Knowing Someone Changes How We Treat Them

I joined the board of a great organization that cares for seniors and at my orientation they shared this story.

In building a new facility display cases were placed by each room.  Filled with pictures and items for residents of adjacent rooms, they were meant as landmarks to make finding rooms easier.  This practice had proven effective even with dimentia cases.  They received a surprise.  Employees and others observed a higher quality of care because these residents became people with an 80+ year history that was known to all those around them.  In one case, it explained why a resident veteran who had been a POW tried to crawl out a window because of loud noises.  Instead of medicating the resident they provided comfort. 

History gives us context for current decisions we see people make.

When a friend acts irrational we know the history – and work through it.

What a stranger acts irrational we judge the action – and walk away or around it.

When we ask and listen it sends a powerful signal – we care.

Under stress, we too often forget to stop and listen to stories.  We see ourselve as busy.  Others see us as cold and uncaring.

Here is a tool I use to jumpstart the work relationship building process.  Instead waiting to hear the question “Tell me about yourself”, I give this info and ask for the same in return.  It is just a start, but it is a good start.

One last story . . . I used this tool to kickoff a planning session for a leadership team.  The next day the CEO called the HR leader and quietly asked for a list of names of all family members for each executive on his team.

Some things are important no matter how old we are.  Knowing someone changes how we treat them – and how they treat us.

Communication – Always room for improvement. Right?

Nice elderly couple with ear muffs
Image via Wikipedia

I keep wondering when I will get over the hump and never have to worry about my communication skills.  I thought I had kids figured out, then I had a teenager.  I thought I had marriage nailed down, then I started my business and my wife started working.  I am ready to admit that maybe I just need to keep working at it.

What about you?  Is there a person, a situation, or maybe a group that just has you scratching your head?  Here are a few resources that are staples in my library.

Communicating (listening) to yourself:

  • Career?  Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
  • Job loss or another traumatic event?  Journal – It builds personal resilience by processing your experiences for the day/week.

Communication with spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend:  2 book series by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn – For Women Only and For Men Only

Communicating in Conflict: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

I am convinced that every year a standard part of any development plan should be one item around communicating more effectively with a certain person, group, or in a particular situation.  Imagine if we made a 5% improvement in this every year?

What resources for certain situations have you found helpful?  Please share your thoughts . . . .

Emails in CAPS – Here is how NOT to send them

He entered my office with a look on his face that was both quizzical and bothered.  He was wondering why he was here.  In front of me was an email with no four letter words, no inappropriate nouns or adjectives, but lots of capital letters.  He was 24 years old, a hard-driving and successful sales person, and he saw capital letters as a way of conveying how passionate he felt about what he was saying.  Of course, the person who had received this and everyone on his team viewed this as yelling.  He made it through that conversation, but only lasted about three more months in the organization.

In a recent post by Jason Diamond Arnold (see post: http://ht.ly/35a5Nhe chronicles the process of using restraint and time to pull the emotion out of an email so that it does not result in damage to a relationship.  It is a good message and a reminder of how to know when you have crossed the line and show some restraint by NOT hitting the send button.

Let me go one step further – NEVER send an email where the message contains anger, frustration, disappointment, disillusionment, or has the sole purpose of holding someone accountable for actions.   Write it, read it, think about it (I recommend 24 hours), and in the end if the feeling is still there get on the phone or walk over and deal with it.   I have a file full of email arguments that are great material for Dilbert, but would make you shake your head because they all involve executive level leaders.

If you are a leader and find yourself wanting to write one of these emails to your company/department – here is an alternative.

  1. Write the email
  2. Share it personally with your leadership team – what you see, why it frustrates you, and what you want to see.
  3. Ask for their input – Are your observations accurate?  What might you be missing?  What will it take to correct this?
  4. Listen
  5. Listen (this is an important step so I thought I would bring it up twice)
  6. Thank them for their input – and make a decision on next steps – If moving forward with a message to the organization is important, enlist the help of someone else to craft a message and agree (as a team) what the follow-up will be from everyone in the group.

Correcting mistakes or redirecting the actions of many is important to the success of your organization.  But there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  Emotionally charged emails are the wrong way.  stop it!  (see – no caps, and you still get the message)

B Players: 3 Things Leaders Can Do to Energize Them

Good News!  Getting B players more energized, engaged, and acting like an A player is not an expensive initiative.  The reality?  It will take a time commitment from leaders.  Here are three moves you can make today to raise the energy level and commitment of  your B players.

1.  Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Leaders need to spend time monthly talking about the performance of the business, quarterly talking about the near term goals, and yearly reviewing the goals and vision for the business.  B’s are out there looking for leadership, some clear direction, authenticity, and something to get excited about – so give it to them! 

2.  Regular One on One Time: As leaders, we look at our solid players and give thanks they are low maintenance.  When the demands on our time increases the common response is to take them for granted and slip into a more no maintenance mode.  Nothing says you are valued more than time, and people need to feel valued before they will get excited .  What if you sat down monthly with your B’s and started asking questions like:

  • What challenges are you/the team experiencing this week?
  • What questions are you hearing from people about the business?
  • What do you see out there that needs fixing?
  • What questions do you have for me?

After you ask a question just listen.  If having regular one on one time is new be patient.  It might take several weeks or  months for people to open up because they need to see your commitment to them.  If you listen and follow-up on any commitments you make trust will increase and engagement will follow.

3.  Help Them Set Goals:  B’s are generally doing the core part of their job very well.  Use the yearly evaluation time or one on one time to affirm their value, offer support to help them grow to meet personal goals, and invite them to help fix a few things or guide some change.  B’s are not looking for a 60 hour work week so they might appear hesitant.  If they have some personal constraints that restrict them from giving the business extra time get creative.  Whether it is testing a new system, meeting with customers coming in for a visit, or taking a new person under their wing to help them learn – there is untapped potential with these solid team members.

Remember, LOW maintenance is not NO maintenance.  Pay a little attention, be authentic, and invite them to jump in.  What would be the impact on your business if 50% of your B players poured some extra energy into solving one problem, finding one more customer, or identifying and implementing one efficiency improvement?