great client of mine yesterday.  He has a master plan for his life which includes taking early retirement next year. Suddenly his work situation has changed and he is facing a year of potential misery. This has left him with a dilemma.  Does he stick with what he knows, even though it’s painful? (His comfort zone) Or does he make changes which are scary and perhaps risky? (His stretch zone)

Choosing to make changes can be scary for all kinds of reasons. My client may be afraid to apply for a new job in case he doesn’t get it. But he hasn’t got it now so what is there to be scared of? Perhaps it’s about losing credibility or feeling embarrassed because not landing another job might reflect badly on his abilities. It’s really easy to confuse failing to achieve something with being seen as a failure as a person. It might be that he would feel disloyal to his current team if he makes the changes or that they will judge him as disloyal for wanting to leave. Or it could be that he is so emotionally and psychologically drained by the situation that he hasn’t the energy to get himself unstuck.

He will only be able to make the change when he believes the positives of changing are greater than the positives of staying the same.  So taking the time to look at what is driving the change and what is blocking the change is a good first step. When the two seem to balance each other out we are left feeling ambivalent and therefore stuck. However, most people overestimate the risks of change and underestimate the risks of staying in their comfort zone. So, the next step is to challenge our assumptions around our list of drivers and blockers. This might be the time to enlist the help of a friend or trusted advisor to help with challenging those assumptions.

To sum up,

When there is a gap between where you are now and where you want to be and you can acknowledge the discomfort that this creates.

When you can list the emotional and rational drivers and blockers of the change and challenge your assumptions

When you reach the point where you see that the positives of making the change outweigh the positives of staying with the current situation

Then you are ready and willing to take the action that will move you forward, help you grow your comfort zone and build your ability to deal with future changes positively.

  • How do you make the decision to make difficult changes?
  • What helps you to “feel the fear and do it anyway?”

5 Strategies for Dealing with Conflict

There is plenty of evidence that conflict is an issue in the vast majority of workplaces, either because it’s being avoided in order to maintain artificial harmony, or because it’s being dealt with poorly. Either way it can lead to lost productivity and lost revenue. This is the main reason why you need to know how to deal effectively with conflict in order to increase performance and improve profits.

Causes of conflict

Most conflict stems from differences of some kind. Differences in information, in values and beliefs, in roles and functions, differences in perception. Other causes can include lack of trust, fear of the consequences and competitiveness, especially over scarce resources.

5 Strategies

Whatever the cause, here are 5 strategies you can adopt to deal with conflict – from “The Magic of Conflict” by Thomas F Crum.

Avoiding – This can be effective when the issue is relatively unimportant and the risks of surfacing it outweigh the benefits of resolving it.

Accommodating – Useful when the issue is far more important to others than to you. However it isn’t appropriate when your input and/or commitment is required and you can’t give it.

Forcing – Good for when quick, decisive, action is called for or you need to implement an unpopular decision – but only if commitment isn’t needed.

Compromising – Although giving everyone some of what they want isnt likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome, compromising can work when the goals are mutually exclusive

Collaborating – When time isn’t an issue, working through difficult feelings and different perspectives can lead to a much better solution and stronger commitment to that solution

  • What is your default position when dealing with conflict?
  • If you have a current conflict going on in your life, which of the 5 strategies would be most effective?

How to overcome resistance and increase support for change

In virtually every company I talk to, who are implementing changes, they recognise that no matter how robust their new processes and systems are they need their people to buy in to the new way of working in order for them to take responsibility for its success. And yet, they don’t really know how to go about that. Their external consultants are more likely to be technical and process experts rather than experts in human behaviour and culture change so not ideally placed to help on this.

A while ago I worked with a blue chip manufacturing company who were well down the road to implementing a “lean” operating system when they realised that people weren’t really getting behind it. In fact, a small but influential minority were actively undermining it. We worked together to help people move from feeling that the changes were being imposed from on high by people who didn’t understand their particular demands and constraints, to workers at all levels from plant manager to production line staff feeling they owned the process and were responsible for making it a success.  Instead of spending time and energy moaning about what wouldn’t work, they focused on how to make it work and in the best way possible.

So tell me,

  • How well are your people engaging with new initiatives?
  • Is it more challenging to get their buy in now than it used to be?
  • What works and what doesn’t work when introducing change?

Quality Feedback without a Survey

If, as Ken Blanchard states, feedback is the breakfast of champions, why is it muesli rather than champagne?

Good for us, but still pretty hard to swallow!

Good quality ongoing feedback is one of the cornerstones of continuous improvement in organisations. It surely follows then, that the skill of giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important that leaders and managers can develop. And yet, ironically, it is probably the most frequently lacking. I very often come across managers who are both hesitant to give it and scared about receiving it. And when I ask groups what springs to mind when they hear the word “feedback” they say things like “criticism”, “blame”, or “a right ****ocking”. Obviously something to be avoided at all costs! And if that is their view of the reality of feedback, how will it affect them in giving it as well as receiving it?

I am currently working with Sue. She is the only woman on a senior management team and feels she is not receiving the respect she deserves or enjoying the same credibility as the male members of the team. It is important that initially she gathers accurate feedback from her colleagues in order to check the evidence for these perceptions. Once this is to hand, she can put together a strategy for dealing with the issues, real or perceived.

Sue is reluctant to use any kind of 360 degree survey as she doesn’t want her colleagues to know that she is working with a coach. There are, however, other ways of getting quality feedback and this is what we have agreed:

1. Watch people around you . Sue is going to get to the next meeting early and observe how people respond to her as they enter the room. Do they smile and come over to her? Do they barely acknowledge her presence? Do they ask her a question? During the meeting she will observe them as she contributes. Do they listen attentively or look bored or frustrated?

2. Listen to them. Every time anyone around Sue makes a casual remark about her, whether positive or negative, at home or at work, she is going to write it down – things like “you always do that”, “that was really good” or “late again”. Over a number of days she will begin to build up a picture of how people view her. There is a saying that if one person calls you a stubborn mule you should ignore it but when you have been described as a stubborn mule a number of times it could be time to go and buy yourself a saddle!

3. Ask effective questions . The quality of feedback we receive in response to our request for it rests on the quality of the questions we ask. Sue doesn’t want to involve her peers in a 360 degree survey but is going to approach trusted colleagues and ask them effective questions to help her out.

If she asks general questions such as “How did I perform in that meeting?” she will get general answers like, “You were fine!” If she asks specific questions like, “When I deliver my proposal will you observe my body language and give me specific feedback on how it is supporting or undermining me as a confident presenter?”, she will get specific, behavioural feedback that she can do something valuable with.

Once Sue has carried out these actions she will have a fuller picture of the actual situation, but not a complete one. To amplify it further, I’m going to suggest that she tunes into her self talk to see how she, like most of us, is twisting her thinking in order to support the beliefs she already holds about herself and others. I will let you know how we get on.

Meanwhile, let me ask you:

How aware are you of your impact on those around you?

How can you search out high quality feedback that will lead to your continuing development?

3 Reasons Why I’m Passionate About Leadership

I was recently asked to write 300 words on “Why I’m Passionate About Leadership” I think passion is an overused word just now, especially in the sales and marketing arena. However, having spent 25 years studying it and working in the field of leading and managing people, yes I really am passionate about it. Here are just 3 of the reasons why.

Because it’s vital

Successful companies are moving quickly to build efficiency and effectiveness by becoming flatter, matrix organisations where information flows in all directions. People are increasingly working in cross–functional, diverse and geographically dispersed teams.

Leadership is vital in supporting this new way of working. The ability to build strong trusting relationships quickly, and work collaboratively, encourages the responsiveness, flexibility and creativity that is fundamental to the success of today’s companies.

Because there is a lack of it

Evidence suggests there’s a lack of leadership in our organisations at a time when there is a growing need for it. As organisations constantly search for ways to get more from their staff, in less time, with fewer resources, staff are more likely to feel dis-engaged, de-motivated and cynical.

Leaders who can create a compelling vision of a better future, and inspire staff to fully commit to realising that vision, will be the ones raising the bar on performance at an individual, team and organisational level.

Because I can influence it and make a difference

Everything I’ve done in my 30 year career has been related to developing people to bring out the best in themselves and others. Whether as a social worker, counsellor, Royal Naval officer, middle and senior manager, leadership and management trainer or executive coach, I’ve worked to help to help people improve their relationship and communication skills. I’m committed to my own lifelong learning and to the learning and development of others. For me, leaders are learners and leadership development that creates sustainable results involves helping people squeeze the most learning from their real world developmental experiences.

The ripple effect of working with leaders in key positions means I can make the biggest positive impact on performance and well-being for them, their staff and their organisation.

  • Do you believe leadership is vital? If so why?
  • Is it in short supply?
  • What are you doing to develop effective leadership in yourself or others?

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