Management Success Tip #185: The Non-Rocket Science Art of Listening

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know how irritating it is when someone you’re talking to, usually a close friend or family member, is texting while you’re trying to get across something really important to you? Or maybe they’re not looking at you, but at something else? Or when they give you that blank stare as in “Whatever you’re saying it’s just so much blabla”?

Now with that close friend or family member, you have the freedom to say “Hey, listen up! This is important!” But when you are texting, looking at something or someone other than the person in front of you, or thinking about something totally unrelated which causes that blank stare, while your employee is trying to get across something really important to them—that employee does not have the freedom to say “Hey, listen up! This is important!” All your employee can do is stand there, feeling disrespected, dismissed and in general, devalued.

Not a great way to manage your peeps! Back in 1957, Ralph G. Nichols and Leonard A. Stevens wrote in a 1957 HBR article (yes, Harvard Business Review existed even waaaay back then); “It can be stated, with practically no qualification, that people in general do not know how to listen. They have ears that hear very well, but seldom have they acquired the necessary aural skills which would allow those ears to be used effectively for what is called listening.” Nichols and Stevens studied thousands of students and hundreds of business people, and what they found was that most retained only 50% of what they had heard—immediately after they’d heard it! And only 25% some six months later.

What does listening involve? Basically, your attention. Your 100% attention on what the person is saying to you, on looking at them, preferably engaging good eye contact, and acknowledging that you are listening by either nodding your head from time to time or saying something like “Uh-huh.”

Not rocket science. But it does mean you can’t be formulating your response while they are talking, nor can you text, daydream, tune out or otherwise withdraw your attention from the individual in front of you.

Accord your employees the basic respect of really listening to them, and they will respect you in turn.

Advertisements

Management Success Tip #179: Let the Three Good Things Game Lift Your Work-Mood

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When things are going well, and your employees are all exceeding your expectations (except for Sam, but then, hey, “into every life” and all that), you’re in a great mood, flying high, life is good.

When things aren’t, you grind your teeth, your stomach is a mess, you can’t sleep the night through if you can even get to sleep in the first place, and you wonder why oh why did you ever accept that promotion to the supposedly magical land of manager-hood?

Time to play the “Three Good Things” game!

Research by Joyce E. Bono and Theresa M. Glomb shows that when people at work were asked to find three good things from their day and then write about them for about ten minutes that night, their stress was reduced, they had fewer mental and physical complaints, and they felt more positive about their work.

I don’t care how crappy a day it was, you can always find three things to be grateful for. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re still breathing. Hey, that’s a plus! Maybe it’s that most of your employees were where they were supposed to be, and on time, even if what they were doing wasn’t up to par. They showed up! That’s step one. Maybe it’s that you figured out what the problem was that was slowing up production. That’s going to be even more important in the weeks to come.

Not bad, altogether. And with the simple expedience of finding three positive things in your day, no matter how seemingly small, and why they mattered, your stress level diminished. Which means more room was freed up in your brain for creative thinking. Which means tomorrow is likely to be a more productive day.

Three things! When you’ve mastered three, go for four or five or ten. Your stress level will diminish accordingly, and your happiness factor most definitely increase.

Management Success Tip #175: 3 Steps to Getting Employee-Resented Tasks Done: Give a Reason, Get Real, Give a Reward

Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Into every manager’s life must fall those tasks you hate to inflict upon your team, yet must get done. Mainly because they’ve been inflicted on you by your higher-ups . . . or just because it’s that time of year.

It’s tempting to say to your team “Just do it!” and stuff your ears with cotton wads so you don’t hear their grumbling. It doesn’t work well with your kids, you should hardly be surprised that it doesn’t work well with your team either. Oh, they may do the task, but half-heartedly, not thoroughly, and with zero enthusiasm. Which disinterest may then bleed into other parts of their work, which is a shame, because they’re usually high-functioning.

There’s an easy 3-step fix: give them a reason, get real, give them a reward.

Give them a reason: “The image library has to be labeled and catalogued because it eats up far too much of our time to search haphazardly.” “Corporate year-end report must include our stats; if we don’t provide them, corporate will  send in an outside consultant to dig them up and that will mess with our work flow.”

Get real: “I don’t like having to do it either! I don’t like having to ask you to label and catalogue; it’s boring, mind-numbing and tedious. And yes, I’ll be taking on a chunk of it to do also. I’m not asking you to do something I won’t do.” “Yes, pulling the stats together is a real nuisance, but having an outsider poke around in our work is even more of a nuisance. Let’s get organized and get this done as painlessly and quickly as possible.”

Give them a reward: “When we’re done, I’m treating everyone to lunch/giving you all Friday afternoon off/tickets to the ball game/etc.” In a word, whatever works. Whatever pleases your team and is meaningful to them.

People respond to honesty and shared endeavor. And if you can find a way to kick in your sense of humor, so much the better.

“Happy Employees Equal Productivity & Profits: 101 Winning Tips” Now Available On Kindle

Happy Employees Equal Productivity and Profits

The booklet, Happy Employees Equal Productivity & Profits: 101 Winning Tips, is now available on Kindle for $3.99.

Why do some companies consistently enjoy resounding profits, high employee productivity, low turnover and a workforce that is willing to go the extra mile, regardless of the economic cycle–while others struggle in times of plenty? The secret is astonishingly simple:

Successful companies of all sizes actively and passionately show members
of their workforce that the company truly appreciates and values their efforts.

An appreciated employee is a happy employee. And happy employees translate into your making more money.

The tips in this booklet can be implemented immediately at little or no cost, to increase your company’s productivity and profits.

Tips are divided into 11 topics:

  • Why Appreciate?
  • Set the Tone
  • The Workplace
  • Catch ‘Em in the Act
  • Problem Solving
  • Employee Opinions
  • Engage Employees
  • Reward & Recognition
  • Appreciate Boomers
  • Appreciate GenXers
  • Appreciate Millenials

Sample Tips:

Give clear direction. It’s up to you to make sure the employee understands a task, not up to them to mind-read. Value employees by making it easy for them to succeed.

Respect all your employees. Put-downs and sarcasm hurt people. Teasing usually pleases the teaser far more than the teasee. Treat every­one with courtesy.

Be true to your word. Whatever you promise, big or small, deliver it. If you can’t deliver, proactively seek an equally attractive al­ternative and explain the situation honestly. The more you deliver on your promises, the more your employees will deliver for you.

Support employee personal needs as your budget permits, from the simple – stamps & greeting cards available for sale at the recep­tionist’s desk, the local laundry offers pick-up & delivery service, to the complex — onsite child care, a gym, an ATM.

Praise specifically. “The way you sum­marized the Smith meeting in your report was very concise, very helpful. Thanks.” “Fixing the timing mechanism so quickly got us back on track for that big order. Thank you.” Specific praise is more meaningful than general.

Fix the problem, not the blame. The employee knows he/she has messed up. More lambasting only demoralizes your employee further. Move on to problem solving as quickly as possible.

Break solutions down into small man­ageable steps. Too large a goal is a set up for failure. People are motivated by success. Many small goals achieved lead to a successful final outcome.

Let your suggestion box live up to its name. The more seriously you consider an employee’s suggestion and let it be known who’s idea it is, how great it is, and how you’re using all or part of it, the more beneficial those sugges­tions will be.

Show employees where they fit in the bigger picture. Every job is important. Make sure each employee knows exactly the value of his/her contribution.

Reward often. Don’t wait for major accomplishments to give rewards. Reward frequently with a “congrats!” email or card, a humorous “gold star,” a free lunch or designer coffee.

Management Success Tip #162: Get the Best From Team Conflict: Bring Out Your Inner Referee!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Conflict is challenging for most people. Yet the ability to hold different opinions and argue for them is one of the best ways to ferret out those ideas that will benefit your company, and which lack sufficient potential.

As David Burkus states: “If you team always agrees, that might suggest that people are self-censoring their ideas, or worse, not generating any new ideas at all. Research suggests that teams that forgo traditional brainstorming rules and debate over ideas as they’re presented end up with more and better ideas. As a leader, it may seem like your job is to break up fights, but don’t be afraid to act as a referee instead — allowing the fight over ideas to unfold, but making sure it stays fair and doesn’t get personal.”

There you have it! Let opposing ideas come forth, encourage the many voices on your team, and bring out your inner referee as needed. As long as a fight is fair, that no one feels you are taking sides, that you are weighing the pros and cons judiciously, and encouraging your team to do the same, not only will dynamite ideas emerge, but your team will have the satisfaction of a thorough discussion.

Yes, adopting the referee role is more demanding than simply imposing your will, but the results are well worth the effort, both in team satisfaction and solid, business-worthy ideas.

Management Success Tip #161: Servant-Leader: Not Just a Concept, a Powerful Success Generator

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your CEO is espousing the concept of “servant-leader” as the latest and greatest way to build a platform from which tremendous productivity and performance will soar. And indeed, the idea of “servant-leader” sounds inspiring, even awe-inspiring: “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong… The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

But as you scramble to meet this quarter’s deadlines, goals and other obligations, find someplace on your desktop to park yet another project requiring immediate attention, and winnow through today’s endless emails, texts and voicemails, all you can say is “How the heck am I supposed to be a ‘servant-leader’ along with everything else on my plate?!”

One step at a time. And the first step is easy, it consists of asking yourself a few questions, such as “What are my employees happy about? What aren’t they happy about? What are their challenges? How can I better respond to those challenges?” You know more than you think you do about what works for your employees and what doesn’t. And if you’re not sure, invite anonymous comments, make it safe for employees to share their experiences – good and bad.

Then, solicit ideas about how you can respond to employee experiences: how to amp the positive, find solutions to the negative.

And there you have it. You are now a budding servant-leader. By putting your employees’ concerns front and center (serving), you make it possible for both your workers and your company to thrive (leading to success).

Management Success Tip #157: Appear Confident During Crises without Channeling Your Inner Action Hero

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If managing employees was easy, business would practically run itself. Not! Management is usually about putting out fires with brief respites in between, which is why, as one of your colleagues says “They pay us the big bucks.” Yeah, right. You wish!

Meanwhile, sometimes the hardest thing to do while in the midst of putting out another of said fires, is to do so with confidence. Yes, you know what you’re doing – for the most part – but how well it will work, over the long haul as well as the short, etc., isn’t all that certain.

And yet, according to Georgina Stewart of Lead Change Group: “If you are not confident in yourself, the plan that you have formed or the actions that you are taking – how can you expect others to be confident in your ability? At the very least we ask that you appear calm, collected and confident at all times as causing others to panic on top of the situation you are already in will simply cause more stress and will burden you further.”

No, you don’t have to channel your inner Action-Hero, you just need to appear calm, collected and confident so as not to sow further panic in the ranks. And that is largely a matter of body language.

Stand straight, walk tall. Wipe the frown off your forehead, and as best you can, keep a neutral expression on your face. Think before you speak, and speak deliberately.

Here’s the thing: even as you adjust your body language for the benefit of your employees, science tells us that adopting such postures will help you feel more confident, and that, in and of itself, is worth the effort.