Just Try Listening More

I received an email last week from a company promoting 5 ways to communicate to employees.  I was caught by the title and promise of something new and wonderful.  Way down this very long email I found the 5 ways, and sadly nothing new popped up.

What I found interesting though was the direction of these targeted communication tips, each devising a reason to approach employees.  It suggested things like recognition, setting goals and giving employees company updates.  Note the direction of the communication is one way from manager to employee.

I must be old school, but I define communication as a two-way conversation.  Silly me!  I don’t see the need to train managers how to talk as much as how to listen and respond like you are listening!  Don’t get me wrong, it is good to communicate news to your team, but not all communication needs to be this direction.

My general practice as a manager has always been one of “checking in” with staff, or asking probing questions that get the employee to open up.  I find that when I don’t have an agenda, I am less likely to talk and then walk.  I instead learn more when I listen.

I am one of those odd duck managers that share the leader role at meetings.  If I’m not playing moderator all the time, I allow myself the ability to listen and watch for those subtle body language communications.  If I pick up on something I could add value to I communicate my opinion, but for the most part I think managers create a better climate for communication when they listen first.

One other thought that comes to mind worth consideration is the need to allow people time to think and respond.  I was on a conference call a few weeks back when the moderator asked what other issues need to be discussed.  It wasn’t three seconds later that he said, “Oh I have one more thing I need to tell you.”  Friends, my mind doesn’t process that fast and I bet your brain doesn’t either.  When you spring on your audience something new, please give it about 10-seconds before you change to a different topic.  This gives people time to think and formulate a response.

I would encourage you in the next week to look for ways to listen more, and then add a comment below on what you learned from this experiment and how it opened up better communications.

Coaching Smart People

When we think of “Coaching” most managers are thinking of the need to redirect an employee so that they have better performance.  And even though this is a common direction for a lot of coaching conversations, there is also the need to coach the good performer for optimal future performance.

If you have 90-minutes to spare on April 12, 2011, I would like to invite you as my guest to attend a NetSpeed Leadership webinar called “Coaching Smart People.”

In this web workshop, you will learn how to recognize daily opportunities for coaching and be able to bring out talent in everyone.

By participating in this session, managers and business professionals will learn how to:

  • Spot coaching opportunities and apply a model for coaching
  • Recognize what motivates your employees
  • Identify behaviors that foster a coaching climate

Participants in this online workshop will learn about the Six-Step Model for Coaching Smart People, learn about the four elements required for a supportive coaching climate and understand the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Participants will identify attributes of effective coaches as well as complete a self-assessment about their own effectiveness as a mentor.

Pricing is normally $185 per person and includes access to post-classroom web-based reinforcement tools.  But if you email me at jhopkins@netspeedlearning.com I will send you an invitation with a registration link that will bypass the shopping cart.

The Power of Recognition

I was asked recently what I thought was the most valuable skill a manager could learn, and I replied, they should be able to clearly communicate their expectations.  The more I thought about my answer, the more I realized that was only half of the skill.  The other half comes from acknowledging to the other person when they have met the expectation.

Being thankful for the blessings we have should be thought about more often than just at Thanksgiving.  Even in this time of economic woe, we should strive to find things we are grateful for in our lives.  If you are a manager, one of the things that make you successful and employed is your staff and their hard work.

I have trained a lot of management development workshops over the years, and the one that most managers struggle with is recognition.  What do I buy?  What do I give them?  How do I show them they are vital to our success?  I used to say that the reward is not as important as the recognition.  That the effort of saying thank you can be a very powerful motivator if done correctly and when an employee hasn’t heard any kudos in a while, you might just be the one to make their day.

Most employee opinions surveys reveal that employees not only crave appreciation, they will seek it out by walking out the door if they don’t get enough appreciation.  Maybe now people are staying in an unappreciative environment because jobs are scarce, but if the environment hasn’t changed when the economy picks up, they will be the first to walk.

So stop trying to figure out what to buy your employees to show your appreciation, start spending time with them more, and pass out the kudos more often.  Watch the change in their work ethics, loyalty and overall job satisfaction.  And if you happen to be an employee with a manager that doesn’t appreciate you, then forward them a link to this blog.

Dazzle Your Customers!

When was the last time you felt “Dazzled” by a company that you are their customer?  What a great feeling a customer would have after that experience, and yet I’m wondering if you are still trying to remember a time you felt dazzled.

I work as a consultant partner with a company that is hosting a free webinar on March 17, 2011 to overview a training program called Blazing Service.


This is but one of many programs offered by NetSpeed Learning Solutions, and they only feature it in their monthly marketing webinars twice a year.

For more information, and to register click to http://www.netspeedlearning.com/webinar/blazingservice/

The program consists of 6 modules that are learned by either classroom or virtual facilitation, and then reinforced with online application tools that take the newly learned skills and put them into action.

When you register, do me a big favor and note that you are working with Jim Hopkins, and then I earn the brownie points for your attendance.  I will be the one that follows up with you after the webinar if you want to learn how Blazing Service could be implemented at your organization.

Don’t miss this opportunity!

Department Appreciation Day

I have been an independent training consultant for almost 6 years now, and I have been without one of my favorite corporate departments for just as long.  As an independent you assume every function of a company which means you must be able to perform the tasks of sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, product development, and IT, just to name a few.

I’m doing well in most areas, but what I miss most are those talented people in IT.  The ones that man the “Help Desk” and can fix anything.  Oh, I miss them more than I ever realized I would, which simply means that I under appreciated them when I was in the corporate environment.

I am not completely technologically challenged, but I am a close cousin.  I have learned more than I thought possible, but I miss knowing for certain if I am doing the right things all the time.

It was a small thing on my PC last week that malfunctioned and got me to thinking about the lack of appreciation that often goes on within a company for each other’s department.  The value that each department provides to the company as a whole goes under noticed; and I began to think what a great idea if companies formed Department Appreciation Days.

Just like we like to identify Employee of the Month, how about having a day each month devoted to a support department.  Yes, this could be a company sponsored initiative, but I’m thinking about how much more powerful it could be if one department was to identify another department for their value.  When I ran a training department at a bank, there is no way we could have gotten through the implementation of our Learning Management System without IT.  I wish I could go back in time and do something different to show my appreciation.  I thanked them a lot, but there could have been more to show how valuable they were to us.

We all know the power of showing individual appreciation, and I am curious about what you think about this idea.  How hard would it be to implement in your organization?  What are some of the ways you could show appreciation?  What department would deserve a Department Appreciation Day from you?