Talking about difficult issues

Talking about difficult issues

Talking about difficult issues is a challenge that all managers have to face. And sometimes away from work, hard things need to be said to friends and family. For some people it can feel really difficult to do. Here is some advice on how to do it well.

Talking to people about difficult issues is best done after careful thought and preparation. At home, you might want to talk to a partner about a change in your relationship. At work, it might be about negotiating a pay rise or dealing with a difficult colleague. Wherever you need to talk about a difficult issue, knowing how to prepare gives you a better chance of success.

Timing is critical

Raising a difficult issue is never easy but there are better and worse times to do it. If you know the person is dealing already with difficult things, it might be better to postpone if you can. At least, try to choose the best time in the day for them. We all have times when we are at our best. Don’t choose the morning for a night owl. Try never to talk about difficult things before your listener has had breakfast, or at least a coffee. In fact, don’t choose any time when they are likely to be hungry.

Speaking at a time when they are preparing for an important event, about to rush off to a meeting or watching their favorite television program, is not going to get you their best attention. Try to find an island of calm in their day, then speak to them in a quiet and private space.

Know what you want to say

Be absolutely clear in your own mind about the message. Know what you are asking for and why. Why is it important and why now? How does this fit in with everything else going on around them? Who is going to be affected most by what you say and in what way? How would you like your listener to respond? What would you like them to do next?

Get your information together beforehand.

Research the subject you want to discuss. Make sure you have all the facts or at least as many as possible. Be sure you know exactly what will be involved for them in meeting your request or receiving your news. Make sure you are clear about why it is worth them making a change. Have the evidence to support what you are going to say. How are they going to feel when they hear your news? If it is going to cause them pain, how can you keep that pain to a minimum?Prepare to make your case

If it is appropriate, be ready to show why the change will benefit the other person as well as you. Can you highlight how changes like this have been beneficial in the past? How will you show the evidence and anything that will support what you are going to say? Choose the words you will use carefully and practice saying them. Imagine a positive outcome as you practice.

Be ready for the discussion

Think about the possible responses and how you will handle them. Be ready to be flexible; what changes are you prepared to make to your request? Think of solutions that will suit both of you. Be clear about what you want and why it makes sense. Know what is not negotiable.

Be ready to listen at least as much as you speak during your encounter. Listen carefully, watch their body language and prepare for your flexible response.

Each situation is different

Each situation is different and, however much you prepare, you may need time to consider their response. Be prepared to take time out. Whatever their response, don’t get angry or upset. Try to stay in control of the situation. The person needs to know this is important but don’t over react. Work on keeping options open and the relationship intact.

With careful preparation and consideration for the other person, you will achieve the best possible outcome from your discussion of that difficult issue.

Working with a coach really can help you develop good relationships. Get in touch at the email address below – I offer a free half hour trial session by phone or Skype.
Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

Active Listening and Good Communication

Active Listening and Good Communication

Building relationships at work and at home depends upon good communication. This includes the ability to really “hear” what the other person Active Listening and good communicationis trying to say. if you practice the skill of active listening, you will be able to communicate better.

In coaching we spend a lot of time thinking about active listening – for us it is a core skill. Active listening is hearing with engagement. In active listening you work to not just to hear the words, but to understand exactly what the other person is trying to say.

Active listening helps the other person to feel appreciated and respected. It helps them to have trust.

Active listening is a skill that requires practice but here are some tips to help you on your way.

  1. Position – be somewhere where you can see and be seen by your hearer for important messages. Talking one to one, or in small groups, sit up straight or lean forward slightly to show your attentiveness through body language.
  2. Maintain comfortable eye contact. Again one to one and in a small group, you need to judge the night degree of eye contact. Give good warm “face”,  and don’t stare them down or threaten with your glare. Remember, acceptable eye contact changes with culture. In some cultures it is very rude indeed to look straight into someone’s eyes.
  3. Minimize external distractions. Reduce external noise. Turn off the TV in the corner of the room. Ask people to stop what else they are doing and switch off your mobile phone. If someone comes to talk to you in your office at work, it is better to ask them to wait outside than to go on writing whilst they are in the room.  Writing on looks arrogant and it sends a clear message about what you think of their status relative to yours.
  4. Respond appropriately – when someone is talking to you show that you understand. You can murmur (“uh-huh” and “um-hmm”) and nod. Raise your eyebrows. Say words such as “Really” and “Interesting,” as well as more direct prompts: “What did you do then?” and “What did she say?” All these things show that you are interested and encourage the other person to keep talking.
  5. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying. If you concentrate properly on what someone is saying to you, your response will usually come naturally. If there is a silence – it usually means something. Silences often follow important statements, they give us breathing and thinking time. Don’t spend thinking time on what to say, spend it on reflection about what has been said. Then you will find the conversation usually flows.
  6. Be aware of what is happening inside you. You may find your own thoughts intruding as you try to listen. This can happen particularly if what is being said touches your own emotions. But let your thoughts go and keep refocusing back on the speaker, Time afterwards to reflect on what this meant for you.
  7. Suspend judgement. Wait until the speaker has finished before forming your opinion, even if they are complaining. In fact, it is even more important,if you think you are likely to disagree with what they are saying . Take the time to take in all that they have said before you give an opinion.
  8. Don’t jump to tell them what you did last time. People don’t want to be thought of as just another number, case or employee. Treat each person you speak to as an individual meriting individual consideration. There will be a time to use past examples but judge their use with care – packaged solutions do not blend well with feelings.
  9. Be engaged Ask questions for clarification. Once again, wait until the speaker has finished. Don’t interrupt their train of thought. After you ask questions, paraphrase their point to make sure you didn’t misunderstand. You could start with: “So you’re saying…” This shows that you are really listening.

You gotta practice

Practice your active listening skill, particularly handling silence. Learn to use it to better understand what is being said to you. As your listening skills develop, so will your speaking skills and your ability to hold a conversation. You will be surprised how active listening draws people to you. People warm to those who take the trouble to really listen to them.

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

Communications When Things Go Wrong

Communications When Things Go Wrong

Winning Friends In A Crisis – How To Manage Communications When Things Go Wrong!

How you handle communications when things go wrong is important.  Bad communications when things go wrongthings happen in all organisations. Sometime the problem lies within the organization. Sometimes it is the environment outside that causes a crisis. To respond well as a manager, you need a strategy that will do the following

  • Deal with the problem causing the crisis;
  • Assist any victims and those directly affected;
  • Communicate with, and enlist, the support of employees.
  • Inform those indirectly affected; and
  • Manage the media and all external stakeholders in the organization.

Seven dimensions

For communications when things go wrong, there are seven dimensions to consider. These will be  important if you want to communicate in a way that limits damage. Particularly to the reputation of the organization. There may be limitations on what you can say for legal reasons. But, the nearer you get to covering the seven dimensions, the more effective your communications will be.

The seven dimensions to consider for communications when things go wrong

  1.  Candor. A public acknowledgement that a problem exists and a commitment to put it right, usually wins trust. And it will win respect for the organization.
  2. Explanation. Explain promptly and clearly what went wrong. Base this on the knowledge available at the time and any legal constraints. If there is not yet full information, make a commitment to report regularly. Tell people when they can expect more information. Continue making reports until full information is available or public interest dissipates.
  3. Declaration. Make a clear public commitment to take steps to address and resolve any issues raised by the incident.
  4. Contrition. Make it clear that you, and those in charge of the organization, are sorry for what has happened. Show empathy and regret. If there is reason to be embarrassed, then show embarrassment about what has happened and for allowing it to happen.
  5. Consultation: Ask for help from pubic authorities and anyone else who can provide it, if that will help those hurt or prevent this from happening again. Do this even if it means accepting help from opponents or competitors.
  6. Commitment: Be prepared to make a promise that, to the best of the organisation’s ability, similar situations will never occur again.
  7. Restitution: Find a way to quickly pay the price, compensate and make restitution.

Go the extra mile

Show in your communications that you are prepared to go beyond what people would expect, or what is legally required, to put things right. Adverse situations remedied quickly, usually cost far less. They are controversial for shorter periods of time.

This is the gold standard. The closer you get to it, the more respect there will be for you, and your organization. Plus the sooner the public are likely to forgive, if not forget.

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

>

Handling Resistance

Handling Resistance

Leading Change the Kotter Way

Handling resistance and fear is the fifth step in the Kotter model. This is handling resistanceabout empowering action, over coming resistance and getting rid of obstacles to change. This post is  part of a series on the Kotter approach to leading change. I am in process of revamping my original Kotter model series. Links to all the earlier Kotter posts are in the next paragraph.

The Kotter model is based on research which showed that there are eight critical steps an organisation or service needs to go through to ensure that change happens and sticks. This series of posts will consider these steps in greater detail. We have already reissued; Step One: Creating Urgency Step Two: Forming a Powerful CoalitionStep Three Creating a Vision for Change and Step Four: Communicate Your Vision

Now we are reaching the point where your investment in Stages 1 to 4, begins to pay dividends. Kotter himself states that when Stages 1 to 4 are skipped, resistance is inevitable and this can destroy your change.

People resist change because they fear loss.

They believe they are defending something they value which feels threatened.   This can include loss of security, power, resources and overall loss of control.  Most of us fear the unknown.

If you have followed the earlier Kotter steps when you reach this point, you will have been talking about your vision and building up buy-in from all levels of the organisation. Hopefully, your group will want to get busy and be out there achieving the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But there may still be some resisting the change!  There may be people (individuals or groups), processes, structures and even organisations that are getting in the way? You not only need to put in place the structure for change, but check continually for barriers and blockers to it.

Handling resistance and removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision and it certainly helps them move the change forward.

Handling resistance! To remove obstacles you should;

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organisational structure, job descriptions and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognise and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action quickly to remove barriers (human or otherwise).

When people are resistant;

  • Help them understand the logic behind the change.
  • Give them an opportunity to contribute – to help design and implement the change (e.g., ideas, task forces, committees).
  • Provide facilitation & coaching to help them adjust to the change.
  • Offer incentives to those who continue to resist change.

If all else fails, and this change is critical to the organisation, you may need to use authority to get people to accept the change or move them sideways and, sometimes, even out of the organisation. Do it with as much respect for their dignity as possible – those remaining will be marked by how your respond .

This can be one of the most challenging stages for the Change Leader but – as I’ve written here many times before – no one told you change was going to be easy!

Meanwhile …

Here is a Kotter Reading List for you;

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

Communication; what matters most!

Communication; what matters most!

Communication – what do you think matters most in your conversations with communicationothers? Are  your words clear? Is your tone authentic? What about body language? Do you show you like them? Yes, it all matters. But what is the balance between these different elements?

Are you like me? Have you spent many happy hours at seminars and training courses where the 3V (Verbal, Vocal, Visual) rule was quoted. And, you were told that words count for 10% or less of any face to face conversation! Well, guess what, that isn’t always true! No, it isn’t even what the 3V rule actually says!

The rule is based on the work of Professor Albert Mehrabian who carried out two studies in the 1960s.  Those studies were about feelings and communicating emotion. He found that our liking for the person who was communicating their feelings to us consisted of 7% Verbal Liking , 36% Vocal Liking and 55% Facial (Visual) Liking. In other words, if you want someone to like you then make sure your words are consistent with your tone, keep your eye contact but make sure your smile.

7% Verbal, 36% Vocal and 55% Visual was such a simple concept. And, it was so easy to articulate. That meant it drifted into communications’ theology and became received wisdom!

In reality, other studies have been quite inconsistent!  And the balance between the 3Vs varies in context.  For example, it is fairly obvious that if you are giving a lecture on a technical subject your words, and the precise way you use them, becomes rather more important than whether you smile.

Communication; but smiling does help!

All communication is a two-way process and people are more likely to listen to you if they like you!

So, if you want to get your message across, you can’t ignore Professor Mehrabian’s work on conveying genuine emotion and his 3Vs.

In one to one encounters, show genuine interest in the other person and listen closely to what they say. Smile, be warm, enthusiastic and responsive. And show you care about your subject, nothing is more attractive! But don’t overwhelm them and don’t fake it!

Find something to like in your audience!  So, work on finding out about them. If you work hard enough, you are very likely to find something to like.

Professor Mehrabian’s findings may not be what we first thought they were. But they are still enormously valuable. You can find his website at this link.

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

 

Communicate Your Vision

Communicate Your Vision

Leading Change the Kotter Way

Communicate your vision is the fourth step in the Kotter model.  This is part of a series on the Kotter approach to leading shining light 2change. I am in process of revamping my original Kotter model series. This post is about communicating the vision that you created in the last stage. Links to all the earlier Kotter posts are in the next paragraph.  You should be working with a vision that people will be able to understand, get on board with and remember.

The Kotter model is based on research which showed that there are eight critical steps an organisation or service needs to go through to ensure that change happens and sticks. This series of posts will consider these steps in greater detail. We have already reissued; Step One: Creating Urgency and Step Two: Forming a Powerful Coalition  and Step Three Creating a Vision for Change.

Step Four: Communicate Your Vision

So you believe you have an overall vision that people will be able to grasp easily and remember. Now you need to get your vision out there to the people who need to understand it. Believe me, how you communicate it, will determine whether your change works, or not.

Your message is likely to have lots of competition. It will have to stand out from all the day-to-day communications within the company. As well as that, if your change is really significant, you can expect the rumour mill to be at work already. It is more likely to be spreading bad news than good. So you need to communicate your vision frequently and powerfully.

But, communicating your vision is not all about words. You and your guiding team need to walk the talk. You need to show that you believe and embed message in everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. The guiding team need to be visible and let people see you as the embodiment of the change you intend to make.

The top team should be using the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. And so should all those who are actively engaged. Challenge those who do not. Keep the message fresh and on everyone’s minds.  Then they will begin to remember your vision and respond to it.

What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say.

Make sure the whole guiding team demonstrates the kind of behaviour you want from others.

  1. Talk often about your vision to make it real.
  2. Be authentic – openly and honestly address peoples’ concerns and anxieties.
  3. Be prepared to answer questions but when doing so keep your vision in mind.
  4. Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews.
  5. Tie everything back to the vision.
  6. Lead and manage by example.

If you would like some help thinking about how you are going to communicate your change and how you reflect your vision in what you do, please get in touch. I’ve been there myself.

Meanwhile …

Here is a Kotter Reading List for you;

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

When your manager won’t talk to you!

When your manager won’t talk to you!

When your manager won’t talk to you! Sadly, there seem to be a good number of managers who have problems manager won’t talk talking to their staff.  I don’t mean the exchange of every day courtesies like Good Morning and Good Night. Although, there seem to be some who have problems uttering those simple phrases on a regular basis. What I want to talk about here is the manager who doesn’t tell you what she really thinks about your work.

If the manager says nothing, it can be very frustrating. It increases pressure and can lead to stress. You think you are doing OK, but you have no real way of knowing whether your manager agrees.

The “boss” may be pleasant. She comes in everyday and wishes you good morning. She might even ask how you are doing. But there is no real engagement. She doesn’t encourage you to give anything but the most perfunctory of answers. And she certainly doesn’t comment on the quality of your performance. Meanwhile, you are desperate to know what she really thinks and you’ve begun to suspect the worst.

This situation can feel totally demoralising. So, what can you do?

Manager won’t talk to you – here’s what to do.

Well, you have to grasp the nettle and ask for the feedback that isn’t being volunteered.

Here is how to go about it.

First, gather your own evidence about your performance, for example, samples of your work, feedback from customers and statistics about results. Then, think about the questions you want to ask and how you are going to ask them; you don’t want to alienate your boss, if you can avoid it.

Now, ask for some time to talk. Choose your moment carefully – avoid times when your boss is likely to be under pressure or, for example, about to go to an important meeting. Make sure you get the appointment into the boss’s diary and that there is enough time for a proper discussion. Ideally, you need at least 30 minutes but not before, or immediately after, an event on which your boss needs to concentrate.

At the meeting, make sure you emphasize that it is your boss’s interests, as well as your own, that you care about. You want to make sure that you are doing the job the boss needs you to do. Avoid getting into arguments or being confrontational. Use the evidence you have collected; particularly, if you face any criticism you consider unjustified.

You are likely to pleasantly surprised; your boss is probably very happy with what you’re doing.  But, if she isn’t, you need to be told that so that you can begin to put things right.  Whatever the real situation, there is nothing to be gained by not knowing. Grasp that nettle and help your boss to help you succeed.

Working with a coach really can help when you have problems at work! Get in touch at the email address below.
Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

Close reading skills – time to practice

Close reading skills – time to practice

Close reading skills – I’ve joined a short on-line course from Sheffield University and Future Learn on the literature of the English country house. I’m sure the subject has been chosen with Downton House fans in mind. Simply, I thought it would keep me entertained on lovely, long, summer evenings.

The course started with a refresher on close reading and the lecturer chose a passage from Twelfth Night for us to work on. It’s a play I love and full of ambiguity. The action centres on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who is disguised as a boy) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man.

So, we practiced our close reading skills. First, we read the piece quickly for a general impression. Then, we read it a second time to confirm our first thoughts. This was followed by zooming in for key words and phrases that gave clues to the layers of meaning. It was an entertaining process, given Shakespeare’s propensity for hidden jokes and references.

I was left wondering about our obsession with speed reading. We prize how quickly we can scan the mass of text we encounter daily, be it in emails, discussion papers or reports. If we couldn’t scan quickly, we wouldn’t be able to cope at work or at home. But, we pay a price. I wonder, for example, how many corporate disasters might have been avoided, if we had the time to close read critical passages in progress reports on major programmes or to pick up the hints “between the lines” in management reports.

Have our senses and our judgment become numb from the volume of material put before us?

We need to be aware of the risk. There is a huge responsibility on authors and curators to flag up what they think are critical passages. But, at the end of the day, it is down to us and may be it is time to practice, practice, practice those close reading skills.

Working with a coach really can make your career zing! Get in touch at the email address below.
Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

Managing Difficult Conversations: Nine Questions to Ask Yourself

Managing Difficult Conversations: Nine Questions to Ask Yourself

Managing Difficult Conversations! I found a very interesting set of slides on Managing Difficult ConversationsSlideshare from communications’ consultant, executive coach and lecturer, Barbara Greene. She helps senior executives communicate powerfully and thrive in business environments.

Do you avoid difficult conversations? There is no need to avoid them if you focus on the constructive possibilities. Start by asking yourself these nine critical questions.

If you need support with your difficult conversation, get in touch (wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com )


Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

Managing Difficult Conversations:9 Questions to Ask Yourself

Managing Difficult Conversations:9 Questions to Ask Yourself

I found this interesting set of slides on Slideshare from communications consultant, executive coach and lecturer, Barbara Greene. She helps senior executives communicate powerfully and thrive in business environments. You can find out more about her at www.logosconsulting.net

Do you avoid difficult conversations? There is no need to avoid them if you focus on the constructive possibilities. Start by asking yourself these 9 critical questions.


Wendy Mason is a career coach.  She helps people reach their goals and aspirations, without sacrificing their home and personal life.  Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR.  She now divides her time between coaching and writing. You can contact Wendy at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com and find out more at http://wisewolfcoaching.com

%d bloggers like this: