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Effective Communication

Aren’t There Powerful Ways To Transform Your Organization? [Podcast]

Listen to this inspiring podcast featuring Melissa Davies with author Andi Simon.

Hear how change can keep your business moving forward!

At times we are introduced to people by chance, only to find that they are amazing individuals whom we want to be part of our world. This was how I felt about Melissa Davies when we met, and why we wanted you to know more about her and the work she does to help others change. Founder of Wise Ways Consulting, a leadership development, and executive coaching firm, Melissa helps clients become better leaders so they can build more productive and effective teams. Like me, Melissa is a culture change expert, so you can guess we had a lot to talk about!

Being willing to change is a key attribute of strong leaders

Melissa’s world travels have taught her a great deal about cultural similarities and differences—those things we all share and that all organizations have in common, as well as those unique cultural customs that are trademarks of the “way we do it here.”

Similar to what we do at SAMC, Melissa and her team work to bring about change in individuals and organizations. And what she has found over the years is that businesses’ training and coaching needs are constantly evolving to reflect increasingly diverse workforces, remote offices, and technology. This means that what she and her team are offering also needs to be constantly changing and evolving.

3 areas of mutual interest that Melissa and Andi spoke about:

  • How hard it is for people to see themselves honestly, and to understand how their organization is operating, truthfully. People see things with willful blindness, only noticing what fits their own perception of their realities.
  • When people finally have an “aha” moment, they really can change.
  • Methods and tools which can help companies make the needed transformations that keep them moving forward.

Click here to learn more about Andi Simon and her award-winning book: On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights”

Effective Communication

Has Spring Really Sprung?

As my Scottish-Canadian Granny used to say to me “Spring has sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is!”  The calendar indicates that it arrived ten days ago but from where I’m sitting right now in northern Virginia, it is cold, damp, foggy, and miserable looking out there.  Yet I am still filled with the dream of a warm day on the horizon, arriving soon I hope!

Given the grayness of the view from my window, I wonder how this weather impacts our communication with each other.  Consider those around you – do you notice a general change in the tone of those you come in contact with?  More importantly from my perspective, if and when you see a change, what do you do about it?  Do you rise above the mire and muck or do you drop right down into it with them.

Individually, are you able to move past this and be upbeat with your colleagues, friends and family?  Or does it pull you into a daylong funk that you find difficulty emerging from, snapping at people as they enter your space?

It can be difficult to be that solitary light of peace when the storms are roiling around you.  At the same time, isn’t it worth it?

I look forward to hearing your perspectives on these questions; in the meantime, I’m going in search of some hot tea and a good book to curl up with….maybe I should find a travel magazine instead!

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Effective Communication Starts with a Feeling

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
-Maya Angelou

If you have ever heard award-winning author and poet Maya Angelou speak, you understand immediately you are in the presence of a master communicator.

Angelou transcends normal communication to elicit a feeling. Reading her words on paper can be an uplifting or memorable experience, but seeing the genuine intensity and intelligence in her facial expressions as her voice bathes you in words is an experience that reaches further than understanding on a mental level. She takes you to a place of greater empathy and connection. She takes you for a walk in her own shoes and helps you feel what she feels.

Communication was never meant to be an endless monologue of directions as often happens in today’s workplace. By taking a page from Angelou’s skillful ability to convey a message, one can achieve effective communication in the workplace far beyond that of typical office interactions.

Inter-Office Communication Can Make or Break the Spirit of a Company
Communicating effectively in the workplace hinges upon the ability to convey a common goal and empower feelings of cohesion in teams within an organization.

The communication needs of an organization goes beyond the transmission of rote messages; they must include the ability to generate and develop an internal feeling shared by a work team. When this happens, remarkable results can be achieved in the overall unity of an organization and its productivity.

Within the entire workplace spectrum, integrative-independent communication skills are ever-present. Colleagues bicker about the same topic only to find that they are really saying the same disconnected thing from a different perspective. Others complain and argue to the point where they refuse to work with each other. Even further on the spectrum, others opt to remain silent and watch the system as it slowly breaks down into a disordered state.

Today’s workplace is incredibly diverse – at the very least ethnically, generationally, and spiritually. The ability to successfully exchange relevant information becomes even more vital in this diversity. Team members who communicate in an integrative manner look each other in the eyes and speak to the heart of the matter. They have learned strategies that allow them to observe the issue from a seamless framework without any animosity.

As Angelou conveys so succinctly: People will always remember how you make them feel. By using effective communication to bring positive and productive feelings to the workplace, companies benefit immensely. This is why it is so important to train team members to use interpersonal and integrative communication skills to achieve organizational success.

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When the Cherry Blossoms Don’t Bloom

March in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, kicks off the region’s “Everyone’s Coming to Town” season. Beginning with the Cherry Blossom Festival than on to the spring break pilgrimage, moving right into the summer tourists! Great to have everyone here putting money into the economy but who isn’t glad to have the roads back in September!

Think of all the planning that goes into the festival, the parade, and the trips. All those plane, train, and car rides, vacation days, packing, and rest stops! It’s as if spring fever is a planning virus.

Yet at times, life doesn’t go according to plan. You put in to attend a conference only to learn your co-worker has been chosen to go instead. Your car needs a repair – there goes your vacation fund. A new project hits your team and you are staring at it late at night. You didn’t get the raise/promotion/(insert your work reward of choice) that you were counting on. Your entire family comes in for the Cherry Blossom Festival and once again the trees aren’t blooming. Heck, at this year’s rate, they’ll be done by the end of March!

But the celebration goes on.

Here are some strategies for success in the workplace, even when life doesn’t go according to plan.

To be fair, there are life events that are hard to dust yourself off from, such as a significant illness, the death of a loved one, or a crushing personal crisis like a divorce or bankruptcy. Life-altering events need care and nurturing.

But when you feel off kilter because your request to travel to a conference was denied or you are chastised by your boss for being late again because traffic patterns continue to change, it’s time to evaluate and push through.

Take responsibility for your actions.

Each job disappointment is unique but when you are denied a request, overlooked for an accolade, or taken to task for a behavior, ask yourself, “Did I somehow contribute to this outcome?”

It’s hard to take responsibility when you are angry at a situation or a person. Why was your request denied? Is it a budget issue, a poor time for you to be away from the office, or a project? Did you fail to check the most recent travel reports and once again underestimated your commute? Did a co-worker do a better job?

By owning your mistakes, you can learn from them, work harder and make changes.

Stop expecting rewards when you don’t deserve them.

If you are denied earned vacation time, overlooked for a promotion after consistently high evaluations, or are not being paid for legitimate paid overtime, you have an HR problem that needs to be officially resolved.

But if you are denied vacation and you’ve only been on the job for three months, you have unrealistic expectations. If you feel you should have received a promotion over a co-worker, take some time to investigate his or her qualifications and ask your manager what you can do better. If you still feel you should have received the job, it may be time to look for a new job. That may be its own reward.

Give yourself a break.

It’s ok to admit you’re not perfect. No one is perfect. We all have days and even months when bad goes to worse. Recognize that life and work run in cycles.

Winter runs into spring and no matter how much we plan for the cherry blossoms, they don’t bloom when expected. But they do eventually bloom. Just plan for the traffic when they do.

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The Bully Behind the Desk

Here’s some eye-opening news. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. A Yale University study found that victims of bullying are between two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than those who are not being bullied. The National Education Association reports 160,000 children miss school each day for fear of being

Much has been written in recent years about bullying; many schools have developed a no-bully policy. However, that doesn’t stop the behavior any more than a no-smoking sign outside a building stops people from smoking.

Let’s move past the tender school years and jump into the workforce. A 2014 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI,) reports that twenty-seven percent of workers “have current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work.”  Not surprisingly, managers are the majority of offenders.

Now, let’s connect the dots. If students are missing school and contemplating suicide, how does that translate to working adults? Students can and should report all incidents of bullying to school authorities. But what does a worker do if the consequences are professional retaliation or job loss? Not everyone is in a position where he or she can just get another job.

First, it’s important to recognize and define workplace bullying behavior. WBI defines it as conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating and includes actions that lead to work sabotage. This can come through verbal abuse or written text or emails.

If you think that these behaviors walk the line between bad actors and legal actions, you’re right

  • Document the activities, names, dates, events, and witnesses if applicable
  • Report activities to human resources or the highest authority above the person who is the bully
  • Seek the advice of an attorney
  • In extreme cases, call the police

Most of all, realize that you are not alone. The schoolyard bully does grow up, yet unfortunately, may not outgrow his or her reprehensible behavior. No one has the right to abuse another person on the playground or at work.

Wise Words Newsletter – read the rest of the April newsletter here!

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PTSD in the Washington Region – Hidden in Plain Sight

Living in the National Capitol Region, we share the area with many military installations and service members. Americans pride themselves on supporting the military. People rally around the returning troops, attend fundraisers to help support individuals, brave freezing December temperatures to lay wreaths at military cemeteries, and countless other opportunities to show their gratitude. Some even come together to build homes for those who have sustained more severe injuries that require building accommodations for prosthetics, wheelchairs, and other mobility-enhancing devices.

But what about those soldiers, men, and women, who carry silent burdens? Many look the same but suffer the natural consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to a study by the RAND Corporation, at least 20 percent of service members returning from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from depression, PTSD, or both. Military counselors estimate those numbers to be higher, especially when coupled with a TBI or traumatic brain injury.

As veterans transition into a civilian work environment, both themselves and their employers must understand how PTSD may impact everyone. They must work together to develop solutions so both the company and the veteran have the best chance at creating a successful work environment for all. According to 2012 research from Babbel, PTSD can impact veterans in many ways including memory loss, which can impact those struggling to learn new tasks on new jobs or function in meetings; lack of concentration; stress, including panic attacks, flashbacks, and emotional extremes resulting in the potential inability to work well with colleagues and managers; and hypersensitivity to sounds, lights, large crowds, and unknown areas resulting in headaches, migraines and panic attacks. Many veterans may not be used to the traditional work structure as compared with the military rank structure. This can cause stress and frustration as the employee works to forge a new path. For someone suffering from PTSD-induced memory loss, being unable to remember how to do that basic task explained earlier in the day may cause the individual to become overwhelmed and then lash out and blame a colleague or a supervisor. These types of negative responses can impede the development of relationships and workplace morale, particularly if other employees don’t understand that the incident isn’t about them. As the tension comes to light, it’s important to identify the root cause. Is it coming from one of the identified symptoms of PTSD? Supporting Individuals with PTSD in the workplace

  • Create a safe place to ask questions and work together
  • Bring in a trained facilitator/consultant to work with both management and veterans to better
    understand issues and then develop solutions
  • Develop written procedures, meeting notes, and training manuals so employees can refer back if they
    missed something at a session or need additional refreshers
  • Have published calendars for team tasks so individuals can refer to these privately
  • Provide access to alternate/softer lighting in workspaces
  • Initiate organization-wide strategies for managing stress
  • Set aside money for additional training for new members
  • Provide disability training to all team members

A solid relationship between employees and managers is critical for a productive workplace. This may be difficult for a veteran suffering from PTSD, working for a manager with little to no awareness of their background. Just like any employee, if the manager exhibits a lack of empathy for the individual’s situation, it becomes more difficult for the employee to be successful. This is magnified for someone struggling with PTSD.

Transitioning into a new workplace is difficult for anyone, but for those who bear the biggest burden for our freedoms, the task can seem impossible. If everyone did their part, the difference would be immeasurable.

This article was initially published in Prince William Living Magazine.
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Communicating from Our Corners

Election month, November is finally here. The political vitriol and hate speech will stop (hopefully). With internet jokes, pundit reports, and social media shouting at us in a never-ending cycle, it’s difficult to tune it out. I’m your neighbor from up north, and I think a lot of it is a communication issue. The United States has genuinely stopped listening and talking as a country.

Let’s examine the previous several months and how we got here.

Republicans came first, but only because of the order of their convention.

Ted Cruz declined to support Trump. For the purposes of this conversation, it doesn’t matter if you loved or supported him. What counts is that a group of people booed him, engaging in improper behavior of their own. This shows how strongly they felt about his message. Delegates then began to abuse him on the convention floor, calling him a traitor and other derogatory terms.

The Bernie or Bust Democrats followed suit a week later. Even after their candidate endorsed the opposing candidate, they refused to accept it and continued to spew hate speech.

then the debates would follow. I listened to a stammering Donald Trump ramble about, I don’t know, anything. I could share some advice with him about how to interact with a crowd as a leadership development expert. Hillary made a sincere effort to connect with the audience despite her worries about her ability to do so. She has been portrayed in the past three weeks’ worth of Saturday Night Live sketches.

Then came a series of one-liners from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, including references to “Nasty Woman” and “Basket of Deplorables.”

Including the allegations of sexual misconduct, Wikileaks, remarks concerning the involvement of other countries, and so forth. We are impatiently waiting to exit the crazy Ferris wheel that is spinning nonstop.

One of the things that make the United States a nation full of ideas and opportunities is the freedom to protest and inquire. But somewhere along the line, people lost the ability to sympathize, compromise, listen, and act rationally rather than emotionally. They have retreated even further into their corners.

Do you stand in a corner and stare out? Have any of the following crossed your mind or lips?
– Because I despise candidate B, I’m going to vote for candidate A. I won’t be casting a vote at all. I wholeheartedly agree with what my candidate says. Everything the other candidate says is unquestionably false. Never support Trump! Never Hillary, I say!

If you answered yes to any of them, you’re probably in a tight spot politically.

What would happen if you declared that you would never collaborate with a person in your office or on your team? What would happen if you were asked to present evidence and information regarding a project to aid in solving a dispute but you objected, claiming the opposing side was incorrect? What would you say if a worker approached you and said, “Never”? There is a good chance that HR would receive a call.

This lack of leadership results from no one paying attention, making concessions, or showing empathy. Booing someone is simple. Finding a solution to a problem and shaking hands is more difficult.

We all have our own niches, but it’s important to identify when we start to attract less attention since all we do is boo. This is when we become the “Never.” And when we turn into the “Never,” we must understand the effect that has on other people.

What do you perceive from your position as a leader? Do you simply perceive things from your own point of view? Or can you move around the room and experience it from someone else’s perspective? Do you anticipate that everyone on your team and throughout the company will adopt your point of view? Or can you see that sometimes being a part of something bigger than yourself requires sacrificing your personal needs and ambitions in order to realize the wider picture? In my book, How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work, I discuss how empathy and perspective-taking are crucial for fostering teamwork. Although it’s not always simple, achieving an organization’s objective and the bottom line is essential to its success.

As an individual leader and a part of your professional and personal communities, I encourage you to turn around and look at things from a different angle. You are not required to alter your opinions. But maybe, just maybe, you can work out a compromise. Your efforts to try and meet individuals where they are will be noticed by your team, and your business will benefit as a result.

Also, don’t forget to use your voting rights!

Read the remainder of the November newsletter at Wise Words here!

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The Important Role of the Right “Q” in the Workplace

As leaders, one way we make predictions about potential success is through IQ, intelligence testing. First developed in the early 1900s, these tests have become standard tools for the military, school placement, and human resource departments. But what do these tests measure or really predict? If you took the SAT as part of your college entrance application, and didn’t do well, but still graduated with top honors from a university, you experienced first-hand that human intelligence cannot and should not be bound by a number.

If we simply ignore IQ and build our teams with a balance of race, gender, class, and culture that would be what many experts tout as a diversified workforce. But putting diversity aside for a moment, we still have to remember that each person, regardless of his or her diversity, is unique. Each person has experiences, a personality, and abilities. Hiring managers and teams still need to make personnel decisions based on traits and abilities that do not always include technical abilities.

In my book, How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work, the protagonist, Louise Jackson is a technically astute middle manager who has inherited a diverse team. She’s annoyed by their personal problems, and their need to share the ups and downs of their client interactions, and fails to see how she is losing control of her project. She suffers from a lack of interpersonal skills, particularly empathy. She is sent to work with a mentor with the dark cloud hanging over her head and unless there is improvement in her leadership and team, she’ll be looking for a new job. She confides in her mentor that, Some people at this company are just too thin-skinned. They expect you to worry about their feelings and what is going on with them outside of the office. This is work, for goodness sake. You come here to get the job done.

Lou needs to learn about EQ or emotional intelligence.

What is EQ?
Emotional Intelligence is arguably a more critical element of success than IQ in determining a cohesive productive team in the workplace.  The Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology lists three major models of emotional intelligence, Mayer-Salovey, Daniel Goleman, and Reuven Bar-On.  The Mayer-Salovey model defines this as the ability to perceive, understand, manage and use emotions to facilitate thinking.  The Goleman model views EQ as an assortment of emotional and social competencies that contribute to successful managerial performance and leadership.  The Bar-On model describes EQ as an array of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills, and behaviors that impact intelligent behavior.

There are five composites of Emotional Intelligence that makeup the Bar-Ons EQ-I 2.0 model; self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision-making, and stress management.  Arguably, the most important for successful leadership is interpersonal skills. Healthy engagement with these proficiencies allows you to understand, connect and relate better with others and become more successful in positions that require social connection and esprit de corps.

Yet many leaders bristle at the use of the term empathy. Some find it difficult to care about things outside of the production of work, but as the workforce becomes more diversified, empathy and EQ skills are essential for success.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace?
You hear the term company culture thrown around frequently in modern organizations. Any research on values and goals tells you that when values and goals align in the workplace, organizations are more successful.

From a management standpoint, if you are working at cross-purposes with your employees, your productivity will be stunted. It may be easier to quantify and calibrate technical skills but the behavioral skills found within EQ fuel the growth of your business.

Organizations can benefit from bringing in a knowledgeable consultant to facilitate EQ growth by utilizing assessments such as EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 to evaluate emotional intelligence in management, employees, and teams. From there, an interactive program to work with individuals and teams will cultivate valuable resources to improve effective communication. In the case of my struggling protagonist, Lou, she participates a formal mentoring program. Through stories, I show how she learns how to work with her team and increase organizational productivity. Those strategies will work for the real characters in our offices too!

Wise Words Newsletter” read the rest of the October newsletter here!

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Communication and Integrative Listening

It’s September, happy New Year! Don’t worry, I do know that the actual start of the year is January. Yet for many people, September signifies the start of a major work cycle and a return to more targeted communication. Summer vacations end, children go back to school, days are shorter, and there is a sense of urgency to produce profit, and provide before the actual new year.

This is a good time of year for managers to pay attention to integrative listening. This is a psychological/behavioral skill that means paying attention to others using your whole self. Look people in the eyes when either of you speaks, be sensitive to body language, and today, I would add, keep your phone in your pocket!

Leaders who practice integrative skills communicate with empathy, working to understand where the other person is coming from, even if they don’t agree with why the person feels or thinks that way. They watch the speaker’s body language and listen to their tone of voice. They understand that communication is more than words in isolation.  They learn to respond assertively, using I messages, owning their contribution to the process of communicating, and helping to involve the other parties in the process as well.  As people practice and employ these skills, they begin to appreciate what the other person brings to the table; relationships based on trust lead to more cohesive teamwork.

Now that we have all come back to work, physically and mentally, and that “new year” sense of urgency has started to surge through our workplace, it is more important than ever to be mindful of our behavior and practice integrative skills.  Recognize how our behavior impacts others. Are our ‘contributions’ really contributing to the growth of the team and the organization?  Or are we becoming a deterrent because of our lack of communication skills?  What do you need to focus on before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2016?

Want to learn more? Contact me at [email protected]

Wise Words Newsletter’s read the rest of the September newsletter here!

Effective Communication

The Important Role of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in the Workplace

The phrase Emotional Intelligence was coined by leading researchers Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer back in 1990 in their article, “Emotional Intelligence”  “We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

What is EQ?

Emotional Intelligence is often referred to as EQ and is arguably a more critical element of success than IQ in determining a cohesive productive team in the workplace. Five categories of Emotional Intelligence make up the EQ.

  • Self-Awareness – The perception of emotion in oneself and others
  • Empathy – The ability to express and understand emotions and recognize them in others
  • Motivation – The ability to utilize emotions for productivity
  • Self-Regulation – The ability to manage emotions
  • Social Skills – The ability to interact successfully with others

“Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them,” Says Howard Gardner, Harvard theorist, influential in the field of EI research.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important in the Workplace?
You hear the term ‘company culture’ thrown around frequently in modern organizations. Any research on values and goals tells you that when values and goals align in the workplace, organizations are more successful.

From a management standpoint, if you are working at cross-purposes with your employees, your productivity will be stunted. Much of drawing out the best possible productivity and growth in your team is dependent upon your ability to find the strengths and weaknesses in your people and nurture and grow their competencies. It may be easier to quantify and calibrate technical skills but the behavioral skills found within EQ fuel the growth of your business.

It can be highly beneficial for organizations to bring in a knowledgeable consultant to administer EI testing such as the EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 assessments to evaluate emotional intelligence both in management and in employees and teams. Once an assessment has been performed, an interactive program to work with individuals and teams will cultivate valuable resources to improve effective communication and understanding to increase team and organizational productivity.

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