There is No Substitute for Face-to-Face


“Some of my team members work in the office and some are in the field,” explained Tillford.  “People in the field seem to have difficulty understanding my expectations.  I often have to send documents back for corrections and updates.”

Tillford further explained that the office and field members were well-trained and, thanks to robust electronic media, he used the same format for communicating to both groups.

I asked, “Do field staff every come to the office?  Do you visit them in the field?”

“Field people come in every quarter for our all-hands meetings but I don’t get much one-on-one time with them.”

I said to Tillford that perhaps he should make time for more face-to-face contact, either by periodically visiting field offices or by asking field staff to travel to his office.  Because of the cost and inconvenience, Tillford had resisted doing this in the past.  However, because he was so frustrated with current performances, he agreed to try it.

Six months later, Tillford reported, “I can’t believe how much our communication has improved.  After just a few field visits, our understanding improved dramatically and field team members are performing just as well, maybe even better, than their office counterparts.”

Are You a Balcony Leader or a Basement Leader?


Employees in Department A described their manager with comments such as:

“She sincerely cares about us.”

“A very good listener; that’s how I would describe her.”

“A good cheerleader, realistic but upbeat.”

“When she comes into the room, the energy level goes way up.”

Employees in Department B, when describing their leader, said things like.

“It seems that she thinks our work is never quite good enough.”

“I may not see her for days, but if I do make an error, I hear back immediately.”

“She may want the team to succeed but she will see negatives in everything.

“She has high turnover.  No one wants to work with her.”

Joyce Heatherly in her book, BALCONY PEOPLE, explained the differences between these two leaders.

Balcony leaders (Department A) are encouraging, helpful, considerate and joyful.  They seek ways to grow and develop staff members and ensure their successes.  They are diligent, compassionate and quick to forgive.  Balcony leaders strive to develop staff members to be the best they can be.

By contract basement leaders (Department B) are very critical and hold grudges.  They have long memories and put their individual desires above all others.  Basement leaders belittle, discourage and take energy out of the team members.

 

Do You Have Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?


As a leader, information comes at you from many directions, for example:  conversations with others, reports, phone calls, texts, and emails.  A less obvious source of data includes what you see, sense and feel.

Dr. Goleman in his book, EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE (EQ), wrote that EQ is the ability to perceive and regulate your own emotions and to understand others’ emotions.  Below are staff members’ comments about their boss who was known to have a high EQ.

“When the (bleep) hits the fan, she is the calmest person in the room.”

“She can sense when you are worried and empathize with what you are going through.”

“She is not a poker player.  You can tell immediately if she is pleased, puzzled, or upset.”

“She is a good listener and she gives meaningful feedback.”

“She just seems to know what is needed and how to gain the confidence of others.”

Individuals who register low EQ may act erratically, hide their emotions, fail to see the stress in others, are paralyzed by decision making, have wide mood shifts, and recoil from the slightest set back.

Many, including myself, believe that a high EQ dramatically increases the odds of leader success.

 

You Must Learn to Read Your Manager


Two newly appointed managers were discussing their vice president.

“I have a hard time communicating with him.  He asks for status reports but he doesn’t listen, he interrupts, and seems easily distracted.”

“How do you present your information?”

“I send him written reports.  In meetings, I give him updates and back them up with data and justifications.”

“He doesn’t want to hear all of that.  He is not a reader.  Just give him two or three key data points.  Use charts and graphs.  If he wants more information, he will ask.”

To communicate well, managers must learn to read their bosses preferences.  Does the boss prefer written or oral reports?  Just a summary or gobs of tedious minutiae?

Some managers want to hear about plan disruptions immediately.  Others like more systematic, periodic reports and may say, “Bring that up at our next meeting.”

Above all, find out what most interests your manager, that is, what may keep the boss up at night.  Is it schedule?  Work quality?  Safety?  Customer service?  Something else?

By learning your boss’s preferences, you will know where to put your energy.  Further, your encounters will be both more pleasant and more effective.

Interpersonal Relationships Represent the Currency of Change Agents


An engineer said to an employee, “I think it might reduce our assembly issues if you washed the parts in a cleaning solution prior to attaching them. What do you think?”

“It might be worth trying.”

“I’ll get the correct cleaning solution for you; and if you don’t mind, try it for a few cycles and let’s see if it helps.”

“Be glad to.”

In another case, an engineer suggested to an operator, “I’ve made some slight adjustments in the design of these attachments. They are going to work a lot better for you.”

The operator, handling the new attachments like the hot end of a branding iron, clumsily affixed them to the part. The result was a failed inspection. “It doesn’t work,” the operator reported, seemingly pleased about the failure.

Both requests were similar but there was a casual, give-and-take between engineer and employee in the first example. The second was a more direct, authoritative requirement.

When attempting changes, even minor ones, interpersonal relationships between change agents and others frequently trump facts and figures. While title, position, and expertise are important; the ability to rapidly affect changes hinges on the degree of trust and respect earned by the change agent.

Do Your Employees Know Exactly What You Think of Their Work?


Janice’s manager said to her, “You seem frustrated.  Are you OK?”

“I’m not always sure where I stand,” Janice responded.

“How so?”

“I turn in my work and I get another assignment.  If something is unacceptable, I get it back; but I don’t know if accepted work barely made the cutoff or set a new standard.”

“Janice, your work consistently meets and even exceeds my expectations.  I guess I assumed that you knew how much we value your contributions.”

I ask workshop participants, “How did management evaluate your work product last week?’’    Most have a general idea such as “OK, I guess,” or “not a good week.”  But few can respond with precise confidence.

I think most managers can increase employee engagement by giving frequent and precise feedback.  Look for opportunities daily or weekly to report to employees exactly what you think about their work.  Offer more than a simple “thank you.”  And avoid willy-nilly phrases like “good work,” or “not quite what I expected.”

Try cutting the deck a little deeper with more precision language such as, “top ten percent,” “that’s about a six,” “bottom half,” and the like.  All employees should know at all times how their work product is valued.

Do You Talk First or Listen First?


“In meetings, I ask for suggestions before I present my view,” a manager said to me.

“Why?” I asked.

“If I present my ideas first, others may be reluctant to express views that differ.  I get fewer opinions.”

Team members tell me that free-flowing discussions do not depend on who goes first.  Rather, the critical factor is how leaders react to opposing views.

One member reported, “Our leader always begins by asking our opinions.  However, he quickly attacks ideas that he disagrees with.”  The member continued to explain that participants tried to guess their leader’s view.  Those who agreed with what they believed to be the leader’s position spoke up.  Those who opposed remained quiet.

A member of a different team reported, “Our leader likes a good argument.  He tells you what he thinks and he encourages push back.  We have rancorous debates but there are no hard feelings.”

Leaders who create a climate conducive to openness are respectful of all suggestions.  They value opposing views.  Differences are never personal.  Honesty and freedom prevail.  There is no guessing what others think.  Passionate discussions are the norm.  The result is improved decisions and greater commitment.  Who talks first is not an issue.