communication skills

November 13, 2010

Help – Who’s In Charge?

The best managers do what they are supposed to do. They lead and manage their people to deliver the outcomes that their role requires.

Be this in a business that delivers products and services; an organization that is there to serve the public or maybe a not-for-profit body who do their best for those who need help.

A manager’s role is to get the best from their people.

This means that they focus on that key role and ensure that they have a team around them whose purpose is to deliver the systems, processes and standards that are vital for the team to be effective and efficient.

And sometimes that doesn’t work so well.

Take the case of a junior team member who wants to take some time off.

A hard worker, always ready to go the extra mile and to do that little more, because that’s their way of being. They always find the time to get there a bit early or to stay on when the business needs it.

They need a couple of hours off to help a sick relative to go to a medical appointment and they are even prepared to swap their shifts around to cover their time.

They trip off to HR to ask for the time, because this is the agreed team process for getting a bit of flexibility into employees worked time, to be told that ‘it’s not allowed’, by the HR assistant (who is, by the way, only acting on instructions they received).

They go away with their tail between their legs cursing how good, flexible and committed they themselves are to the team, whilst the organization does not give back to them in their time of need.

Where manager’s delegate the delivery of activities that the team needs to have in place, there’s always the risk that ‘the rule’ that’s in place is going to lose sight of a bigger picture issue, where that’s the rule that is implemented inflexibly.

The bigger picture being the (often small) acts of goodwill that engender motivation and commitment from the workforce when they recognize the efforts that their people make inwards.

Whilst there needs to be a system to prevent chaos, every manager needs to be sufficiently in touch to be receptive to the open and honest feedback that’s vital to understand whether the processes are simply serving themselves – or the team is being served by that valuable process that’s so useful.

Is the dog wagging the tail – or the tail wagging the dog?

Good managers delegate effectively.

Great managers sound out their people, by creating interactive relationships that go both ways, to ensure that the whole delivery of delegated activities serves to team as a whole – and not just get the boxes ticked.

Whilst compliance is important – it’s not the most human of ways to be – that needs a manager to use the time they have freed up by delegating effectively, by listening to what’s happening at grass roots – and responding to their needs within a process that works for the team, and not otherwise just because it’s always interpreted in a straight line.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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March 6, 2010

The Valuable Management Benefits Of Effective Communication

Communication skills are vital in the way we lead and live our lives. The workplace needs effective communication too – and the rewards can be stunning.

For managers in organizations, the use of effective communication skills is the most likely activity to ensure success for their team. It’s where a manager needs to spend most of their time, in the conversations they hold, day-in, day-out with each of their people.

Conversely, where a manager is not blessed with the ability to connect particularly well with their people, there’s likely to be much damage done. Their people feel isolated, distrusted, demotivated and more.

When you try to evaluate in cold, hard cash terms what good communication skills are worth, it’s maybe not quite so easy. The numbers don’t tumble so easily out onto the bottom line like the sale of a product or service might.

That said, it’s there working for you all the time and possibly the most valuable asset you can have. The biggest margin of any of your products at all.

Still, the challenge is to understand better how you put an absolute value on:-

•    Better relationships – where you interact closely with your people
•    Understanding your people – so that you appreciate how to get the best from them
•    Developing intuition – that helps you sniff out trouble well ahead of time
•    Really listening – to show you care for and value their contribution highly
•    Hearing the unsaid – that gives you inklings of where the conversation can go next
•    Matching language so others understand – to make the most of everyone
•    Clear messages – that they all ‘get’ and can work with, without frustration
•    Few misunderstandings – so that what’s expected of them is what’s done, every time
•    Better interpretation – demonstrating that you really know them – and them you

To name but a few, because the values of relationships that come from effective communication so consistently stretch across the whole area of people management, it’s hard to be comprehensive.

So then, this is all a bit of a minefield, especially when the bean-counters on the 11th floor want some numbers attached to the value of communication, as an area where you and your people need to develop.

Yet, instinctively, we just know that the best communication skills deliver the best results. It’s just a bit tricky to place a value on it.

And, we can all can reflect on experiences in the past, where something was misunderstood costing bottom line profit.

You see, getting communications right is a value-creating exercise, that is tricky to measure absolutely, and all the more important because of that.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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February 17, 2010

Responsibility for Workplace Relationships – Challenging Beliefs

Hidden in the depths of the evolution of the way that organizations are run is a long held belief. Managers are responsible for the way the interactions with their people progress. That may not be the case…

Through the decades of the modern industrial era, managers have, rightly or wrongly, held roles which are seen to be very directive. A role where the manager’s word is the final one, with their people complying.

Over the last two decades, whilst this has started to change as organizations become more democratic, involving more of their people in decision making as well as including them more in developing strategies and opportunities, there is still a long way to go in the real world to see this positioning change.

There are managers out there at the sharp end who are embracing the potential of more and more of their people, but it is still the norm for what the manager says is the rule.

For the enlightened ones and as a consequence of this, managers have assumed the role of relationship builders in many organizations, seeing it as their job to be the creators of workplace relationships with their people. This is certainly an exception to the rule even then, so there is work still to do.

Sometimes, managers see this activity as their job alone and one where they need to spend time, yet are frustrated with the amount of effort they have to make, in what can often be a very one way workload.

Sad to say – even where creation and nourishment of strong and valuable relationships with their team is seen to be a useful activity in itself – not much time is overtly being devoted to this, partly because managers are so busy with all the regular management ‘stuff’ they get on their desks each day.

So, what needs to change?

The opportunities that good working relationships provide are valuable for both sides of the equation.

For managers, getting the best from their people often depends on their capacity for getting on well enough with them to help the employee feel valued, understood and that they have a useful part to play in the team. this helps organizational results targets be met, thus keeping senior management at bay.

For employees, there is much to value when they have a strong bond with their manager.

Used appropriately, regular, positive interactions with a manager can open new career doors, create development opportunities (both through learning through delegated tasks and also being more in the sightline of a manager looking for those ready for the next step), as well as create a friendly environment in which to spend a chunk of their time.

Where both sides of the manager/employee relationship see that there is a good point to fostering their relationships – for mutual benefit – the pressure to make it work is halved, making the possibilities much more likely to come to fruition.

Changing perceptions and beliefs, many of which are long-held and culture-based, will take some time. The outcomes for all being really worth the effort.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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January 5, 2010

Creating Effective Relationships – The Valuable Benefits of Summarizing

There are many tactics that help develop the capabilities of your people. One that is always vital is when you build confidence – always a challenge for employees embarking on a development path. Yet there’s a tactic that’s very valuable.

Listening hard to one of your team and reflecting on what they have said is a simple skill to adopt when you need to help them feel that they are valued.

By reflecting back in a summary of what you’ve heard them say, you really will make a difference.

Apart from building an understanding that within people management skills as a whole, the way you hold conversations can be maneuvered to your advantage, let’s take a look at the key value you can gain here.

Summarizing as a tactic…

•    Shows you heard – that you listened closely enough, to sort out what they said and condense it into a coherent understanding. This sort of close attention to them makes them feel that you were interested enough to have heard and this, apart from building rapport…

•    Shows you value what they said – it was interesting; they are interesting and that you think they are a valuable human being. Believe it or not, but many people just don’t have that sense of themselves, for all sorts of reasons. You are different, you value them – and they like that, so it…

•    Opens the conversation to more – by summarizing, you show them that you engaged with them fully. It’s about helping them see that you are interested enough to hear more. With that encouragement, they find the confidence to keep going and then, of course, this starts to…

•    Stimulates their thinking – this ‘Time to Think’ is hugely valuable for creative thinking; development of ideas; analysis of pitfalls and more. The act of summarizing gets them to listen to what you have taken from what they have said and encourages them to challenge your perception, for right or wrong. That is, your interpretation might be different from what they meant and they start to consider that, not forgetting that what you are doing…

•    Builds the relationship – by showing you value them and are prepared to take the time to hear their input; their side of the equation; their hopes, fears, concerns about the issues. They recognize that you are an asset to them, which makes another difference as it…

•    Builds their confidence – because what they have said makes a difference; they have a value. When this happens, people really do want to do more and more. Your summary will show them that you notice that they can contribute and that you will ask them for more. When they find this, their confidence will soar. Confidence which is, always, one of the biggest drivers to developing themselves.

By taking a little time to manage yourself, as you engage in conversation with your people as individuals, you will emerge with very constructive possibilities, as they grow in confidence before your very eyes, because having the ‘boss’ show a real interest in hugely motivational.

It just needs your focus and attention to summarize as you go!

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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March 10, 2009

Quick Thinking Required!

I’m fascinated by productivity. Making things actually happen, instead of pondering endlkessly is a huge step forward for any manager.

When I was in Australia recently, I met up with Dr Ken Hudson, from The Speed Thinking Zone. Ken’s premise is that things take way too long and there is a better way.

Hudson’s Law of Meetings

February 27, 2009

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson suggested, in a tongue in cheek way, what has since become known as Parkinsons Law. It states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

I would like to suggest that this be updated for meetings in what i have called Hudson’s Law of Meetings:

Meetings expand to the time set for the meeting.

Think about it. Have you ever been at a meeting when someone says, well we have the meeting room booked for the next hour why don’t we stay till then. Why should you? If the meeting is over the meeting is over.

Why do most of us feel guilty about having a shorter meeting or one that finishes early? In a recent workshop we covered all we had to do and i suggested that we finish early. One person started to complain about this.

Why I asked?

Why don’t you use the extra time to go to the gym or see your kids or go to a movie?

If Hudson’s rule is valid then we should think seriously about the amount of time we spend in meetings. Why are all our meetings at least one hour? Why aren’t these half an hour?

Imagine how much time you could free up and how more productive and enjoyable your life could be.

Ken Hudson

Ken’s thinking is fast paced, as you might expect. I like his stuff and I want to know more, despite Australia being quite a hike from where I am.

I think you might like to check it out too, right here at The Speed Thinking Zone

Filed under Blog by Martin

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December 5, 2008

Key Business Management Skills To Build Trust

Every successful manager must trust their team and have a good relationship with employees. When there is trust and support from the manager, employees perform better.

Employees never feel comfortable under a boss who doesn’t trust them or whom they don’t trust.

In the absence of mutual trust productivity falls as the employees get into politics, covering their backs and other counterproductive activity.

Not trusting each other will affect morale, which leads to a deterioration in customer satisfaction as the focus shifts from the business needs to internal wrangling.

One of the most vital components is being able to effectively communicate. A manager must communicate well to build strong relationships with their people.

In difficult times, employees might think no news as bad news, so a manager must keep in close touch. Lack of communication reduces trust; being open with information creates it.

Filed under Building the Future, Management Basics by Martin

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November 15, 2008

Communication Skills For Team Leaders – What’s The Benefit? Part 3

When working with a team, top-class communication and collaboration is essential. You need to manage your team well and build team-spirit where you can.

Where new ideas and plans are going to be implemented, let your team know about it in the most timely fashion – if possible, get them involved in the ‘how’ of the implementation.

Another thing you can do is to discuss changes fully with them, so they can voice their opinions and integrate their contributions in how they feel it will be best to work in future.

When you are keen to ensure any communication processes that you have in place are effective, it’s pretty important to adequately source relevant materials to deliver all that you need to.

There can be few managers who haven’t got circumstances wrong at some time in their career. Once it happens you don’t easily forget when a piece of vital equipment fails, or your laptop battery died at just the wrong moment. Sometimes it’s just as challenging when you can’t find a flipchart pad.

On an even more an informal basis, it can be a bit embarrassing when you haven’t got a bit of paper in your pocket to take a note or two down!

By making sure that you really understand that communication skills are your first, middle and last amazing tool in your kit when you are managing a team of people, however large or small, you will enjoy major benefits.

Get this right and you will have results to be totally proud of.

This is your moment, so make a real go of it!

Filed under Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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November 8, 2008

Communication Skills For Team Leaders – What’s The Benefit? Part 2

Misunderstandings often come from communication gaps, leading to more and more frustration! While trying to explain something new to the audience, it’s sometimes found that the manager is wrongly interpreted or seems to be speaking out of context.

During breaks, it’s worth checking with the audience whether they have followed and where necessary, amend a presentation the next time. It’s also worth exploring where they misunderstood and learning from this for the future.

As issues arise, managers need to consider what they are being told carefully, whilst ensuring that they get all the detail before they act. Sometimes, assumptions can get a manager into hot water, so it’s vital that they find out what really is fact, before they decide on a course of action.

This is not just about the ability to impart information, more, it’s about the capacity to listen carefully and then frame ‘discovery’ questions appropriate to the contextual clues they have received.

When deciding on a course of action, it is important to make sure that you have all the detail down first, check that you have heard what you have been told is correct and then, only then, go for a course of action.

You see, how well a manager receives information, is at least as critical to success as how they impart it – probably even more so.

Filed under Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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November 1, 2008

Communication Skills For Team Leaders – What’s The Benefit? Part 1

Managers are uniquely placed to impact on a business. So, the way they communicate with their people is a vital part of the package.

If you want to ensure that you are successful in your business, the way you get information over as well as the skills you use every day with your employees will make or break you.

By making the effort to learn and enhance your skills for talking and listening to anyone, you will take a big step forward.

For example, there may be times when he needs to find out where internal systems are holding back growth, resulting in poor performance in a business.

He might decide to make a presentation suggesting improved measures which would add impetus by making the systems and processes more effective. In order to convey his strategy and get that established, it’s essential for him to communicate well.

Whilst special communication situations are important, it is likely to be just a small part of the manager’s role, compared with the need to interact with their people on a regular day-to-day basis.

Good managers talk to their people all the time, getting to know them well and building great rapport as they go.

Understanding how important this is, helps those managers who care for success to decide just how they are going to develop this skillset to the full.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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