Posts Tagged ‘leadership development’

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How to repair a bad work relationship

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

One of the toughest challenges at work is dealing with a bad relationship. It could be with a co-worker, a customer, a vendor, a boss or someone else but something’s gone wrong, the relationship has gotten tense and it just seems to keep getting worse.

How can you get things back on track?

First, know that you have to do it. An ongoing situation like this can be a real problem. It’s a distraction, a big drain on your energy, and the negativity seeps into everything you do.

To fix it, step one is to have an honest discussion with the other person. Fun!

Okay, not fun. But definitely necessary. And you’ll be surprised how quickly it feels better, assuming you go at it with the right approach.

Here’s a guide to get you started:

1) Begin with an observation about the current state of the things. Keep it as objective as possible. “It seems to me we have not been working that well together.”

2) Own up to your part in it. “I want to apologize for whatever part I’ve played in that. I know I don’t always communicate as well as I could.”

3) Show respect and appreciation. “If I’ve ever given you the impression that I don’t respect you or appreciate what you do I want to apologize for that, too, because I definitely do.”

4) Share a positive vision for the future. “I would love for us to work better together and for things to feel better between us, and I definitely think both of those are possible.”

5) Invite them to comment. “I just wanted to share that with you and see if you had any thoughts or ideas for how we could improve things.”

If you have a work relationship in need of repair, beginning your conversation in this way may be all it takes to turn things around. At the very least, it will go a long way towards getting things back on track and feeling better for everyone involved.

Today’s the day! I know you can do it. I know you’re going to be happy you did.

Be Heard!


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“New Dentist”: The Sad Conclusion

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

After my last post about my new dentist (and communication mistakes), lots of people asked how it turned out. Not to give it away, but it was not good. :-)

There’s a powerful lesson here for the rest of us, too. So it’s worth watching through the end. (Sorry, this one is a little long. (9mins) I’ll get back to shorter ones next time.)


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Presentation Skills Training is a Waste!

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

I was really struck the other day by some YouTube clips I saw on presentation training. They were all focused on skills. But that seems completely off the mark to me. From what I’ve seen, when presentations are boring (which, I’m sorry to say, is most of the time!), it’s not the skills that are the problem, it’s the writing.

Anyway, here’s a little video with some thoughts on the subject. I hope you enjoy it!
(pdf transcript) [ Note: Near the end, I mention clicking the “share button below” to pass this on to others. To do that, you’ll have to watch the video on YouTube, rather than here. Thanks! ]

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Presentation Tips … When The News Is Not Good

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Just a quick note to let you know about a new article of mine that just came out with some great presentation tips in it.

The cover story of the current issue of the TASBO Reporter (Texas Association of School Business Officials‘ quarterly publication) is a piece I wrote called, “Make your next school board presentation a winner.” But the tips apply equally well to anyone, especially if they need to present information their audience doesn’t want to hear. (I hope that’s not you. :-) But if it is, this should help!)

If you know someone in education – or anyone with bad news to share – please pass it on. (Click on the article title below to donwload the PDF)  And as always, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you, too!


Article PDF: TASBO Article

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Do you make this common communication mistake? (Most people do)

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Ever get abrupt, bottom-line emails like this?

Hey. There was a problem with those numbers from Tuesday’s meeting. We need to get this straightened out right away. Can you send me the original files so I can take a look? Thanks. DL

This sort of cold, dry communication is very common, especially at work. And it might not seem that bad at first glance, but from my perspective, it’s a communication mistake. Here’s why:

1) It’s a disconnect. Whenever we interact with someone, if we don’t make some sort of human connection, the message it sends is, “I don’t care about you,” which is about the worst message of all for being heard.

2) It diminishes our effectiveness over the long term. Once someone suspects we don’t care about them, they deal with us in a completely different way. They’re guarded, suspicious, much less cooperative. In other words, our influence and impact go out the window. And someone without influence and impact with others is simply not going to be successful.

3) It’s the opposite of what works. In order to be heard, people first need to be open to what we have to say. “Connect, then communicate” is the key to being heard, not the other way around.

The solution? Lead with the Relationship. Meaning, talk to the other person as a person before you get into all the the details and information.


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Listen up, guys!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Here’s a great success tip for all the guys out there in management:

Start hearing the women on your team.

Whoa! Calm down! You didn’t think I meant YOU, did you? Certainly not! I’m sure you don’t have a problem with this. It’s all those OTHER guys out there.

Or is it?

Let me tell you a story I heard recently. A client of mine was frustrated because she, and all the women on her team, didn’t feel they were being heard by the rest of the team. (Read: By the men on the team.) So she decided to run an experiment. She had an idea she wanted to present at the next meeting. She enlisted a male colleague in the experiment, and told him the idea too. The plan was, she would offer up her idea first. Then, 15 minutes later, he would offer up virtually the same idea, phrased slightly differently. Guess what happened?

    Response to her idea: “Okay, that’s interesting. Thanks.”
    Response to “his” idea: “Hey, what a great idea!”

In case you think this is an isolated incident, every woman I’ve told the story to says the same thing: “I’m not the least bit surprised.”

Are you surprised? Is this happening on your team? Are you sure? If I were you, I’d make sure, because if it is, it’s costing you, big time. Share this article with the women on your team, or, for that matter, with anyone you think of as being “different” from you. Ask them, “Am I doing this? Are you not feeling heard? What could I do to be better about this?”

The bad news? You might not like what you hear. The good news, though, is that it’s an incredible opportunity for you. There’s a tremendous source of great ideas and passion just waiting to be put to use in helping you and your team stand out and succeed. And the best part is, it’s completely free! All you have to do is start hearing everyone on your team, no matter who they are, no matter how different from you they may seem to be.

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Avoiding the “Bonehead Move.”

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

People can make such bonehead moves, can’t they? I’m sorry, but it’s true! Take this story, for example …

A sales team of twenty people were competing with each other in a friendly, month-long contest. At their end-of-month meeting, the manager got up and announced the two winners. Everything was fun and upbeat … until he said this: “If the rest of you slackers were as intelligent and hard-working as these two, maybe you’d have been up here!”

See what I mean? “Motivation through Shame and Insults!” What was he thinking? (It didn’t work, by the way. The team was furious.) Sadly, this sort of thing happens every day, and it boggles the mind. How can you explain it? I mean, seriously, don’t they know?

Here’s the thing: they don’t know. And that’s the key to the whole problem. (more…)

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Case Study: Difficult Conversation Between Peer-Level Teams.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I had a conversation this past week with a physician/administrator who needed to address an on-going problem with another team. Here’s the email she was planning to send:

“Hi guys,

There was a patient last night [ who was transferred to our unit without you briefing us on the case ]. If you would like help in managing these cases, you need to page us. It’s not acceptable or safe to expect the nurse who wasn’t present for the case to try to relay the message of what happened and what needs to be done. In general, if you want us to see any of your patients we would appreciate a page, but especially when there are unstable patients or urgent situations. If you call the central operator (x-xxxxxx-x) they can promptly connect you to us.


Based on the facts, she seemed to have a reasonable position. Also, this was not the first communication on the subject, so there was a certain amount of frustration on her part, which I think you can hear in her note.

But, to me, her email had real problems. It was antagonistic, judgmental and condescending, even calling into question the other team’s commitment to patient’s safety. Bottom line, if I had received the note, I would have felt attacked and likely dug in my heels, and been even less open to anything she had to say in the future. In other words, her note would have had the opposite effect of what she wanted.

As we talked about the situation, it seemed to me the biggest problem was the tension in their work relationship. I didn’t feel she was going to be heard on her main points until she first addressed that reality. In addition, I thought the points themselves would be more effective if presented in a more inclusive, respectful, and non-confrontational way. Here’s what we came up with as an alternate: (more…)

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Love your job?

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I was ordering a take-out lunch the other day and was really struck by the young woman behind the counter who was helping me. She was polite and efficient, but at the same time she seemed to be almost constitutionally unable to smile. We made direct eye contact several times throughout the ordering process but it was always the same:

“Welcome, sir can I help you?” No smile.
“Anything more you’d like with that?” Nothing there.
“Do you want some napkins? Do you need your receipt?” Stone-faced.
“All right, thank you.” Not a glimmer. No movement at the corner of the mouth, at the eyes. Nothing.

Does she love her job? It sure didn’t look like it to me. Now, the truth is, of course, I don’t really know. At one time or another everyone gives an impression that’s different from what they really feel. So it’s possible she does love her job and just isn’t a smiler. But as a customer, the impression I get in that moment is all I have to go on. So, based on that, the answer is no, she does not love her job. She doesn’t even like her job. Being there, wearing that uniform, serving her customers: zero fun, for her. No pleasure whatsoever.

Now, from a management perspective, the question of whether someone who gives that sort of impression should be in a position like that is a great question. But for this discussion I’m really more interested in the question from her perspective, about what’s good for her. (more…)

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Fired for being unhappy?

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Do you know anybody who is clearly not happy in their job? Someone who’s always whining and complaining about this or that, always spreading their negativity around to the rest of the team? Me too. I’m sure every organization has them. For me, whenever I meet someone like that I always think, since they’re so obviously unhappy, why do they stay? I mean, I know it’s not that simple, but still, I can’t help but wonder.

And then I found the answer. A friend sent me this article the other day, and it really clarified for me what I think is the ultimate reason unhappy people stick around: it’s because the organization lets them. For whatever reason, the organization hasn’t included “happiness in the position” as an essential requirement for the job, so the individual is allowed to stick around even though they’re bringing down the whole team.

As if to reinforce the point, a couple of days later I heard about a study on the impact of “bad apples” on a team’s performance. The researchers assigned different teams identical tasks, and the team with the bad apple came in last every time.

Now, before you launch into all the reasons why “firing the unhappy” is over-simplistic, unreasonable, inhuman, or whatever, please read the piece. It’s actually very thoughtful and sensitive to the people involved. Also, understand that I always err on the side of the individual and what they can do for themselves first. But at some point, someone has to enforce standards, and that ultimately comes down to managers and leaders taking action. Besides, you’re not really firing someone because they’re unhappy anyway, you’re just helping them find somewhere where they are happy. How is that not a good thing?

However you approach it, the bottom line is that if someone who reports to you is truly unhappy, you can’t just ignore it. You need to do something about it and help them find a position that’s a better fit. The change doesn’t have to happen today, necessarily. Don’t make it a bigger problem than it needs to be. But at least talk about it, get it out into the open, and start putting some energy into finding a better fit. Because having someone stick around in a position that’s a bad fit serves no one. It’s no good for the individual. And it’s deadly for the organization.

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