Gentle Mentors Are Not Helpful- Or Are They?

handsI am blessed.  Really.

You don’t have to even believe in God to know that I am blessed in the sense that I have mentors who love and care for me.  Like many people, I have more than one.  In fact, I have too many to count.  Of all those people, 4 are extra special to me because they seem to know my soul, not just what is near the surface.  Two are female and two are male.  Each one guides me in such drastically different ways, yet I am always amazed that their guidance collectively leads me in one direction.

I once had someone tell me that gentle mentors are not helpful.  If you define gentle as someone who is passive or not direct with feedback, then I agree.  But in my world, gentle is someone who can empathize with me and yet still tell me the truth.

How To Be A Gentle Mentor

  1. Have an empathetic ear
  2. Listen, listen, listen
  3. Encourage the person to show emotion- whatever that emotion is
  4. Be honest but not cutting with your feedback and advice

Have you had a gentle mentor?  Have you thanked them lately?  I think we all have a great opportunity to be this type of mentor to someone.

HR Happy Hour: Innovation In Communication, Collaboration and Coaching

This week in the first LIVE show of 2014 Steve Boese and I brought Sean Conrad, Senior Product Analyst & Sales Trainer at Halogen Software back to the show.  Sean and Halogen are both big supporters of the HR Happy Hour and we feel equally strong about what Halogen Software has added to the industry over the years.  In this episode, we talked about ways that organizations can improve their communication, collaboration and coaching techniques.

Halogen recently launched two new modules to address these needs.  Their new 1:1 Exchange meeting module and the Halogen Myers-Briggs module introduce innovative approaches to workforce improvements.  Listen in to the replay to learn more about the modules as well as other ways organizations can approach these challenges.

 

 

Current Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese on BlogTalkRadio

What Dr. Seuss Taught Me About Succeeding In Business

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”Theodor Seuss Geisel

That is one of my favorite quotes of all time and it’s from Dr. Seuss, well, at least most people attribute it to him.  There is often debate around great sayings.  The important thing for me is the message.  It helps me remember that there will always be people who respect me for who I am.  They are not going to try to mold me into their vision of who I should be.  And, when you’re respected, you will be far more likely to be a success in life.

That is a good lesson to learn.  And, although Dr. Seuss may or may not have said that statement, there are many other gems we know he wrote that apply interesting well in the business world.  If we can simplify our thinking once in awhile, we would see that life’s lessons are often more common sense and less conquer-the-world statements. According to Dr. Seuss, “sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”  Here are a few quotes I like and how I interpret them in business:

Learning & Development

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” This comes to us from the story ‘I Can Read With My Eyes Shut‘ from 1978.  I always liked this book and the overall message.  This quote confirms that we need to keep reading and learning so that opportunities come our way.  If we remain stagnant in our career, in our relationships, in our communities, we will not “go” anywhere.  I don’t know about you, but I am a firm believer in reading, learning, and growing.

Diversity

There are a ton of books by Dr. Seuss that teach children (and adults) to be more tolerant of people who are different. Most of his characters were made-up beings who interacted with humans.  These beings taught the humans many things.  I love this quote from ‘Horton Hears A Who’.

“Don’t give up! I believe in you all.  A person’s a person, no matter how small!  And you very small persons will not have to die if you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!”

So, whether we’re small or tall, black, white, or green, we’re all important.  We all have special talents.  We all have to try to make our voice heard.

Involvement

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” This quote is found in ‘The Lorax‘ which was written in 1971.  Definitely a great book and made-for-tv cartoon that teaches us about treating the environment well and not being wasteful.  I also love the message here that you cannot just rely on others to change things.  If you want something to be better, YOU have to get involved and make it better.

Work/Life Balance

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.” This one comes from ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!‘ from 1990.

I don’t know if Dr. Seuss had work/life balance in mind when he wrote this book but I get the message loud and clear from this quote.  The story is one of encouragement for people on the path of life.  I think it is also important to note that care and tact are needed for success.  It’s easy to get fired up and expect success to come quickly.  Sometimes it does.  But, more often than not, it takes time and a great deal of diligence to move mountains.  The important thing it IS possible to move a mountain.

What are your favorite Dr. Seuss books or quotes?  Share one with me in the comments….


3 Techniques To Give Direct Feedback To Your C-Suite

Earlier this week, I wrote a post called ‘3 Techniques To Give Direct Feedback At Work. There were a few follow up questions posted in the comments that lend themselves to additional posts with further clarification.  Here is a question posed by Jay Goldman from Rypple.com.  Jay asks:

How would you handle a situation in which giving the feedback could be detrimental to your job? Let’s say, for example, that the ‘chatty cathy’ in your office is actually the CEO. You know she’s not interrupting you on purpose and really wants to see your results, but you also know that she’s pretty sensitive about personal feedback. How would you handle letting her know?

Believe it or not, the question of how to give your CEO or others in the C-suite direct feedback comes up more than you think. Many employees would love to give feedback but either the leader makes himself or herself unapproachable or the company culture supports that the decisions or actions of those in the C-suite are untouchable.  This makes the employee feel like there is no use in giving the feedback.

I’ve heard the advice that for leaders, the best feedback is given in an anonymous survey, in the employee engagement survey, or by leaving an anonymous note in the ‘Suggestion Box’ if the company has one.  I know of situations where employees leave anonymous, typed letters on a leader’s desk.

As I said in the earlier post about giving feedback to a colleague, this indirect feedback is not the best approach.  Why not?

  • In a survey, your one comment can get lost in the sea of responses and not stand out to the leader as something that really needs to change.
  • Dropping anonymous notes in a box or on their desk  is also not good because since the leader is human, that leader may focus more on trying to determine who wrote the note than on the validity of the feedback contained in the note.

Real change in behavior, regardless of who is receiving it, is more likely to come from a delivery that is sincere and made in a respectful way.  In other words, be real and say it the way you would personally want to receive that type of message.  So, although you need to finesse them a little differently,  I stick to the same three techniques you would use for a colleague.  They are:

Be Direct-

Frame your feedback in the ‘Compliment- Concern- Question’ format.  Give the leader a sincere compliment on a behavior.  Then, state your concern.  Wrap it up with a question that asks the leader for their help in resolving the situation. The approach might sound like this, “Sir. I would like to talk with you for a moment. I’ve noticed you like to come to my cube each afternoon to talk with me about _________(insert sport, politics, or whatever topic here).   I really enjoy being able to have those conversations with you.  One concern I have though is that I am not going to be timely in meeting deadlines you set if I don’t focus on the project at hand.  Can you help me prioritize being able to meet your expectations, yet still have time for casual interactions?”

By framing your feedback in this way, you are still being direct and communicating that the leader’s behavior is the distraction.  You are also communicating that you want to do a good job and meet the leader’s deadlines and expectations. Finally, you are finessing the situation so that you’re asking the leader to LEAD you and guide you to the solution.  You are not coming on so strong that you are telling the leader what to do.  This is a good strategy to get your point across and still allow the leader to save face.  It can even work for more serious feedback when you disagree with a decision the leader has made.  By framing it with the Compliment- Concern- Question format, you can raise your concern without putting the leader on the defensive.

Don’t bring other people into it-

Don’t feel obligated to be the speaker for the group.  Even if other people have this issue, the second you tell the leader, “Sir, everyone on the team says…..”, you have just shut that leader’s mind down from hearing the rest of the sentence.  They are now in “human” mode and their brain is wondering who is talking about them behind their back.  Keep your feedback direct and speak on your own behalf.

Use your voice/ avoid e-mail-

This goes back to avoiding the indirect approach.  Your message may not have the tone you think it does and the message will not likely have the impact you’re desiring.  You can’t determine when the leader reads that message and it may not be the ideal time for them to receive it.  By saying the feedback out loud, directly to the leader, you are in control of the tone of your message as well as the timing of the delivery.

I once had a leader I respected tell me to give it to him straight when it came to feedback.  He’d tell me, “I’m just a guy.”  As a young woman at the time, it was  a good lesson to learn and since then, I’ve always thought of those in the C-suite in that way. They are human.  They want feedback like the rest of us and want it delivered in a respectful, direct way. I’m not saying it will be an easy conversation, but I guarantee that the leader will respect you more for having the conversation.

What do you think?  Do you have any examples to share?

Blogger Highlight: Seiden, Stelzner, Rosendahl, and Mitton

*From the dusty archives…

It’s been several weeks since I removed my old blog roll and started highlighting bloggers I recommend.  If you missed my post on blowing up my blog roll, the reason is that I think the list of blogs is long and anyone new to my site would not understand what each blog I like is about or why I read them.  Instead, they would just have some random link to a blog.

I will highlight several blogs each month and add them to a new page.  I hope the additional detail will help people find some great blogs to read.  Here are my four for today:

  • Seiden Leadership–  This blog, by author, acclaimed speaker, and advisor to SmartBrief Workforce Jason Seiden, is one of my “must reads” every day.  Jason is the author of two highly successful business books; ‘How To Self Destruct‘ and ‘Super Staying Power‘.  Jason’s blog mixes solid leadership advice with humor and a good dose of snark.  He covers everything from business to politics to music.  Best of all, Jason tells you how to LIVE.  I don’t mean like all kumbaya.  I mean, he tells you how not to be a jerk, how to be a better colleague, a better boss, a better friend, a better parent.  That’s pretty damn cool.  Now go, read his stuff.  Oh, and be sure to reach out to him because he’s someone you’ll want to know.
  • Inflexion Point–  Mark Stelzner.  Need I say more?  I don’t think I do, but I will for the sake of this being a blog I just told you I’d tell you about.  Mark is a respected industry leading consultant who guides us on all things related to business strategy and operations as it relates to human resources.  He is an advisor to SmartBrief Workforce and also founded Job Angels, a grass roots movement to help job seekers.  Mark’s writing style is direct and is often in story-telling mode.  When you read his posts, you’ll feel as if you’re on the journey with him, not just reading something where you’re on the outside looking in.  I think that is one thing that makes his blog so special.  You become PART of it with him.
  • Simply Lisa– Don’t let her blog’s title fool you, there is nothing simple about Lisa Rosendahl or her blog.  Lisa is a seasoned HR pro and blogger who has been recognized by more industry experts than I can list here.  Suffice to say, she’s a writer you need to follow.  Lisa brings the practical, “in the trenches” side of HR to you in her blog.  She also brings a unique spin on all aspects of human resources.  Throw in a little on social media and some posts on how Lisa personally deals with challenges and you’ve got a great blog to add to your reader.
  • tHRyving–  Kelly Long authors this GenY blog.  While relatively new to the space, don’ t let that or the fact that she’s early in her career stop you from subscribing.  It’s the main reason I read her posts.  She brings a fresh look to some of the old, tired processes of HR.  Kelly tells us what is on the mind of college students and those recent graduates as they enter the HR arena.  She is basically like a coach for all of us who have been doing this job for a long time.  And, we NEED her.  What a great opportunity to hear from someone like Kelly so that we can understand what motivates our future leaders.  So, take a moment and head over to her blog.  She’s definitely thrYving!

So, if you’re not already subscribed to these four blogs (OR Mine for that matter), why not do it today?  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  And, if you have any feedback on why you like reading Jason, Mark, Lisa, or Kelly, add that to the comments.

Apologies At Work: Do We Need To Make Them?

i-am-sorryIn traveling down the worm hole that is the internet, I landed on a 2010 story in Psychology Today called The Science of Effective Apologies.  It caught my attention  for a couple reasons.  First, I hate to apologize.  I will do it and I think you should too, but I can’t think of a time when it really made me feel better.  Second, I’m intrigued by the science behind why people do, or don’t, apologize and the impact on the recipient.  All this reminded me that there are many situations in the workplace where you or a colleague may feel disrespected, under-valued or even outright wronged.  Have you received an apology?  Did it help?  If you were the person who hurt a colleague, did you apologize?

According to the author, Gary Winch, PhD., beyond the three components most of us expect in an apology (expression of regret, actually saying the words “I’m sorry”, and requesting the person’s forgiveness), “Studies have found that in addition to the three basic ingredients, three additional apology components play an important role in determining whether an apology will be effective:

  1. Expressions of empathy
  2. Offers of compensation
  3. Acknowledgments that certain rules or social norms were violated

These components were found to be most effective when they were matched to the characteristics of the person to whom the apology was being offered.”

I don’t know about you, but all that sounds like a lot of thought and work need to go into a sincere and effective apology.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe you should do it.  I wonder though, is it the thought that apologies can be complex that keeps people away from giving them?  As a believer that it’s all about making the recipient feel better, I still wonder if some colleagues do not do this because they perceive it as them giving away their power.

We all have known colleagues or leaders who refuse to apologize, right?  According to a 2013 study in the European Journal of of Social Psychology, “Results showed that the act of refusing to apologize resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologize. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem. “

So, are leaders less likely to apologize?  

Whether they are or not isn’t as important as the fact that if you are in a leadership role, it is healthier for your team to apologize when you are wrong.  It’s a balance, of course, of knowing when it will be needed and meaningful.  None the less, it’s something to consider if you’re a leader who wants to humanize yourself with your team in order to build and reinforce trust.

What do you think?  Do you apologize?  Has someone at work apologized to you?  Share in the comments…

Business Impact of The Five Love Languages

I’m a believer that our personal lives and professional lives are intertwined and that it’s nearly impossible to separate or compartmentalize them.  So, when a manager or employee comes to me for advice, I try to look for clues to the big picture instead of just that situation.  Often when I’m assessing a situation, whether it is in my personal or professional life, I think back to a book I read ten years ago.  The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.   Dr. Chapman is a well-known and respected pastor, author, and speaker.  And, while this book was written to assess and address the language of love that is meaning to someone on an individual level, I”ve found that there are many business uses for the book.

The basic premise Dr. Chapman asserts is that there are five “languages” of love and that each one of us has a primary language.  If your partner speaks a different “language”, there is a good chance you will not feel loved.  So, the idea is to identify your primary love language and your partner’s, then work to use the language the other person responds to best.

The five love languages

  • Words of Affirmation- This person identifies most with compliments and other words that say you value them.  If you insult this person, it will affect them more deeply than other people.
  • Quality Time–  This person values your undivided attention.  If you miss a meeting or appointment  with this person, they will truly be hurt.
  • Receiving Gifts–  It’s not just the gift that is important to this person, but the thought behind it.  If you miss this person’s birthday or anniversary, they may be crushed.
  • Acts of Service- This person feels happiest when you are showing your love by helping them.  Whether it’s pitching in on a chore at home or helping with a big project at work, this person will feel valued and cared for.
  • Physical Touch- This is not a language just about sexual contact.  The person that speaks this language feels important when they are hugged, get a pat on the back, or your hand on the shoulder.  This one is harder to demonstrate at work due to sexual harassment laws, however, it can still be demonstrated in moderation.  The pat on the back, fist bump, shaking hands, or high five can fill in and still show this person they are valued by using physical contact.

If you think about the people you work with; your team members, colleagues and peers, subordinates, try to figure out which language seems to apply most to each person.

Let’s imagine you’re the type of leader who is very busy and recognizes performance only with money (pay increases, spot bonuses, etc.).   You are speaking the Receiving Gifts language.  But if I am the person who works for you and my primary language is Quality Time, I will not feel valued or cared for.  The one thing that would make my day is to have you show up for a meeting on time or meet with me one-on-one.  Or, if I feel valued when you notice that I’m carrying a heavy workload and you offer to pitch in and help me meet a big deadline, you’re speaking my language of Acts of Service.

There are many benefits of learning your own love language and how you can use the love languages model to communicate more effectively with people in your personal and professional life.  You will build stronger relationships and have more engagement with the people in your life.  To take a quiz to find out your own love language, click HERE.  Then, tell me what your love language is in the comments. For anyone who has met me or knows me from reading my blog, there will be no surprise to my results.

Mine is physical touch and words of affirmation almost equally.  Must explain why I’m a hugger who likes compliments!  :-)

Self-Awareness Powers Great Leadership

I’ve been thinking lately about why some leaders fail.  There are many theories about the causes and what can be done to improve the leadership abilities a person has.  There are also theories that focus on the idea that leadership abilities are something that individuals are born with, that they are innate.  Either way, companies promote people into leadership roles who either do not have the skills they need or the skills they have are not strong enough to be successful.

In my career I’ve had the same conversation many times.  It goes like this:

Manager– “Jane Doe is not leading her team effectively.  She is not respected, she alienates her staff, she’s too hard (or too soft) on her staff, she does not understand business metrics and how to meet them, and on and on.  What training do we offer that I can send her to?  I think she needs leadership training.  I think she needs training on how not to alienate her staff.”

HR– “Well, we offer Leadership 101, How to Give Constructive Feedback, yadda yadda yadda.”

Manager– “Great.  Let’s send her to XYZ training.”

End of story?  No.  Six months later, her boss is back and says she has not improved.  She is still having the same issues. So, what went wrong?  We talked about it and wrote in her plan that she needed training and,  she attended training.  She should have been a success story, right?

Sound familiar?

Companies today tend to put all their eggs in one basket and focus predominantly on training.  But is that the best strategy?  Isn’t on-the-job learning the best way to teach someone how to lead?

So, I’ve been thinking and researching why this is not working.  My theory is that the real problem is not any of the leadership skills the employee lacks.  The root problem is that the employee lacks self-awareness and without THAT, this employee can attend training ever day and still never improve. If this manager does not perceive that she has issues dealing with her staff, then sending her to training to work on that will just not sink in.  So, how do we break this cycle?

We need to take it back to square one.  Self-awareness training.  Make employees go through training that will show them where the deficiencies lie.  Make them talk about it.  Make them discuss whether they realize these are deficiencies.  Do they agree?  Disagree?  Without that piece, you may never break through, so that later, when they understand what they need to work on and they have buy in that it is holding them back in their performance.  Then, the company needs to:

Tie it to accolades

Tie it to responsibility

Tie it to money

Then, and only then will the leadership training begin to stick.  Otherwise, you may be throwing away your company’s training dollars for no reason.  Think about it.