9 Steps to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

March 12, 2019 by  

These 9 steps can provide you with a viable structure that will offer you the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations which will have a better chance to result in win/win outcomes. However, as with any system, please consider these steps to be general rules, and try to choose your words carefully in preparation for the exchange. Having a difficult conversation is no easy task, however, if you are going to become accountable and take back control of the situation, you must at least try to resolve the issue.

Here are the steps:

1. Prepare and practice your opening statement so that you can anticipate the possible comebacks and objections of the person with whom you are having this conversation.
2. Have this conversation in person, and best to choose in a neutral location where there will be few or no distractions.
3. State your intentions. Be clear on what you wish to have happen.
4. Clearly identify and describe the issue. Do this objectively and honestly.
5. Describe your emotions due to the experience. Again, try to do this objectively and honestly.
6. Objectively state the current outcome and how you would prefer to have a different one.
7. Identify how you may have contributed to this problem and how you will act differently in the future.
8. Indicate your sincere wish to resolve the issue in a satisfactory manner for both of you.
9. Invite your partner to respond, however, do not react if they take offence to this discussion. Remember, you are “criticizing” their behaviour and requesting a change. They may “attack” you for taking this approach. Stay honest and respectful in all your responses.

Once you have employed these guidelines, you will begin to feel more confident to speak your mind in the future. In addition, remember that having this difficult conversation once, may not solve the issue which means you may have to broach this subject again at a later date.
Being assertive is not a bad approach to difficult situations, however, it can be challenging to stay measured, honest, and calm when your “listener” is upset.
Be sure to thank them for hearing your side of the situation and if they do not concur with your expected outcome, offer to follow up later once they have had a chance to consider what you have offered.
You can also say that you wish to resolve this in a satisfactory manner because you feel that a good and respectful relationship is so important for high performance in the workplace.
We cannot make people change their behaviour, however, when we change ours, there may be a positive reaction to that change. In any event, you will feel better for trying to deal with this in an honest and respectful manner.

5 Ways to Improve Team Accountability

December 6, 2018 by  

Personal responsibility and accountability can certainly put an end to the blame game, save your business thousands if not millions of dollars, increase overall job satisfaction and ultimately, ensure customer satisfaction. 

The following five basic approaches can help to provide you with increasing accountability from your team members and will build you a culture of consistent accountability for your organization.

1. Clearly state your expectations– If even one person on your team does not meet your expectations it could affect the entire team’s results. Therefore, it is extremely important right from the beginning of any new project to clearly outline the expectations and get feedback from your team to be sure they truly understand what is expected of them. Expectations, if they are to be fulfilled, need to be crystal clear and include deadlines, specific responsibilities, task details, and exactly how the completed project/product is to be delivered. If those instructions are not crystal clear important parts could be omitted or missed which would greatly affect the outcome negatively.

2. Clearly communicate the big pictureAccountability will be more likely to occur if everyone on the team understands the “big picture” and exactly how they fit into it. It is very important to spend time speaking individually with the team members to explain their specific part in the vision and mission of your business. When you effectively communication this with clarity, impact and influence, your employees will be able to make wiser decisions and fulfill their individual roles fully and at a high level of performance creating a win/win outcome for everyone.

3. Create accountability groups-One of the best ways to achieve full team accountability is to develop a shared accountability among the team members. This can be accomplished with groups who carefully listen to each other in a respectful manner and keep conversations honest and open. Each accountability group can be made up of 2-5 people and can then become a team small unit working together to share difficulties, weaknesses, and insecurities. Using a team approach they can then find creative strategies to work together and achieve their goals.

4. Take appropriate action-In order for accountability to occur, the team members have to know that failure to complete their parts will result in certain consequences. Such as: written warnings, a loss of a bonus or even extra hours served on a week-end to complete the project. Without consequences, your employees will not care if they do not fulfill their roles. In fact they may even think that they can use blame, justification, and rationalization as a way to deviate from being responsible and this will not result in an accountable attitude or the outcome you are expecting.

5. Establish a reward and recognition program-Employees need to know that their efforts are indeed driving the company forward and should be reinforced and encouraged with some sort of tangible reward or recognition system. An offer of increased pay and other benefits can help to keep accountability and morale high as well as pushing team members toward higher levels of performance……again a win/win for everyone!

Are You an Effective Communicator?

January 5, 2016 by  

Many of us feel we are good communicators because we have had years of practice….been doing it since we were born! However, the truth is that most of us are not very good at it and as a result we experience much conflict, confusion, resentment, disappointment, complaining, even anger.  So how can we avoid those outcomes and enjoy more win/win outcomes, more of what we want along with higher productivity, efficiency and creativity?

Here are some great tips that will help to improve your communication skills.

  1. Practice Active Listening, the most important communication skill. The more you listen, get clarification that the message you sent was the one received and that the person not only heard what you said, but also processed the content as you wished and arrived at the expected outcome for that exchange, the happier both of you will be! This attentive, focused listening will result in less miscommunication and therefore better relationships in all aspects of your life. Try it not only at work but also at home.
  2. Try to understand with whom you are speaking…..are they a controlling type of person who has little patience for the anecdotal version of anything because they are very organized, competent and decisive. Are they a supportive sort of person who requires clear, specific directions, encouragement, support and reassurances that they are doing things as expected. Are they an analytical type of person who needs more time to gather sufficient data in order to make a decision or design an appropriate system or process as requested. Finally, are they a promoter type person who relishes attention, has loads of ideas but has trouble organizing themselves to actually get things done. No matter who they are, if you can determine their personality type you can then adapt your communication style to suit their perception of situations which will make your message easier for them to receive and interpret as you wish.
  3. It is important for all of us to become accountable for our actions and deeds as well as when dealing with others. There is no point in walking around with a stomach ache if you feel someone has offended or disrespected you in some way, they are not a mind reader, so you must let them know how you feel, but do it in an honest and respectful manner. If that does not work, next try to come up with a strategy to overcome this issue so that you no longer are feeling badly. Finally if that does not work either, you may have to leave the situation in order to save yourself.
  4. If we are going to deal with situations we often need to be assertive. There is a fine line between being aggressive and assertive….be sure to state your opinion in an honest and respectful manner and be prepared to have to do this more than once in order to get what you desire. In the end, you may not get exactly what you want, as we cannot make people do things they do not wish to do, however you will feel better for having spoken up and tried to “fix” the situation.
  5. We must realize that men and women do not communicate in the same way, therefore, again, we must adjust our communication style to suit whichever gender we are conversing with. Women are fond of the anecdotal version of the day or issue, men usually are not, they prefer the key points and will ask for more detail if they want it. Women often talk about feelings and generally are concerned more about process and inclusion, rather than the direct outcome. Men are more focused on the outcome and results. That does not mean that women do not like results, they do, but may reach them in less direct manner.
  6. Dealing with difficult people is bound to occur at some point so realizing that often they are behaving as they do as a result of some previous experience, it is not truly “about you”. The behavior is their way of maintain control, deflecting blame from themselves or avoiding making decisions. In order to deal effectively we need to try strategies that do not take away their power or make them more defensive. In the end, we may not win, but we can try leverage their strengths to both their and our advantage but listening well and being assertive as necessary.

If you can employ some of the tips offered above I expect you will enjoy more win/win outcomes, less miscommunication and ultimately more creativity, productivity and happiness. When we are happy we also enhance our immune systems, so as an extra bonus you will also be healthier!

5 Tips for When Managers Make Mistakes

June 1, 2015 by  

 

When an effective manager makes an ineffective decision, he/she must learn from that mistake and move forward. We are human so will make mistakes, they are opportunities to learn and must be treated as such!

 

Here are five good choices to help you get back up on the horse after a bad choice has been made:
1. Accept Responsibility
Don’t try to blame anyone else for your mistake. Effective leaders willingly accept personal responsibility with class. Team leaders, whose team members may have erred, still take responsibility for their team after they have examined what when wrong, how to fix it and how to avoid repeating it….they learned from that experience.
2. Apologize and Explain
Once you acknowledge the mistake, bad judgment, or poor choice, apologize and explain your actions. An explanation is not an excuse, but rather a setting forth of the series of events leading up to your sincere apology. It is important to admit your mistakes and to let everyone know how you are moving past the issue. People understand that you can’t change the past, so even if they are upset with you for a while, they will recognize your integrity and willingness to be accountable.
3. Take the Lessons Learned to Heart
Once you have rectified the error you made as best as possible, tread lightly and carefully when considering your next steps. The important thing to remember is what went wrong and what other choices you have to exercise in a future similar situation. Make the best choice possible and, if it also fails, explore other options to rectify the outcome. Again, these can be teaching moments for everyone involved.
4. Keep Going
Make the best of a bad situation and push forward. Put the bad decision in perspective in the context of the whole. Keep making good decisions, and ultimately people will forget the bad ones.
5. Focus on the Present
Learn from the past and don’t dwell on it. There’s nothing you can do about it now, so focus on the present and move on.
The only people who never make bad decisions are those who make no decisions at all. Every great event in human history involved someone taking a risk, and the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. When you do make a mistake, handle it with dignity, take responsibility, and learn from what happened. Then, keep taking those calculated risks….that is how we gain new knowledge and make discoveries.

Remember, we would not have electricity, airplanes or the technological devices we have today if those inventors had not been curious and brave enough to overcome all their mistakes, learn from them and keep trying other approaches.

How to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

April 6, 2014 by  

These 9 steps can provide you with a structure that will offer you the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations with more likelihood of win/win outcomes. As with any system, consider these steps to be general rules, and choose your words carefully in preparation for the exchange. Having a difficult conversation is no easy task however, if you are going become accountable and take back control of the situation, you must at least try to resolve the issue.

1. Prepare and practice your opening statement so that you can anticipate the possible comebacks and objections of the person with whom you are having this conversation.
2. Have this conversation in person, in a neutral location without distractions.
3. State your intentions.
4. Clearly identify and describe the issue.
5. Describe your emotions due the experience.
6. Objectively state the current outcome and how you would prefer to have a different one.
7. Identify how you may have contributed to this problem.
8. Indicate your sincere wish to resolve the issue in a satisfactory manner for both of you.
9. Invite your partner to respond, however do not react if they take offensive to this discussion. Remember, you are criticizing their behaviour and requesting a change. They may attack you for taking this approach. Stay honest and respectful in your responses.

Once you have used these guidelines, you will begin to feel more confident to speak your mind in the future. In addition, having this difficult conversation once, may not solve the issue…you may have to broach this subject again in the future.

Being assertive is not a bad approach to difficult situations, however, it can be challenging to stay measured, honest and calm when your listener is upset.
Be sure to thank them for hearing your side of the incident and if they do not concur with your expected outcome, offer to follow up later once they have had a chance to consider your offer. You can also say that you wish to resolve this in a satisfactory manner as you feel that a good and respectful relationship is so important for high performance in the workplace.

We cannot make people change their behaviour, however, when we change ours, there may be a positive reaction to that change. In any event, you will feel better for trying!

The Communication Handbook

July 4, 2013 by  

Clear communication is such an important skill in every aspect of life that I decided to write a book about the 5 Secrets to Effective Communication….how to build strong relationships at work, at home and at play.
The book offers strategies for 5 elements of communication. A description of Effective Communication sets the stage in chapter one.

Active Listening; the key communication skill is the second chapter.

Accountability; the personal empowerment through problem solving skill comprises chapter three.

Assertiveness; knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner is the subject of chapter four.

Gender Differences in Communication; how men and women communicate in very different ways, is explored in chapter five.

Personality Typing; knowing with whom we are having an exchange so that we can flex our communication style to be impactful is described in chapter six.

Finally, I offer a summary of what is covered and challenge the reader to begin employing these most valuable skills in their daily lives so that you can reduce the conflict in your life, increase the productivity, the efficiency and the creativity, as well as enhance the happiness factor in all that you do. If you do this you will enjoy much more success in everything all your experiences.

When the book is published, it will be made available on this site….if this interests you…keep an eye on Soft Skills for Success.

Accountability…the Key to Personal Empowerment

April 4, 2012 by  

Do you like being around a grumpy or negative person?
When unfortunate things happen do you stay in victim mode?
Becoming accountable can bring happiness and positivity to your life….here is how to move from being a victim to becoming accountable.

When something bad happens, particularly when it is beyond your control, instead of continuing to feel frustrated, out of control, angry, and upset or looking for someone to blame. Ask yourself these two simple questions:
1. How did I contribute to this?
2. What can I do now?

Now you have 3 choices:
1. Take an Action:
If it is something simple and obvious like taking a pet to the Vet, getting your car fixed, a leak repaired or the hot water tank replaced, we know what to do to take action. On the other hand, when it is a situation with a person, it becomes more difficult.
Most of us do not like to engage in “difficult conversations“. However if we are going resolve the problem, because it is our problem and so are the one suffering, we need to have that exchange. If we do not, we keep suffering and the person who caused this situation will remain in the dark.
Now, just because we screw up our courage and have the assertive exchange does not mean that we will get the result we expect or hope…we cannot make people do things they do not want to do. We will feel better for trying, though.
2. Manage your Attitude:
If step 1 did not work, even after trying it a couple of times you should try to change your perception of the situation so that you can live with it. Let it go or devise a strategy that entertains you rather than aggravates you. Play a game in your head by figuring out how long it will take for the person to do something which is upsetting or try to figure out what they would do under certain circumstances and reward yourself when you are correct. Also, pick your battles, dealing with every little thing is a waste of time and energy be sure it is worth the effort before engaging.
3. Leave the Situation:
If you have tried steps 1 & 2 without success, in order to save yourself sometimes we have to leave a situation, whether it is a job or a relationship. Your health is not worth a bad unsolvable situation and your life is too short to keep living in a bad place….move on!

None of these options are easy, however, in order to reduce our stress we need to be proactive and take those steps when we are faced with adversity.

If it is to be, it is up to me!
Do not stay in victim mode it is most unhealthy and if you are suffering, so is everyone else around you at home and at work.
Become accountable!!

How to Avoid a Bad Day

February 18, 2012 by  

Every day when we get up we have a choice……We can choose to have a good day or we can choose to have a bad day.
If we choose to have a bad day…..it will be bad.
If we choose to have a good day….it will be good.

What is the difference?

Our attitude!
We cannot control many things that happen to us, but we can control our perception of those things and in so doing can ensure that we reduce our stress and enjoy our lives more.

Here are 10 possible solutions to remedy a bad day:
1. Try to find humour in the situation.  Making something amusing can change our brain chemistry and make us feel better. Some cultures actually employ laughter as a means of healing.

2. Move!  Activity also releases endorphins and increases our feelings of well being. So a little exercise is a good stress releaser.

3. Give the situation the attention it deserves.  Pick your battles, if it is an issue that needs resolution, deal with it. If it is a petty, silly matter, just let it go, life is too short to spent it stressing over insignificant trivia.

4. Make a list of the things you are grateful for.  We all have good things in our lives…celebrate them, remind yourself of how lucky you are!

5. Seek advice.  Talk to someone you trust, just being listened to will make you feel better and maybe they will have some additional suggestions for you to consider.

6. Thank someone! Constructive criticism may be hard to take sometimes but if we never make mistakes we will not learn much, as they are the growth opportunities from which we can reap great benefits.

7. Engage in a high focus activity.  This will take your mind to a new place and might even help you to accomplish one of your important goals.

8. Employ a spiritual GPS.  Sometimes situations need a higher power, guidance might be calming and when we are more relaxed we think more rationally so our problem solving skills are more effective.

9. Become accountable.   Ask yourself this, how did I contribute to this situation, and what can I do now?

10. Try this thought process: what can I stop, what can I start, what should I continue, and what should I change. Sometimes taking the time to examine how we are doing and strategizing how to do it better can be most enlightening.

So, adjust your attitude about your life and you will empower yourself to avoid a bad day.

Remember, if it is to be, it is up to me!