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Why Good Managers Are So Rare

Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year, and having too many of them can bring down a company. The only defense against this massive problem is a good offense, because when companies get these decisions wrong, nothing fixes it. Businesses that get it right, however, and hire managers based on talent will thrive and gain a significant competitive advantage.

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General Trends

How to Listen When Your Communication Styles Don’t Match

Why do people who consider themselves good communicators often fail to actually hear each other?

Often it’s due to a mismatch of styles: To someone who prefers to vent, someone who prefers to explain seems patronizing; explainers experience venters as volatile.

This is why so many of us see our conversational counterparts as lecturing, belaboring, talking down to us, or even shaming us (if we are venters and they are explainers) or as invasive, out of control, and overly emotional (if we’re an explainer and they’re a venter).

Facing this kind of mismatch, what do you think the chances are for either person actually listening with an open mind?

My answer is… very low.

It is tempting to say “zero,” but since it’s not possible (or even desirable) to work only with people who match your communication style, you need to develop the skill to try to listen around their communication style.

Listening around that style, however, can be incredibly effortful. When someone is either venting/screaming or explaining/belaboring it triggers a part of your middle emotional brain called the amygdala, which desperately wants to hijack your attentive listening and instead react reflexively with whatever your hardwired reactions are. And resisting that amygdala hijack is exhausting.

What do to with a venter/screamer

If your conversational counterpart is a venter/screamer, your hardwired survival coping skill might be to tell them to calm down (which will only make them more upset), to shut down and get silent (which will only make them yell longer, because they’ll think you’re not listening), or to try to point out how irrational venting is (which, as noted above, they will perceive as patronizing and belaboring).

Instead, say to yourself, “Okay, here comes another temper tantrum. Just let them blow. Try not to take it between the eyes and imagine you’re looking into the calm eye of a hurricane and the storm is going over your shoulder.”

To do this, focus on their left eye. The left eye is connected to the right brain — the emotional brain. Let them finish. Then say, “I can see you’re really frustrated. To make sure I don’t add to that, and to make sure I don’t miss something, what was the most important thing I need to do in the long term, what’s the critical thing I need to do in the short term, and what do I need to get done ASAP?” Reframing the conversation this way, after they’ve finished venting, will make sure that your “explainer” self knows what to do – instead of ignoring the venting as another random outburst from “Conan the Barbarian” or “the Wicked Witch of the West.” Chances are, they do have something important they’re trying to tell you – even though they’re not communicating it very well.

After they respond, say to them, “What you just said is way too important for me to have misunderstood a word, so I’m going to say it back to you to make sure I am on the same page with you. Here’s what I heard.” Then repeat exactly, word for word, what they said to you. After you finish, say to them, “Did I get that right and if not, what did I miss?” Forcing them to listen to what you said they said, “because it was important,” will slow them down, will help you stay centered and in control, and will earn you their and your own respect.

What to do with an explainer/belaborer

If your conversational counterpart is an explainer, your hardwired survival coping skill might be to say to yourself, “Here they go again, make sure you smile politely even if you want to pull your hair out. Try not to let your impatience and annoyance show.” The problem with this is that even though they may be oblivious to others as they go on and on, at some level they may be aware of your underlying impatience and… that might actually make them talk longer. Yikes.

Realize that the reason they explain and belabor things is probably because their experience is that people don’t pay attention to what they say. They don’t realize that while that may be true of some truly distracted people, for others, the reason they don’t pay attention is that the speaker is belaboring something that the listener already heard — and doesn’t want to hear over and over again. Another possibility is that these explainers may not be feeling listened to somewhere else in their life (by their spouse, kids, parents, or boss) and is now relieved to have you as a captive audience.

When the explainer goes into his explanation/lecture/filibuster, say to yourself, “Okay, this is going to take a while.” Put a mental bookmark in whatever you were working on. Then look them in their left eye with a look that says, “Okay, take your time, I’m fully listening.” Instead of feeling frustrated and reacting by become impatient and fidgety, remind yourself, “They need to do this. I can be patient.”

Then when they finish then apply a similar response to the venter/screamer with the following minor edit:

“I can see that you really had a lot that you had to say. To make sure I don’t miss something, what was the most important thing I need to do in the long term, what’s the critical thing I need to do in the short term, and what do I need to get done ASAP?” ”

After they respond to that, say to them, “What you just said is way too important for me to have misunderstood a word, so I’m going to say it back to you to make sure I am on the same page with you. Here’s what I heard.” Then repeat exactly, word for word, what they said to you. After you finish, say to them, “Did I get that right, and if not, what did I miss?”

Your amygdala is probably saying to you and to me, “I don’t want to do either of those things. These people are obnoxious and unreasonable. Why should I kowtow to them?”

Here are several reasons:

They aren’t likely to change. These are deeply ingrained personality traits.
Being more open and inviting them to talk rather than closed and resistant will lessen their need to act this way. Listening patiently hath charm to soothe the savage (or boring) beast.
You will feel more self-respect and self-esteem. The above approaches will enable you to remain cool, calm, collected, centered and communicative in situation that formerly frustrated you and made you react poorly.

Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A. is a business psychiatrist, executive consultant, keynote speaker and co-founder of Heartfelt Leadership. He is the author of Just Listen and co-author of Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In (Amacom, 2013).

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General

How I Hire: Lessons from a Multi-Million Dollar Mistake

Amazing article on first impressions, arrogance and the price you pay.

Introduction

This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty. In my glory days as a recruiter, I annually placed dozens of top CPAs from the major accounting firms into industry positions. In a typical month I would get 4-5 unsolicited referrals of great 3-8 year CPAs. In fact, I told a story on these pages a few weeks ago about one woman who exemplified true leadership. However, there were some less glorious stories, too. This is one on them. Let’s call the candidate in this tale William, and the VP Finance of the hiring organization, Mr. Smith.

Chapter 1 – The Candidate

William was a highly-referred senior manager. As a minimum this means the person was assigned to handle major clients where complex accounting issues were part of the daily routine. William was recognized as a rising star, but one who did not want to wait in line to become a partner. This was when the Big 8 began their merger activity into today’s Big 4, so this was understandable.

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Trends

Welcome to the 72-Hour Work Week

How many hours do you think the average American professional works each week? If you think 40, 50 or even 60, think again. For many, 72 hours is the new norm.

In a recent survey of 483 executives, managers, and professionals (EMPs), we found that 60% of those who carry smartphones for work are connected to their jobs 13.5 or more hours a day on weekdays and about five hours on weekends, for a total of about 72 hours. Assuming these people sleep about seven and a half hours a night, that leaves only three hours a day Monday-Friday for them to do everything else (e.g. chores, exercise, grocery shop, family time, shower, relax). It also means they spend 62% of their waking hours every week connected to work (82% on weekdays). That seems like a lot.

But it’s not the connectedness itself that bothers EMPs; in fact, in many cases they appreciate it. One EMP described getting an urgent work request via her personal smartphone while she was on vacation but said she was happy to handle it because it took her two minutes, compared to the hour it might have taken another person. She cares about her work and her colleagues and wants to save others time and trouble, wherever she is.

What does bother EMPs is when companies use 24-7 connectedness to compensate for organizational inefficiencies and when it significantly undermines their personal lives, productivity, creativity, and ability to think strategically. The complaints we heard most often (from at least three-quarters and as high as 96% of respondents) centered on useless meetings and emails, inadequate technology, disorganized or incompetent C-suites, and unclear decision-making authority.

One manager we interviewed talked about an incident where he was out on a date and received a message saying he had to get on a strategy call with an executive at 9pm on a Friday night. This wasn’t an emergency; the manager had simply changed his mind about a decision he’d made earlier that week and that was in the process of being implemented. Another study participant who moved from an executive job requiring him to be constantly connected (including on weekends and holidays) to a position at another company with a less demanding schedule told us it was a dramatic shift. Previously exhausted and stressed, he said he felt “a huge difference.” “It’s astonishing how much you can get done when you’re not in meetings for 10 hours a day and things aren’t cycling 24/7. Since people aren’t working round-the-clock, I don’t get stuck in responder mode. I can actually think a little bit about what I need to do, which is saving me time and lowering my stress level. This is certainly not a low-stress job, but I don’t feel like I’m in hyper-drive mode all the time anymore. I’m really energized.”

The message is clear: EMPs don’t necessarily mind being connected to work for more than eight hours a day. But they are upset when it happens because leaders don’t respect their time or their official work day is wasted, so they have to make up the time working from their laptops or smartphones at home.

There are many steps organizations can take to avoid this problem. Frequent equipment and software upgrades can ease technological delays, for example. Clear decision-making guidelines will prevent bottlenecks in the chain of command. Reducing and eliminating meetings will free up schedules so work can get done during work hours. And C-suite leadership that emphasizes both the importance of not wasting time and the benefits of down time can go a long way toward changing the always-on culture.

We’ll never be truly disconnected from work again. But smart organizations will make sure their employees appreciate that connectedness.

Source: HBR Blogs

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Trends

14 new workplace rules millennials need to master

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No matter what they say, companies are looking out for themselves. And while you should definitely try to make your company successful, you need to make sure that you’re getting something out of the deal, too. If you aren’t learning and growing, you aren’t benefiting anymore, and that’s an issue that you will have to resolve. Don’t rely on anything or anyone: Be accountable for your own career, and take charge of your own life.

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General

How Southwest And Virgin America Win By Putting People Before Profit

Southwest and Virgin America have a nearly identical hiring method that can be captured in the Southwest motto: “Hire for attitude; train for skill.” Some people believe this motto doesn’t extend to pilots. It certainly does, according to Southwest pilots. You see, if a pilot gets to the interview stage, he or she knows how to operate a 737.

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