Category: News and Events
Created: Tuesday, 24 January 2012 22:58
How to start a tough conversation at work
When your new baby is born (or, in this case, your book is released) it's gratifying when others see its beauty. Sharlyn Lauby posted a very well-written review of Diane Windingland and my Perfect Phrases for Icebreakers.
What I particularly liked was the objections she overcame as she read the phrases, and how she went to skeptical - "Really?! A book of phrases?! Is this necessary?!" - to supportive. Here is a passage from her review.
"If you know someone who is looking for suggestions in the best way to start a conversation, this book could be valuable. Using my example of the manager trying to start a tough conversation, the book offers a few tips:
1. I'd like to ask your permission to raise a sensitive subject.
2. I have some things to say that I imagine will be hard to hear. I think it's important you know, and that's why I want to have this conversation.
3. I wish I had better news to share. I'll tell you straight out, answer your questions, and explore next steps with you.
Each of us has moments when we're looking for a better way to say something. This book can help."
I resisted the idea of a book of icebreakers at first myself. But eventually I realized how important they are. If you want to talk about things that matter, what foot you get off on initially makes all the difference.
By the way, the book isn't just about starting difficult conversations. It also has ways to strike up conversatons with people you just met, how to get meeings off on the right foot, and a plethora of fun icebreaker games for groups. They're fun - and purposeful.
It's available here (with great discounts for bulk) and at Amazon. You never know when how you start a conversation will really matter.
Category: The Method
Created: Wednesday, 11 January 2012 15:06
I screamed out loud as I watched the Broncos score the winning touchdown in playoff overtime Sunday. I'm not that much of a football fan, but it was such a surprising play - and game - that I was happily engaged. Tim Tebow surprised a lot of people - they thought he was a one-trick pony. And he had been!
He initially threw his opponents off-guard by his ability to run the ball, but "everyone knew" he couldn't pass. So all they had to do was guard close in. That left them open for the throws, but since Tebow couldn't pass, it didn't matter.
The game changer
Except suddenly it did. When Tebow went from being a one-trick pony to having more options, he became significantly harder to beat. Suddenly the opposition had to focus their defensive efforts over the entire playing field.
Exponentially more effective
The SpeakStrong Method knows the limits of being a one-trick pony. Effective communication skill is often about dissolving defenses. When you have more than one approach to slip past resistance toward the heart of the issue, it becomes more difficult to manipulate, block and defend. If a direct approach creates blocks, instead of pushing harder, often backing off and trying some surprise moves can break the communication habit pattern that is causing so much trouble.
For example, two managers who lock horns in meetings might find their common ground and form an alliance sharing a ride to a conference. I recently heard one manager say he didn't have much use for another manager until they did just that and found their goals converged. If pushing forward in a discussion of a contentious issue creates animosity, it might be time to try a new communication approach and talk about the conversation itself, and how you talk with each other.
Playing a different game - a bigger game
One important distinction between football and The SpeakStrong Method of communication is that in communication, we don't dissolve defenses to win over someone. We do it to create clarity and a foundation for effective collaboration. That distinction makes communication a bigger game than football. The Steelers were right to fortify their defenses with every play. In conversation, while there are times when we do need to "play defensively," more often we get more done with collaborative communication skill.
Who knows how Tebow will show up in the next round of playoffs. One thing we haven't seen from Tebow yet that makes for excellence is consistency. Tebow erraticness has made for exciting games, but not predictable ones. But what Sunday's performance clearly demonstrated is, while you can overcome resistance with a single approach for a while, real skill requires being more than a one-trick pony. That is true for communication skill as well.
Category: The Method
Created: Friday, 16 December 2011 19:29
Sometimes we can miss change that happens right before our eyes. That might be what's going on in our country now, as cooperatively owned businesses are finding footholds in the US and creating a new model of how businesses can run effectively. Gar Alpervotiz wrote an inspiring article about the growth of cooperative workplaces that may be paving the way toward dynamic democratization of business in America. You can read his article, Worker-Owners of America, Unite, in the New York Times online.
He emphasizes that it might be easy to over-estimate the possibilities of a new system. However, when you see the trend toward collaborative alliances popping up in many different forms and many different places, it does seem to signal that something new and good is happening. Just as the importance of lean manufacturing is far greater than the improved bottom line from the companies that practice lean, the importance of cooperative workplaces is greater than the incidences. They show that the alternative to the kind of capitalism that has developed isn't just a socialistic model. We're seeing living examples of how business systems that collaborate without compromise are truly viable alternatives.
Change happens when: the pain gets bad enough, the vision of possibilities is inspiring enough, and the steps are clear. We're feeling the pain in the US, and both lean companies, and worker-owned companies, are showing us visions of new models. Their experience can help us see the steps to the change, with added benefit from forward thinkers like Rod Collins, author of Leadership in a Wiki World, Mike Rother, author of Toyota Kata, and Tom Wujik, champion of The Marshmallow Challlenge, who teach the iterative approach to change, learning with each step. As Alpervotiz notes, the pain of our broken system just might be bad enough that we're ready for the options.
Created: Tuesday, 13 December 2011 02:26
The Broncos got interesting again, thanks to quarterback Tim Tebow. He's starting a lot of conversations, and the conversation that interests me most is about how he models humble leadership. It's a breath of fresh air in a world of narcissistic celebrities to hear the voice of one who doesn't let success go to his head. It's quotes like these that are the real game changers.
- I know I had a lot of help. Offensive line did a great job and receivers stepped up and made me look a lot better than I really am.
The more Tebow talks, the more inspiring he is. He seems to continually say the "right" things in ways that can only happen when they're sincere.
Is this guy for real? It sure seems like it. And that pleases and encourages me. We get to see what humility looks like in someone whose star is rising.
Created: Tuesday, 13 December 2011 20:04
Last newsletter I featured the PowerPhrase:
- How do you want the process to operate?
This week I have the follow-up to that phrase.
- What is preventing the operator from running this way?
In our offices, we might adapt the question to things like,
- What is preventing the sales force from recording their sales the way we instruct them?
- What is preventing my assistant from getting my project to me on time?
- What is preventing my manager from updating his calendar when his schedule changes?
The point is, we know how we want the process to work and if it's not working that way, instead of going into blame, we go into problem-solving. This phrase assumes - as leam managers do- that people want to do good work and need support in overcoming obstacles, not criticism, when their work falls short.
Category: SpeakStrong at Work
Created: Monday, 12 December 2011 11:50
I was in Phoenix last week, leading The Ultimate Admin, where we talked about how important it is to create your own job opportunities by seeing the needs in the workplace and filling them. The comic Luann illustrated this well. When TJ's new boss hands him a list of tasks, he responds by defining his job for himself.
Okay, if you take this too literally, it could get you fired. You might not want to start out with what you won't do. But TJ does illustrate the concept of upshifting your job by adding value. And once you're doing work that uses your very best skills, you have a strong case for moving away from the work that doesn't.
What an awesome group of professionals we had in Phoenix! Several had done just that - seen a need and filled it, making their jobs more interesting, productive and fun.
Category: The Method
Created: Friday, 25 November 2011 17:32
Rhonda posted an interesting article about her speed-dating experience. In ten "dates," not one man asked her about herself. She has since married a wonderful man, but he triggered her ire when she called home each day while travelling to have him tell her about his day, but never inquire about hers. On day five, Rhonda asked, "Don't you even want to hear about my day?" He noticed his omission, apologized, inquired about her day, and has been more attentive ever since. A success story? Yes... and...
In my way of thinking, if ten men and her wonderful hubby all talk about themselves and don't think to inquire about her, it might be a trait, not a flaw. If the same men were speed-networking with each other instead of speed-dating with the ladies, chances are the conversation would be balanced even if neither party invited the other to talk about themselves. To get irritated and point out the omission paints it as a flaw, and can set up a dynamic where the men in your life ask you about your day, not because they care, but because they don't want to tick you off. Personally, I'd rather have a man who rarely asks, than one who asks because he's afraid of angering me.
Everything we do courts some kind of relationship dynamic. Getting irritated and confronting someone for not behaving the way we think they should courts rebellion or compliance. Is that what you want? CONTINUED
Read more: What are you courting?