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Archive for the ‘HR & Personnel’ Category

Competent Management

I have been fortunate in my career to have managed some great employee teams as an executive and when I look back at what made my teams so successful I have identified several areas that have made the difference. One key area is following these tips below:

  • Trustworthy. Trust is grounded in competence and character. You should know what to do and how to do it. And, you should always do what you say you will. This should be a no brainer but all to often and regrettably, it is as foreign to managers as the chemical and mineral compounds found in martian surface soil are. What a novel idea – competence and character.
  • Influential. Your people rely on others to get their jobs done. Therefore, you need to cultivate relationships with those beyond your immediate group who make your people productive. This is especially true in larger organizations where other inter-company constituents have an impact on your employee’s performance, their success and the company’s overall success. Building solid and mutually successful relationships with other inter-company constituents will go a long way to driving success.
  • Team-focused. A good boss knows that a team is better than the sum of its parts. To bring your group together, give them a compelling purpose, clear goals and plans, and a culture of “we” not “I.” To many times management, especially those in executive management focus on “I” and not we. A strong manager and executive always fosters an environment of we both in success and failure to do otherwise injects resentment, lack of trust, lack of communication, and distance between manager and employee. Nothing can disrupt a company more than lack of purpose, goals and plans. I would also add communication to this list as well.

Properly managing people is hard. No doubt about it. But you can go a long way with some basic common sense. However, many managers seem to lack this trait. These three points are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to effective and productive management. Like most things that are effective, keep it simple, clear and concise. This will go a long way to building a successful and mutually beneficial relationship with your employee team. Remember, without employee’s you don’t have a team. Without an effective leader, they don’t have management, just some jerk they report to everyday. It takes both parties to be successful personally, professionally and for your company. At the end of the day, that’s what everyone should strive for.

-DF

Written by David Frederick

July 21, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Difficult Conversations and Nine Mistakes to Avoid

No one likes to have difficult conversations and no one is immune to workplace tensions: It is inevitable that you will have some trying conversations with colleagues or clients over your career. At best these conversations are unpleasant, at worst they can blow up into larger issues which have real emotional, productivity and economic impacts.

I have discussed how to improve communication in this blog numerous times. But even with the best communicators, there are still times when you will have to have a difficult conversations. As such, I wanted to share with you nine mistakes you should avoid when having a difficult conversation. By avoiding these nine mistakes, it should help you achieve a more positive outcome regardless of how tough things get.

These nine mistakes come from a great article by Sarah Green, based on Holly Weeks “Failure to Communicate“.  I think you will find this information of value and can be applied immediately.

-DF

Mistake #1: We fall into a combat mentality.
When difficult conversations turn toxic, it’s often because we’ve made a key mistake: we’ve fallen into a combat mentality. This allows the conversation to become a zero-sum game, with a winner and a loser. But the reality is, when we let conversations take on this tenor – especially at the office – everyone looks bad, and everyone loses. The real enemy is not your conversational counterpart, but the combat mentality itself. And you can defeat it, with strategy and skill.

Mistake #2: We try to oversimplify the problem.
If the subject of your argument were straightforward, chances are you wouldn’t be arguing about it. Because it’s daunting to try to tackle several issues at once, we may try to roll these problems up into a less-complex Über-Problem. But the existence of such a beast is often an illusion. To avoid oversimplifying, remind yourself that if the issue weren’t complicated, it probably wouldn’t be so hard to talk about.

Mistake #3: We don’t bring enough respect to the conversation.
The key to avoiding oversimplification is respecting the problem you’re trying to resolve. To avoid the combat mentality, you need to go further – you need to respect the person you’re talking to, and you need to respect yourself. Making sure that you respond in a way you can later be proud of will prevent you from being thrown off course if your counterpart is being openly hostile.

Mistake #4: We lash out – or shut down.
Fear, anger, embarrassment, defensiveness – any number of unpleasant feelings can course through us during a conversation we’d rather not have. Some of us react by confronting our counterpart more aggressively; others, by rushing to smooth things over. We might even see-saw between both counterproductive poles. Instead, move to the middle: state what you really want. The tough emotions won’t evaporate. but with practice, you will learn to focus on the outcome you want in spite of them.

Mistake #5: We react to thwarting ploys.
Lying, threatening, stonewalling, crying, sarcasm, shouting, silence, accusing, taking offense: tough talks can present an arsenal of thwarting ploys. (Just because you’re trying to move beyond the combat mentality doesn’t mean your counterpart is.) But you also have an array of potential responses, ranging from passive to aggressive. Again, the most effective is to move to the middle: disarm the ploy by addressing it. For instance, if your counterpart has stopped responding to you, you can simply say, “I don’t know how to interpret your silence.”

Mistake #6: We get “hooked.”
Everyone has a weak spot. And when someone finds ours – whether inadvertently, with a stray arrow, or because he is hoping to hurt us – it becomes even harder to stay out of the combat mentality. Maybe yours is tied to your job – you feel like your department doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Or maybe it’s more personal. But whatever it is, take the time to learn what hooks you. Just knowing where your vulnerable will help you stay in control when someone pokes you there.

Mistake #7: We rehearse.
If we’re sure a conversation is going to be tough, it’s instinctive to rehearse what we’ll say. But a difficult conversation is not a performance, with an actor and an audience. Once you’ve started the discussion, your counterpart could react in any number of ways – and having a “script” in mind will hamper your ability to listen effectively and react accordingly. Instead, prepare by asking yourself: 1. What is the problem? 2. What would my counterpart say the problem is? 3. What’s my preferred outcome? 4. What’s my preferred working relationship with my counterpart? You can also ask the other person to do the same in advance of your meeting.

Mistake #8: We make assumptions about our counterpart’s intentions.
Optimists tend to assume that every disagreement is just a misunderstanding between two well-intentioned people; pessimists may feel that differences of opinion are actually ill-intentioned attacks. In the fog of a hard talk, we tend to forget that we don’t have access to anyone’s intentions but our own. Remember that you and your counterpart are both dealing with this ambiguity. If you get stuck, a handy phrase to remember is, “I’m realizing as we talk that I don’t fully understand how you see this problem.” Admitting what you don’t know can be a powerful way to get a conversation back on track.

Mistake #9: We lose sight of the goal.
The key in any tough talk is to always keep sight of the goal. Help prevent this by going into conversations with a clear, realistic preferred outcome; the knowledge of how you want your working relationship with your counterpart to be; and having done some careful thinking about any obstacles that could interfere with either. (Remember, “winning” is not a realistic outcome, since your counterpart is unlikely to accept an outcome of “losing.”) If you’ve done the exercise described in Mistake #7, this should be easier. And you’ll be less likely to get thrown off course by either thwarting ploys or your own emotions.

When we’re caught off-guard, we’re more likely to fall back into old, ineffective habits like the combat mentality. If you’re not the one initiating the tough conversation, or if a problem erupts out of nowhere, stick to these basics: keep your content clear, keep your tone neutral, and keep your phrasing temperate. When disagreements flare, you’ll be more likely to navigate to a productive outcome – and emerge with your reputation intact.

You can purchase Holly’s document here!

NOTE: I have no financial interest in this document.

Written by David Frederick

April 29, 2011 at 10:29 AM

Job Burnout

Like we needed a study to prove this? But all joking aside, this is a serious issue and extremely costly for the employee, employer, health care and family.  The issues of stress are real and deadly. Stress and burn out are NO laughing matter. Check it out:

-DF

An increase in job burnout over a period of 18 months is associated with a 2.09-fold increased risk of developing musculoskeletal pain during the subsequent 18 months, according to a study led by Galit Armon of Tel Aviv University focusing on 1,704 healthy people. The researchers say high job demands may increase muscle tension and decrease micropauses in muscle activity, leading to pain.

You can download the PDF Report Here.

Written by David Frederick

April 27, 2011 at 1:20 PM

3 Simple Ways to Avoid Breakdowns in Communication

Even though communication is the lifeblood of any organization, it’s difficult to find a company that doesn’t have its momentary breakdowns in communication. Part of executive leaderships job is to keep these hiccups to a minimum. Here are three ways from Ron Ashkenas’s Blog “Your Communications May Not Be Communicating”  to help you ensure your employees understand and communicate well:

1: Provide context. For people to understand a message, they have to know why it’s important. Give people enough information so they know where things fall on the priority list.

2. Encourage questions. Don’t just ask if people have questions, encourage them to raise concerns. This type of interaction helps people absorb information and understand messages so they can pass them on.

3. Stay connected. People respond to communications very differently, even when they’re hearing the same information. By being in tune with your employees, you can anticipate their reactions and better understand how to deliver messages.

A final nugget of knowledge – just because you’re talking doesn’t mean you’re communicating. 😉

-DF

Written by David Frederick

April 19, 2011 at 1:26 PM

How To Make Stress Work For You

As many of us experience, stress is not always a fun or welcome emotion. Stress at work may be inevitable but it doesn’t have to be detrimental. Shawn Achor talks about this issue in his  article “Making Stress Work For You. In it, Shawn discusses how many studies show that stress can enhance your performance by causing your brain to use more of its capabilities, improve memory and intelligence, and increase productivity. He cautions  that you should not seek out stress — obviously, less of it is better. But, make the stress you do have work for you. Recognize that it isn’t all bad and develop an awareness of why you feel frazzled. Then, redirect the energy behind your worry toward productivity. Re-framing stress as a potential positive can reduce the harm it causes.

You can read more from Shawn’s article by clicking here!

-DF

Written by David Frederick

April 11, 2011 at 8:38 AM

Saying Thank You

You know, one of the most effective management action I ever did when I managed employee’s in a global work force was to simply, sincerely and genuinely say thank you for something some one did regardless of how insignificant. I never reserved it for only above and beyond moments, but used it regularly and sincerely. Maybe it was the way I was raised, my life and management philosophy, or that it simple works and is the right thing to do. People in general, at the most basic level want to be appreciated. It’s as simple as that.

I have found that it is not only productive in working with your employee’s, friends, family, spouse, etc. it also naturally produces superior results. In the work place, it also makes you a better manager and engenders a stronger environment for communication, productivity and the willingness of your employee’s and colleagues to go the extra mile when that’s needed. Not surprisingly, it also works well with your clients, suppliers and others you interact with. You would be surprised what a simple heartfelt thank you can accomplish. You should try it sometime. 😉

On this simple topic of thank you, I came across this blog article by Whitney Johnson talking about this exact point. I think its worth sharing and consideration. Check it out here!

-DF

Written by David Frederick

March 1, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Students Get Little From U.S. Colleges…surprised?

Here is a very interesting article by NYU Professor Richard Arum about the very important and lacking skills of most students coming out of univerisy…critical thinking! According to Professor Arum, 45% of students made no significant improvement in critical thinking, reasoning, or writing skills during their first two years of college, and 36% showed no improvement after four years of schooling. Prof. Arum who studied more than 2,300 students at 24 U.S. colleges and universities for his book Academically Adrift. This is very troubling as the U.S attempts to maintain its leadership position in innovation. – DF

Check out the article by clicking here!

Written by David Frederick

February 25, 2011 at 2:37 PM