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Definitions Matter

One of the easier communication problems to solve revolves around our tendency to think that others understand what we mean when we use a term. Let’s take “customer service,” as an example.

If you have been tasked with improving customer service, what exactly does that mean? How is customer service being defined?

If you’re in leadership and have young people on your team, where might they have even experienced good customer service? They may be thinking “the Apple store” with its controlled chaos while you’re thinking “Nordstrom’s” with its classical piano playing in the background. Not only do different generations differ in their understanding of terms, individuals within each generation do, as well. So when you are delegating or being delegated to, find out whether the definitions of the terms being used match. This saves a lot of wasted effort and frustration.

The Golden Phrase: “As Evidenced By”

Years ago a nurse manager told me a story that has always stuck with me:

When I work with my employees on performance improvement, I make sure they understand exactly what is required. I cannot simply tell them to increase the quality of patient care; I must say, “Increase the quality of patient care as evidenced by an increase in positive patient survey scores and a reduction in the number of formal complaints.” (For example)

Giving people edicts to improve something without telling them what it should look like is unfair and sets up a “no win” situation.

Always answer the unspoken question, “How will we measure success?” and make sure everyone is on the same page by defining terms.

Change Your Focus; Engage Your Team!

To schedule a FREE 20-minute phone consultation about how you can make your work communication more effective, call 480-560-9452 or email Silver@SilverSpeaks.com  

Click here for a Printable PDF

Reducing Your Stress NOW

When I was 36, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and told by my doctor that I had been living with it for over 30 years.

Being a stoic and hardy New Englander, I was determined to figure out how to move out of depression as quickly as possible. Many of the lessons I learned along that path are applicable to quickly getting out of stress:

1. Ask yourself, “Is everything okay right this minute?” If the answer is yes, then you are likely engaged in forecasting the future or, as it’s more commonly known, worrying.

a. ACTION ITEM:  Turn your focus from hat could go wrong to what’s going right and your shoulders will

Smile on sand

2. Your brain does not know the difference between pretend and reality.

a. ACTION ITEM: Spend the rest of your day (even when alone) smiling. Your brain will get the message that you’re in a good mood and flood your system with some yummy chemicals.

3. I’m certain that, if asked, you could quickly come up with a list of 10 things you dislike about the current situation that’s causing you stress. Let’s reverse that.

a. ACTION ITEM:  Make a list of 10 things that are (or could be) good about the situation.

What I learned from battling depression is that I have a mind that, left to its own devices, will harm me. Therefore, I have to be proactive about feeding it thoughts that help instead of hurt.  I learned that I have a choice about what I can focus on but IT TAKES PRACTICE.

Using the tool of focus, I have turned around my natural tendency to look at what’s wrong and have re-trained myself to look at what’s right. Am I perfect at it? I wish! But think about this: what if you could shift the percentage of time you’re focused on things that make you feel bad? Instead of, say 85% of the time you reduced it to 75%? Then 70%? Then 65%? That’s what I did and I can honestly say that today (after over two decades of practice), I focus on the negative only 5-10% of the time. Would that be worth it?

You have a choice. Start today to focus on what makes you smile versus what makes you stressed and you will be blown away by the difference in your life—both at work and at home.

Change Your Focus; Change Your Life!

To schedule a FREE 20-minute phone consultation about how you can make your work environment less stressful, call 480-560-9452 or email Silver@SilverSpeaks.com

Click here for a PRINTABLE PDF

Not John Lennon’s IMAGINE

Imagine going to work every day, doing the best you know how and not knowing whether your boss agrees that what you’re doing is what s/he wants and needs.  

Imagine being surprised at your annual performance review (which is usually at least a month or two late) to hear for the first time that you’ve been doing it wrong.   

Imagine your leadership team’s surprise that their employees are profoundly disengaged.  

This is an all too familiar scenario at work places across the globe. Lack of useful feedback negatively impacts productivity and profitability, not to mention the over-use of employee health benefits due to stress. 

Most importantly, it is impacting the quality of people’s lives.  

When you spend the majority of your week in uncertainty and fear, life becomes burdensome very quickly. And the sad part is, it is neither expensive nor difficult to fix. Keep reading for how.  

Humans inherently want feedback. It’s why children want us to watch as they perform feats on the playground, why we look for clues in the faces of others when we talk, and why we want our immediate supervisors to let us know how we’re doing.  

Unfortunately, too many managers believe that a simple, “Good work,” will suffice. Or worse, in the absence of “good work,” a torturous silence. I use the word “torturous” deliberately – it feels that way when you’re on the receiving end of silence instead of feedback. (Silence is a form of negative feedback whether you mean it that way or not.) 

Whether it’s “good work” or silence, what your employees crave are details. What did you like, what could I do better, how can I improve? Even those employees you think don’t care want detailed feedback. If for no other reason, they want to know how to keep you “off their backs.” (Smile) 

The LB/NT Process is a simple, yet incredibly effective way to provide feedback.    

First, you use two questions to inspire your team member to evaluate their own performance:  (1) What did you like best (LB) about what you did? and (2) What would you do differently next time? (NT) LB/NT 

Once you’ve gotten their self-feedback, take it into consideration as you tell them the answers to the same two questions:  (1) What did you like best about their performance, and (2) what, if anything, would you like them to do differently next time?  

Not only does this process satisfy their strong need for feedback, it teaches them important skills like ownership of results. It is also a quick and easy way for you to develop them in areas where they need it.  

Click here for a printable PDF

Are you serious about giving up micromanaging?

How many times have I heard someone in a leadership position say, “I don’t like to micromanage… BUT…”

Within that simple word—but—there is an entire history: all the times an employee let him/her down, every time they had to take responsibility for a task that a team member failed to accomplish, not to mention being called on the carpet for failing to meet a critical deadline.

Most would agree that being micromanaged is demoralizing, frustrating, and demotivating. For a leader, however, micromanaging can represent a safety net while walking a high wire where the pressure to succeed is intense. Many leaders feel like they’re on the wire completely alone; they micromanage to avoid failure.

So, how do you make sure tasks/projects get accomplished without micromanaging? 

The first and most critical step is to use the Socratic Delegation Process  from the beginning.

When you do, both you and those to whom you delegate will have an extremely clear picture of what has been agreed to including when and how it’s going to be done.

The second step is to make sure you hold your team members accountable for deadlines. When a deadline slips and they don’t hear about it from you for a day, a week or more, they understandably think it must not have been important in the first place. Then they apply that logic to all deadlines from you.

It does not take much effort to record in your calendar a note that says something like, “Deliverable 1 of Project A delivered?” At the end of the day it’s due (and wait until the end of the day), if you haven’t received it, schedule a follow-up email for the following morning. If you send it the day it’s due, you are micromanaging and the employee may be working on it that same night to meet the deadline.  

Finally, appreciation and feedback is important. Employees complain, “When I do something right, I don’t hear a word but when I mess up, my boss is all over me.” If you want to build a relationship where you don’t have to micromanage, make sure you let your team know when they do well AND when they could have done something better. This builds trust and also lets them know you’re paying attention.