Tag Archives | Listening

Speak Their Language

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics - portraitHave you ever found yourself in a foreign land, trying to communicate your needs in a different language? It’s a disquieting feeling, to say the least.

I recall doing client work in Osaka, Japan, years ago. We were well cared for by our hosts and by expat Americans who spoke Japanese during our week’s stay.

One night, my colleague and I were left “on our own” to get dinner as our hosts had a business dinner to attend. My colleague spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese and excellent English. I spoke only English. We ventured into a neighborhood cafe, hoping to find someone there who could translate for us.

No such luck. We each tried communicating in English and Chinese to no avail. We eventually pointed to a menu photograph of a bowl of, well, something. That’s what we had for dinner. It was delicious – we just didn’t know what we were eating!

The fault was ours. We had been spoiled by our hosts and didn’t make any effort to learn the basics of communicating in Japanese.

How well do you speak the language of your customers, today?

To serve external customers today, your organization may have hired team members fluent in your customers’ native languages. When customers can converse in a comfortable language, they are more likely to engage your organization in solving their problems – be it leaky plumbing, providing aviation services, or something in between.

Equally important is the need to communicate effectively in the business languages of your internal customers. You and your team members must be fluent in each of your key customers’ native business languages.

For example, if you need to influence your organization’s CFO to get his or her approval for project expenditures, you must speak to them in their daily language – not in your daily language. You must learn about their needs and concerns, and present your solutions in their terms.

Let’s say you are in charge of facilities and your air conditioning and heating system is in need of replacement. Most of our organizations have not been good stewards of our infrastructure! We “hope” that our buildings last another 10 years with little investment in maintenance and capital expenses. Going to your CFO with an unexpected expense – especially a large, unbudgeted expense – requires something more than “rational” explanations of the need to replace a broken system.

To influence a CFO today requires you to analyze the investment in terms of the return on that investment (ROI), beyond payback over time. One client facing this scenario presented a business case for investing in a high-efficiency HVAC system that would not only pay for itself in less than eight years (due to electricity savings), but, over twenty years, would actually reduce expenses by over 8% annually.

That approach – with supporting documentation – not only got the CFO’s interest, but got the CFO’s commitment to the project. Funding was granted by the board within a month.

Learn to speak the language of your internal customers. Educate yourself about the issues and concerns they have, and communicate where you and your team can help with those issues and concerns.

You’ll gain friends in high places.

What do you think? How well do you understand your internal customers’ issues and concerns? How can you get smarter more quickly in “their” language? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/jackich. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

0

Bad Leader Habits

Broken ChainI learn a great deal when I’m coaching leaders and executives. Recent conversations have brought to mind three bad habits that leaders need to break.

A habit can be defined as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

We humans find comfort in routine – even if those routines and habits don’t serve us well all the time!

If habits are “almost involuntary,” we are likely less aware of them. We might be even less aware of the benefit or disservice our habits cause us.

The following “bad leader habits” consistently cause disservice – to the leader, to their team members, to team performance, and to team member engagement. And, I see leaders struggle with the impact of these bad habits quite frequently.

The first bad leader habit is not listening. If leaders don’t listen, they’re working in the dark. They won’t understand the current reality. They’re disconnected from their key players and from key information required for good decision making.

There are two components to leader’s effective listening – understanding the speaker’s ideas, needs, or concerns, and having the speaker feel heard. Understanding the speaker’s ideas requires the leader to pay attention to what’s being said. The leader may need to ask clarifying questions to ensure he or she understands the situation or opportunity as the speaker see it. The leader may need to make notes to ensure they don’t miss anything important that’s being shared.

The speaker will feel heard if they experience the leader paying attention, showing appreciation for the speaker’s insights, and learning the speaker’s recommendations. Note that listening doesn’t mean you agree! The leader can describe their view after listening well to the speaker’s point of view.

The second bad leader habit is abdicating. Abdication is the absence of dialog and mutual problem solving. Why might a leader abdicate to a team member? The leader may trust the team member thoroughly – but isn’t positioning their delegation of authority and responsibility very well. The leader may not know anything about the issue or the opportunity – and doesn’t engage in dialog because they might feel “stupid.” Another common driver of abdication is the lack of time for the leader do to anything with the information the speaker provides.

Strategic delegation is an effective way to assign authority and responsibility. That approach requires discussion, planning, goal and deadline agreements, and the like – which doesn’t happen if the leader abdicates.

The third bad leader habit is fixing – which is the polar opposite of abdication. Fixing happens when the leader takes control of the issue or opportunity and either 1) acts on it him or herself, 2) tells the team member exactly what to do and how to do it, or 3) assigns the issue or opportunity to a different team member.

Even if the leader has the skills necessary to fix the issue, is it a good use of the leader’s time to engage in that micro-level activity? Probably not. If the team member raising the issue or opportunity doesn’t have the skills to fix it, the leader and the company would be better served to engage someone to help teach the team member those skills. That would build capacity for addressing these needs in the future.

Do you engage in any of these bad habits? The best way to find out is to ask your team members. Learn their perceptions. If you discover that you have some bad habits, refine those habits, ask for feedback, and continue to refine.

What do you think? Do you engage in any of these bad habits? What bad leader habits would you add to this list? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/mrincredible. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2

More Good Decisions

indian lab technician working in the laboratoryHow effective are your day-to-day plans, decisions, and actions?

One of my #GreatBosses told me a story that sheds light on good decision-making.

A leader and follower were discussing an important project. The follower felt the pressure of performing well as the lead on this project.

It was the first formal leadership role she’d been given. She wanted to inspire her team members to high performance while making them feel trusted, honored, and respected.

She asked her boss, “How do I ensure I’m leading my team well?”

The leader said, “Leading well requires only one thing.” The leader paused.

The follower asked, “What is that one thing?”

The leader said, “Good decisions!” The leader paused again.

The follower asked, “How to I ensure I’m making good decisions?”

Experience!” the leader replied. The leader paused again.

The follower asked, “How do I get experience?”

The leader said, “Bad decisions!

(This story is based on a quote from Mark Twain, the great American author and humorist.)

I took away three key insights from this story.

Don’t be Afraid to Make Decisions

All leaders struggle with making good decisions.

Some struggle because they don’t want to disappoint a portion of their followers. Some struggle because they’re in new territory; they don’t have a proven knowledge base and the risks of any decision are high. Some struggle because they don’t have enough data. Some struggle because they can see the benefits of opposing arguments.

The biggest negative impact of these struggles? Decisions don’t get made.

The reality is that not making a decision is a decision.

#GreatBosses know their job is to lead their team – and to make the best decisions they can, moment to moment. So, make decisions.

Involve Key Players in Decisions

Surround yourself with trusted, talented colleagues. Invite them into the decision making process. Explain the opportunity and the context. Let them express their opinions, the pros and cons as they see them.

Seek insight from those that will be directly affected by the decision – which may mean involving far-flung, front line team members.

Listen. Consider. Then decide.

Ask for Feedback on Decisions

Once the decision is made, examining the impact of the decision begins. Ask those affected by the decision for their views on the impact of the decision. Ask early and often!

Listen without defending. Learn what unintended consequences might have been prompted by the decision.

Then refine the decision to reduce the negative impact and boost the positive impact.

If the decision turns out to have far more negative results than positive ones, rescind the decision. Explain why – and thank people for their feedback.

Then, decide again. Involve others again. Get feedback from others again.

These experiences will help you make more good decisions.

What do you think? How good are your decisions – or your bosses decisions? To what extent do you or your company’s leaders involve others in decision-making? Is feedback sought out to assess decisions or not so much? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Subscribe to my free weekly blog & podcast updates. Subscribers enjoy two “fabulous gifts:” my Be a GREAT Boss ebook plus an excerpt from my new #GREAT Bosses tweet book.

Get your free copy of my ChangeThis manifesto, “What? Your Organization Doesn’t Have a Constitution?

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway. The Great Boss Assessment compares your current boss’ behaviors with those of great bosses. The Performance-Values Assessment compares your organization’s culture practices to those of high performing, values-aligned organizations. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

Photo © istockphoto.com/michaeljung. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

0

Serve Well Then Lead Well

Happy Diverse Business GroupLast week’s post/cast outlined the foundation of effective service and leadership – living well, being of positive physical well-being.

If I have inspired you to take steps (literally and figuratively) to boost your physical health, let’s look at the second step: serve well.

Serving others is the foundation of citizenship in our families, workplaces, and communities. The call to service is also found in nearly every one of the world’s religions.

I define servant leadership as a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community.

What if you are not a formal leader in your family, workplace, or community today? Please don’t let the terminology “servant leadership” dissuade you from embracing the philosophy and practices of servant leadership.

Anyone can serve – and lead – from any position or role in a family, workplace, or community.

What is the philosophy of servant leadership? One must understand and embrace the philosophy before their daily plans, decisions, and actions can be consistently aligned to that philosophy.

Servant leaders believe:

  • Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect.
  • People can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves.
  • It is their role and responsibility is to enable others to bring their best to every moment and every interaction.

What are the practices of servant leaders? Servant leaders typically:

  • Clarify and reinforce the need for service to others. They educate others by their words and actions. They help create a clearer understanding of the greater purpose of serving others. They pose questions to help those around them consider how to set aside self-serving behaviors and embrace servant leadership behaviors.
  • Listen intently and observe closely. They understand that, in order to inspire the best in others, they must understand the world others live in. They do not assume things about others, nor do they judge others. Over time they learn about their players’ unique worldview and opportunities to serve by listening more than talking, observing more than preaching.
  • Act as selfless mentors. They are not looking for credit! They are looking to boost traction in others’ efforts to better serve. Their interactions and communications are designed to boost others’ servant philosophy and others’ servant skills.
  • Demonstrate persistence. They understand that a conversation or two may not change a player’s mindset or assumptions. They are lovingly tenacious; they invest hours in conversations over months to help educate and, hopefully, inspire servant leadership practices in others.
  • Lovingly hold themselves and others accountable for their commitments. Servant leaders are human; they’ll make mistakes. They know the players they are working with will make mistakes. And, they push for high standards of performance and service quality by everyone. They praise aligned behaviors and redirect mis-aligned ones to create consistent service to others.

How do you know if you are a servant leader? You don’t have a vote! The only folks who do have a vote are those that interact with you daily: family members, friends, colleagues, customers, and strangers. You must ask regularly, “How can I be of greater service to you?” then refine your behaviors to serve more effectively.

What do you think? What are your best servant leader practices, ones you use frequently to serve others? What did your great bosses do to serve you effectively? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Subscribe to my free weekly blog & podcast updates. Subscribers enjoy two “fabulous and exclusive gifts” which include my “Be a GREAT Boss” ebook plus an excerpt from my new #GREAT Bosses tweet book.

How does your boss fare in my new fast & free Great Boss Assessment? Contribute your experiences – it takes only minutes. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

Photo © istockphoto.com/ridofranz. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1

Corporate Soul is REAL

Hand of Business Man Hold light on dark background“Corporations have no soul.” I read this in a non-fiction book recently and I thought, “Oh, yes, they do!”

Let’s define what “soul” means. In theology and philosophy, the soul is seen as one’s essence or spirit which exists beyond the physical self.

I define corporate soul as the organization’s essence or spirit which exists in the hearts and minds of the humans who operate within that organization.

I believe corporate soul is not tangible or visible. It is a subtle, steady entity that provides insights into how the organization is acting upon it’s perceived purpose, values, strategies, and goals.

Some examples may help further define corporate soul. When I think of Southwest Airlines, two words that describe it’s soul to me are “fun” and “service.” When I think of Apple, two phrases that describe it’s soul to me are “elegant design” and “disruptive technologies.” When I think of Zappos, two phrases that describe it’s soul to me are “service” and “pleasant surprise.”

You may have different words come to mind when you think about these organization’s corporate soul descriptors.

If you agree that corporate soul exists, what then? Should one “do something” with corporate soul? Is corporate soul worth “tending”? I firmly believe that it is.

I have a number of friends who are former Navy sailors and SEALs. At dinner recently one shared that for sailors onboard a Navy vessel, that ship’s soul is tended intentionally, every day. He said, “Sailors definitely believe their ships have a soul. Outsiders see ships as metal and machinery; sailors attribute soul to the ship’s spirit.”

Ships are referred to as female forms – “she’s running well tonight.” Proactive maintenance is a constant onboard, a shared value and shared goal for every sailor. During the overlap between shifts, sailors describe the creaks & groans as indications of “that’s normal” or “that’s an unusual noise – we need to check that out.”

Sailors are incredibly attuned to the ship’s essence, it’s soul. Therefore, they invest time and energy daily to keep the ship in perfect operating condition, everything neat and in order (i.e., “shipshape”).

Tending to Corporate Soul

The most effective leaders I’ve observed pay close attention to both the obvious and the subtle in their organization’s soul and culture. They monitor the obvious through performance metrics and dashboards, to ensure that promises made are being fully delivered.

They monitor the subtle by casual conversations with players at all levels, inquiring, “How’s it going? How can I make your job easier?” then listening and refining where possible. They “manage by wandering around,” observing the nuances of employee engagement in day to day interactions with peers & customers.

They tend to their organization’s soul by reflecting what they’re seeing and hearing, saying “I think this is an unusual noise – we need to check that out,” or “It sounds to me like the project is going very well. What are you hearing?”

What is your take on corporate soul? What creaks & groans have you learned to pay attention to in your company, department, or team? What did your best boss do to tend to your team’s corporate soul? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Subscribe to my weekly blog posts and podcasts and receive my “Be a GREAT Boss” ebook free!

How does your boss fare in my new fast & free Great Boss Assessment? Contribute your experiences – it takes only minutes. Results and analysis will appear on my blog’s research page once we reach 100 global responses.

Photo © istockphoto.com/julenochek. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes