The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice
It’s more important than ever to continue to grow and develop in the workplace – both individually in our role and as part of a successful team. To do this we need to be continuously aware of how things can be done better and more creatively. As Walt Disney famously said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
One of the most important parts of embracing the process of improvement is by continually giving and receiving feedback.
Start by making a habit of asking what you brought to a project that was valuable and how you helped achieve the goals. We often struggle to receive positive feedback and don’t ask for it enough. As the recipient of constructive feedback, it’s important to remain open and objective. Be appreciative that someone is taking the time to give you feedback, ask questions to understand how you can improve and identify what you can take away from the feedback that would have a positive impact in the future.
Giving feedback is also a crucial skill, especially when giving corrective and improvement focused feedback. I find the D-E-S-C approach very helpful:
Describe: focus on one or two priority areas for change that would bring the most benefit to the project, team or business. Share your observations but also ask the other person to describe their behaviour: What is your view? How do you think your input influenced the team/situation?
Explore: ask questions and listen to explore the other person’s viewpoint. Clarify what you’ve been told; give the individual a chance to explain, share information or correct misconceptions. In other words – check your observations first. You can do this by using open-ended questions: How does that affect…? How would you explain…?
Specify: always refer back to the bigger picture and objectives so that the individual can understand how their behaviour could hamper progress towards those goals. Develop an action plan for improvement together based on these shared objectives. Offer practical support and follow-up.
Consequence: only state the consequences if the desired change doesn’t occur or if you feel the individual doesn’t realise the need for improvement. Make sure you give recognition when change occurs.
Finally – remember always give positive praise in public but give constructive feedback in private.
Your opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
How did you feel when you started your work day? Chances are you’ll already been influenced by many factors before arriving at work – whether it’s family relationships, the news, advertising, a phone call, traffic, how well you slept or how well the previous day’s work went.
The way you respond to influencing factors makes a difference to whether you look forward to tackling work or if you’re worried and stressed about how you’ll cope. Chances are, if it’s the latter, you’re likely to be suffering from black and white thinking. Your outlook and the stories you tell yourself about a situation have a huge affect on its outcome.
When we use black and white thinking, we’re inflexible and ineffective. We get thrown when things don’t work out exactly as we planned. We fail to see that some areas are grey and we think that making a mistake is unforgivable. Because we’re inflexible we’re unable to deal with contradictions, paradoxes and ambiguities. We have a very technical view of life and don’t make provision for nuances, and the chaos that form part of human existence and business.
Leaders also need to be wary of showing negative emotion about an issue, as it can affect the team’s perspective. Equally, if just one team member is downbeat or unconstructive about a change programme or a new project, it can significantly influence whether the outcome is successful or not. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I’m a big fan of internationally acclaimed businessman, Peter Daniels who has written several best-selling books and lectures on the effect of positive thinking and the impact it has on others around you. There is no doubt, Daniel’s outlook and the stories he told himself about his situation are directly related to his success. Even when he failed he said: “I’m learning and I haven’t made the same mistake twice. This is excellent experience.”
So next time you tackle a new task, come up against a challenge or face a difficulty, ask if you can tell yourself a different story.
Do you know your O, P, Q, R, S, T?
I was recently asked about the biggest challenges in my role as a Managing Director of a successful company. One of the things that instantly jumped to my mind was the realisation that I need to delegate in order to grow. I started Juniper on my own and put such a large amount of energy and effort into building my client relationships. When it came to the point where I needed extra resources to manage work load it was hard to ‘let the baby go’.
I’m not alone - many leaders find it difficult to entrust others with the responsibilities and tasks needed to achieve success. They struggle to delegate – and when they do it’s often in small chunks, without context – and the wash-up can be costly and time-consuming.
I use the O, P, Q, R, S, T model designed to help leaders effectively delegate:
Objective What is to be achieved?
Priority Why is it important? Provide status and background.
Quality How is it to be achieved and what standard of work and result do you expect?
Resources Who is available to support you in the task? What is the budget?
Specifications How will the achievement be measured?
Timing When are the goals to be achieved?
I’ve learnt from first-hand experience how important delegating is. Today, I work with a close-knit team and find it incredibly rewarding; we are focused on delivery, maximising the value we add to client projects.
The greatest result of learning is tolerance
I love this quote: “Fix it. If you can’t fix it, learn to live with it. If you can’t live with it, leave it.”
Hopefully, when dealing with everyday conflict in the workplace, we can come to a solution without resorting to ‘leaving it’.
It’s how we ‘fix it’ and ‘learn to live with it’ that most interests me – because tolerance is about having the capacity for endurance and keeping an open mind – something that is vital to succeed in business today.
Part of building tolerance and being inter-personally effective is being able to understand our own personality style and adapt to other people’s. Look for ways to adapt your communication techniques to better meet the needs of the other person.
The first steps to achieving communication objectives are to engage the other person and establish some common ground. Keep your focus on a positive outcome and remember empathy is a pre-requisite for effective inter-personal relationships and communication.
If you’re really struggling with a ‘difficult personality’, my advice is:
- Don’t take it personally or lose sleep over chronically difficult people.
- Realise they are doing the best they can – difficult people often have a limited range of behaviours and they use them because that’s what they know.
- Work with the behaviour, not the person. See difficult behaviour as a problem to be resolved, not a personality to be changed.
- Keep cool – patience is very important when you are on the verge of losing it; the stress involved in dealing with difficult behaviour can easily cause us to lose control of our emotions. Take a deep breath and count to ten. And if you’re really struggling, ask for a ‘comfort break’ to consider a different approach.
Stop complaining, start requesting!
I recently worked with an enthusiastic team of support staff and talked to them about how they can begin to take responsibility for their own advancement within their company.
Taking responsibility is key: when things aren’t quite working, it’s sometimes a default response to take no action and complain about the circumstance or event that has irritated you. This kind of complaining wastes time. Instead, look positively at what you want to do and investigate ways to make it happen. Asking yourself what you want to change forces you to rethink whether you are fulfilled, sufficiently rewarded and challenged.
Coming up with ideas for change and improvement demonstrates responsibility in your relationship with you manager and can be a real test of your ability to be proactive and accountable. I gave this group of talented individuals some key pointers to help them succeed, become motivated and take responsibility:
- Be firmly grounded in who you are, what you believe in and what you value
- Become your own strategist – set objectives and plan your life/career – how you want to increase your influence in the organisation, how you wish to grow continuously
- Jump at opportunities to learn and develop, gain new experience
- Take on more responsibility, initiate changes and new ideas
- Take ownership of tasks assigned to you
- Never adopt a blaming culture.
P.S. Many people within this group went on to get involved in projects they really enjoyed; some where promoted and all were able to improve their work/life balance!
What are you going to request today?
Am I truly listening … or just waiting to speak?
Listening is defined by the International Listening Association as: “The process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages.” However, in our enthusiasm to get our point across, we often forget communication is completely ineffective if we don’t listen to the other person – or if the other person isn’t listening to us! We either lose or confuse the meaning.
When it comes to engaging in positive communication, listening skills are of paramount importance and developing these skills is an important part of my work in helping people to build interpersonal skills and influence.
Active listening behaviours are critical when receiving feedback or another person’s reasoning and views. Only then can we establish what their needs are and can win their co-operation by showing how we propose to meet their needs.
Here are top ten tips to develop your listening skills:
- Demonstrate appropriate listening behaviour – try not to interrupt or interrogate.
- Listen for underlying meaning and emotions by watching body language, facial expressions, voice and eye-contact. Words only account for 7% of the overall message; tone of voice accounts for 38% and body language, 55%.
- Ask non-threatening questions and don’t blame, either directly or indirectly.
- Ask about and acknowledge feelings.
- Express sympathy and offer support - but don’t offer advice or solutions if they’re not asked for.
- Show your interest – ‘tell me more about…’
- Paraphrase – ‘you mean that…?’
- Reflect – ‘you sound upset/frustrated/excited etc.’ Try not to make light of the situation, or say ‘I know just how you feel’ – you don’t!
- Clarity – ‘are you saying that…?’