Category Archives: Business Effectiveness

People are not mind readers: the most important conversation most people never have

mind readers

We’re all different, and that’s a good thing. The problem is that most of us negate this diversity when working with each other. We focus on what makes us similar so that we can build rapport but, conveniently, work around exploring what makes us different. In my opinion, this avoidance is the mother of most future misunderstandings and conflict.

If we are different, treating others like I would like to be treated doesn’t work (see my early blog post on the limitations of the Golden Rule), I need to understand how you think and behave in order to be able to create an environment where both of us can be comfortably with each other.

Even though most people are aware of this, they still think that with time, they will learn how to work with each other…and that’s true. But who’s got the luxury of time? More and more organizations are now matrixed which means that people work with each other in short term project teams. In these cases, how does time help?

There is another way. A better way. A more difficult way. It’s called setting expectations and the only way to do that is to sit down and talk. Ideally, this discussion needs to happen at the beginning of a working relationship, but it is never too late.

Asking each other what we expect from each other so that we can work together effectively. If people who work together share with each other explicitly what they expect from each other at a behavioral level, it will be a lot easier to meet each other’s expectations. The great thing is that once we’ve asked the other about his/her expectations we can then present our own.

This discussion needs to happen as early as possible in the relationship as it limits the chance for perceived bad faith in future conflicts. Whatever the reason I share with you about why I did not appreciate how you did something, often it be seen as an expectation shared to serve my interest in this given situation. On the opposite, if I share with you, at the beginning of our relationship, how I think information should flow between both if us, it is easier for you to meet that expectation and if conflict arises I can refer back to this original discussion without being perceived as acting out of bad faith.

Then why do people not engage in this conversation more often? It could be for multiple reasons: they don’t want to know what others expect from them as they expect others to adapt to them, they are afraid of hearing expectations that they don’t really want / cannot meet, they are not really aware of what they expect from others or they could just be lacking the language to articulate their own expectations. Whatever the reason(s), and some of them are absolutely legitimate, none of us are mind readers, and most of us don’t have the luxury of time. It’s a lot easier to meet someone else’s expectations once I know what they are and that will reduce the potential for unintentional disrespect and ensuing conflict.

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

Assertiveness continued – Saying NO

on-saying-no_1xImage courtesy of: https://seanwes.com

A lot of people apprehend saying no to other people’s request when they are already busy with their own important work, especially in highly relationship oriented cultures. The main reason quoted is that saying no is disrespectful to the other person or can show a lack of willingness to collaborate.

No can indeed sound rude if you actually have the time and expertise to help the person that comes to you for support. However, if you really cannot help the other, saying no is about setting boundaries, and it doesn’t have to be rude.

Here’s a simple approach too saying that I have been using for many years and that people in the different cultures I have worked with, all agreed can work without being offensive.

1. Listen

2. Appreciate them for thinking that you can help

3. Say no.

4. Explain why

5. Offer alternatives

Once again, it all starts with how well you listen, or not. If the other person feels – and remember that they are the best judge as to whether you have listened to them or not – you haven’t listened, the rest becomes futile

Here’s an example. One of my peers comes to my desk to ask me whether I could take the time to discuss with them some execution issue he/she is facing with project XYZ.

Me: ” If I understand properly, you would like me to spend some time with you to discuss this execution issue that you have with project XYZ, is that right?”

Peer: ” That’d be great.”

Me: Thanks for thinking that I could help you with that, I really appreciate it and I;d love to help out. However, I am tied up with a presentation I need to finish for client ABC before lunch, do you think we could sit down together sometime this afternoon?”

Now you tell me, reader, is this rude? Does this show an unwillingness to help?

I have asked the same question to groups in France, the USA, Germany, India, China, Singapore and Australia and they all told me that this was neither rude nor a sign of unwillingness to cooperate. So what is the problem? In my opinion, a lack of assertiveness because a lot of us think that if we put our needs at the same level as other people’s needs we will negatively impact our relationship with them.

Now, of course, this 5 step approach may not work when you need to refuse your boss as he/she usually knows what you are working on. The best way to deal with superiors that have unrealistic expectations concerning your capacity to deliver is to ask them to help you prioritize your different assignments.

Supervisor: ” Guillaume, could you please get me extract the performance data of project ABC and send it to me.”

Me: “Sure, would be glad to help. Before I attend to it, I’d just like to understand how much of a priority this task is compared to the other 3 tasks that you have asked me to work on. Could you help me prioritize them, please.”

In my experience, this works with a huge majority of people. Most managers, know that there is only so many hours in a day and that if they want you to work well – remember their performance appraisal depends not only on the quantity of work you do but on the quality of the work you do – there’s only so much you can do in a day. I stress the fact that MOST managers are aware of this. Indeed there will always be a minority of managers that think that slave driving works better. According to my observation, this is a dying breed and they are rarely the most successful managers.

To conclude, I am not advocating for people to say no to each other all the time. I am just saying that saying no does not have to be a traumatic event in my relationship to others, if we have a good reason to refuse them.

 

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

3 Skills to Better Handle Difficult Conversations

difficult conversations

Difficult conversations are usually made even more difficult because of a lack of specific information/data and because they often end in a blame game. At the end of the day, no one has the legitimacy, even at work, to judge me as a person. However, managers are legitimate in assessing my performance.

1. Inquire. Ask how they see the situation, using as open ended questions as possible. This will provide you with relevant contextual information about how the other person sees whatever situation you need to discuss. Moreover, it shows that you are care enough about them to be willing to include them in solving the issue.

2. Acknowledge. Remember that the only judge as to whether you listened to someone is that someone, not you.Acknowledging shows you care about the other person point of view, makes sure you have understood it properly AND reassures them that they were listened to. There is a perfect example about the importance of acknowledging. We have all attended important one on one discussions before where the other person is typing away as we speak. What impression did this make on you? Did you feel listened to? The thing is, the other person might have listened and understood you, but because of the lack of acknowledgment, you probably left the room unsure as to whether you message really went through.

3. Advocate. Now comes the time to actually say what you have to say. In my opinion, this is the one most people struggle. People are entitle to express their opinions but they must be careful not to pass these opinions as absolute fact. Saying that “we must do this” or “You have to do that” closes the door on any differing opinion from  yours, and literally shuts the conversation down. This is what makes these conversations even difficult. One person’s or manager’s  opinion is based on his/her observation and facts that they have access to. Nobody is omniscient so nobody has an absolute answer, especially when working in highly complex environments like today’s corporate world. A more successful way to advocate is actually to acknowledge this. “In my opinion, ….” or “Based on my observation/the facts I gathered…”

The timing of advocacy is crucial. the underlying principle behind these 3 skills is that others will, usually, be more willing to listen to you once you have listened to them first. However, and that’s where mindfulness is important, if you realize that people are not ready to accept your opinion yet, go back to Inquiry to open them up and to identify potential other issues that might be impacting your conversation.

The content for this post is adapted from Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen’s books Handling Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

 

Post by Guillaume Gevrey – Director & Principal Consultant C2C

Business Effectiveness: Time is On My Side

Time

How have often you tried to accomplish many things (often at once) and, in fact, accomplished very little? There seemed to be nothing but obstructions in your path. The tic-toc of the clock was like a constant companion.

Just another day, right?

You could claim that this stems from having a lot on your plate. In fact, you could claim a lot of things. Busyness, in itself, is absolutely great. That is, busyness is great as long as you achieve your aims by the end of the week.

“I’ll have time.” We say to ourselves. We all do. But, it is how we manage that time that makes the difference.

So, is it a matter of setting time, organization or proper planning? Or could it be focus, prioritizing or follow through?

It is, simply, all of the above. It is important to realize that they all affect each other. Sometimes, admittedly, you have to hit the reset button. Reboot.

So, first thing is to accept that you are more than likely the source of your problem. Yes. You.

You then have to decide what is most important to you. Which file? Which project? Which manager? What time do I set my alarm? If you’re not sure, you need to find out because at the end of the day, you are the only one responsible for your outcomes, how people perceive you and your career.

The question then becomes – “How?”

Firstly, you’ll need to do a forensic analysis of your time. Estimate how much time you usually spend doing your usual tasks? What is the current effective outcome of that time spent? The more detailed, the better.

Secondly, you have to assess the tasks before you. You need to ask yourself a series of questions”

  1. Of these tasks, which are of great importance and need to be done quickly?
  2. Of these tasks, which are of great importance, but I have some time to accomplish them?
  3. Of these tasks, which are not of significant importance, but need to be accomplished quickly?
  4. Of these tasks, which are not so important and have vague timelines?

Keep in mind, the 80/20 Rule which states that 20 percent of your effective effort tends to speak for 80 percent of your effective output.

There are times when we all get caught like a deer in the headlights. We’ll continue to have drag time. We’ll continue to need the occasional “Reboot.” So what? Just keep reexamining your priorities and reasserting your ownership of your time.

 

Post by Rick Zimmerman – C2C Senior Facilitator

Is your perception your reality?

What do you see?

What do you see?

“Your perception is your reality.”

Many of us know this quote and some of us agree with it and others might argue that there is not only perception but also an absolute reality, either from a religious, spiritual or scientific standpoint. Then again I can argue that nothing is absolute, and that it is all a matter of what you choose to perceive… and believe. But let’s not get bogged down into these discussions, but focus on the main item in this statement, “perception”.

There is a lot written about perception, many have expressed and argued their view and opinion on the subject. What I would like to do is look at it from a very practical point of view, and most of all to Keep It Simple (KIS). Let me say that I am a strong believer in the power of KIS. I believe that in today’s world there is already so much complexity around us, which overwhelms us to a point where it is keeping many of us from being happy and successful. Also, in order to grow and develop (be it as an individual or an organization) we need to simplify things, unwrap ourselves from the conditioning and bureaucracy and strip down to the essence, the core of the matter.

Ask a fool a question and you will get a simplistic answer;

Ask an expert a question and you will get a complex answer;

Ask a master a question and you will get a simple answer.

This week I had a great meeting with a colleague coach who talked about perception and how it creates a person’s reality. It got me thinking about something that I contemplated in my early twenties, namely “Who am I really?” Am I who I think I am, how I perceive myself to be… or am I what others say I am, how others perceive me to be?

So the question is, is your perception your reality or is the other person’s perception of you your reality? This is an important difference and plays a significant role in the awareness you are developing about you and the reality you live in.

Let me answer this question with a little story;

There is a man driving a car on the highway and on the radio there is a news-flash: “Please be aware that a ‘ghost-driver’ (car going against traffic) has been spotted near Hamilton on highway 6 heading North.”. The man in the car thinks, “that is exactly where I am driving now, but there is not just one ‘ghost-driver’ there are hundreds!”.

Most of us live in our own world where our perception of things is our reality… so I am wondering how many of us are really like that man on the highway, driving in the wrong direction.

Post by Vincent Bouw –  Director and Principal Consultant  C2C South East Asia

Soft Skills: The “Hard” Skill Of Leadership

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Leaders do not compel people to follow; they inspire them to desire the same results as they do.

Corporate leaders need to know their business, their customers, and have the ability to execute a strategy effectively. In the current era of fast paced change, leaders not only need to stay current with the trends in the industry, but also have the ability to predict the future trends as well.

A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, deployed over 600 employees working at manager levels and above, were asked to pick from a list of 14 leadership competencies, and the top three that emerged were:

  1. Building relationships
  2. Good communication
  3. Creating an environment of trust and respect

Building relationships is clearly important since at the heart of all businesses is people. The ability of relating to others is what helps in executing their strategy. Good relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers, can be the differentiator between great leaders and others.

Communication skill is often taken for granted, as most people believe that they are good at making presentations or speaking in public. Communication skill is not just one way information dissemination, it really is all about the ability to listen, and plan and act such that people know that they have been heard. Leaders often need to take some tough decisions. Often such decisions would be accepted, if there is proper explanation of why it is being taken.

The context of leadership has changed dramatically in recent times. In the current situation, customers are harder to find, even harder to retain; profit margins are lesser; employees are overworked and stressed. As a result, leaders need to handle themselves in this complex and challenging environment. This means leaders have to be highly self- aware, display high empathy, and be active listeners; to be able to effectively lead. These soft skills often collectively termed “Emotional Intelligence” are very important to a growing organization. Good communication skills, thus requires one to be a good listener and being able to articulate.

Creating an environment of trust and respect really has many things tied in. It leans a lot towards values – not just stated – but practiced. Being approachable and friendly is the starting point that helps breed trust and respect. Balancing tasks vs. results based on others’ feelings becomes important. Establishing values and living them become extremely important too. It is said that a leader’s actions are always amplified, thus walking the talk becomes very critical to the success of a leader. Creating an environment of trust and respect means a leader must actively demonstrate trust and respect in every interaction with employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders.

These soft skills would enable leaders walking their talk which is so critical to great leadership, that we could term these as “core” skills or “hard” skills of a leader.

Post by Sanjay Dugar – C2C Director & Principal Consultant

5 Steps to Reinvention

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Simply put, many of us look to do some reinvention. Whether it is for New Year’s or before annual performance reviews, we reinvent in order to stay ahead and grow in our chosen professions.

Regardless of what the reasons you have may be, you do have reasons. Therefore, act like you have them. Look at the process like you would a fresh start or, if you prefer, a clean slate. It allows you to approach a scenario as if seeing it for the first time.

So, let’s start at the start –

Step 1. Where do I want to go? Right now.

Not so easy, is it? Just think about what it is that you want. In detail.

A generalized goal isn’t really a goal. Your ambition should have some precision and focus. You can and will adjust along the way, but you should aim as best as you can beforehand.

Step 2. Why do you want this? Your reasons need to be understood fully. It helps both as a motivational tool and as an actual purpose. Having a sense of purpose is a prime mover, and it often makes the difference between success and “never gonna happen.”

Step 3. Where am I right now? At this moment.

Make an honest assessment of yourself. No coulda, shoulda, woulda. After all, reinvention is about you. If you want to understand and achieve Step 1, you need a (real) start point. Do a full 360 degrees assessment. So… your mental mirror shows you as what?

Step 4. What do I need to do now?

In order to get there, you need to know what’s next. Are you going to wing it? Are you going to plot out your course and get alignment along with those around you who can help make this happen?

This can be either the easiest or the most difficult part of the reinvention. Planning comes easy for some. It is like brain surgery for others. For most of us, however, it usually comes down to asking ourselves the right questions

Start with the question of need. What needs must be satisfied (and for whom) in order for this to work? If you can address this well, you’ll know what tools you’ll need for success. The rest will follow.

Step 5. Do it. I mean now!

 

Post by Rick Zimmerman  – C2C Senior Facilitator