It’s all about questions

As someone who started as a journalist, I know the value of great questions. Throughout my career, I’ve focused on asking good questions to move projects forward, to inspire thinking on the part of direct reports and colleagues, and to help me sort out my life and work. It’s always great to read articles that support the value of questions. Check out this article from Fast Company. It’s just a three-minute read – 

Do Your Teeth Really Need to be Whiter?

While I recognize we all want a winning smile, I suggest the teeth whitening craze has gotten to be a bit much. I’ve always watched people’s mouths, maybe I’m practicing my lip reading skills for when my hearing fades totally, so I’m aware of the value of great teeth. However, I’m now getting mesmerized by blinding white teeth, so mesmerized that I get distracted from the conversation.

As I was just spammed with a $129 special, it occurred to me that many people I know, who had great smiles, are being conned into paying for a procedure they truly don’t need. Why do we fall for such vanity hooks?

In supervisory and management roles I’ve noted we also fall for vanity hooks. You’re doing a great job, can you take on this additional task? You’ve always been there to support your people, how about adding this item to your portfolio? Pat me on the back and add another log on my fire of responsibilities.

As a leader you recognize when you must say, “No”. Leaders certainly fill their plate but they don’t take extra serving just to demonstrate how brilliant or talented they are. They know when to say, enough. Now connecting whitening your teeth to leadership may seem like a stretch, but is it? It all comes back to recognizing we truly need to be who we are, honestly.

Are you getting sucked in as a supervisor or manager and taking responsibility for more than you should, or are you a leader?

Garth Roberts

What Price Communication?

Be clear, concise and distinct with your communication. Your staff and clients will love you for it. Well, they’ll at least appreciate you for it and they will know what is expected from them. Remember, when you communicate, the listener is the most important partner in the conversation. If you doubt that and feel it’s what you have to say that is the most important, you’re wrong. You are communicating to get someone to learn, do or accept based on your information. It’s about what you want the other person to do, so the communication is about them, not you. Don’t be stingy with your information. Share it to those who need it. Share it often, clearly and concisely.

Remember; don’t announce how proud you are of your service and horde information from your customers—internal and external. Information is power that is meant to be shared!

Garth Roberts

Compassion and leadership need to go hand-in-hand

There’s a new, international movement to bring compassion back into our lives. Read the charter below and then visit the website.

Charter for Compassion

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Are We Really a Bunch of Slobs?

Recently I was asked to present a seminar on business etiquette to a group of young employees. Their leaders felt that the young crowd didn’t understand proper business rules. That same week I attended a celebration Gala with business leaders. I quickly understood why so many young people appear to lack business etiquette. They don’t have decent role models. While several high profile speakers were making their brief remarks from the platform, several tables of middle aged or older members of the audience continued to talk and laugh loudly.

The young people in the crowd were respectfully listening. It made me ponder as to who really has the etiquette problem. The older members of the crowd either had too much to drink at the champagne reception, and would be slobs anywhere, or their arrogance and inflated egos wouldn’t allow them to stop talking, laughing, and being outrageously loud.

In leadership it’s said that the good leaders walk the talk. During my career I’ve found that to be true. In my corporate training world I find that the strongest corporations have leaders who practice what they preach. I’ve had the opportunity to witness many corporate leaders and their spouses at social events and the true leaders always display business etiquette. How about you? Do you find that we are really just a bunch of slobs?

Garth Roberts

One-way Communication Kills Communication

One-way communication is doomed to failure yet managers, supervisors, foreman, and parents continue to use it.

One-way communication is basically telling someone what you want them to do and not giving the person an opportunity to ask questions for clarification. How many times this week have you told someone what you want done and turned and walked away? How many times have you been disappointed or upset when someone didn’t do what you either asked for or told them to do?

Any good English as a second language instructor will tell you they always check to ensure the student understands directions, requests, or inquiries. The instructors understand the person listening to them may interpret differently. As a leader you must recognize your staff and colleagues can’t read your mind and the words you use may have a different meaning to them. This is particularly true if the part of your workforce learned English as a second language, yet it’s not exclusive to those individuals.

Quality versus excellence

For example, take the word quality, what does it mean to you? Based on your experience and education, quality may mean excellence. The person you’re talking to may very well equate quality to a job well done, but not an “over the top job”.

Three steps to improvement

1.    We all know we have two ears and one mouth. Your first step in improving communication at work and in the home is to use them in the appropriate proportion; listen at least twice as much as you talk. That’s active listening, not just hearing sound vibrations.

2.    The second step is to give the person you’re talking with an opportunity to ask questions. Active questioning on your part, and the other individuals part, is what makes a conversation. As a former journalist I learned the value of who, what, why, where, when, and how questions. When I have been most effective as a leader, open-ended questions, using the W5, have been my best tool.

3.    Now comes the hardest part in effective communication—follow-up. I’m a firm believer in management by walking around. If I’m not visible to my people, they don’t think I care. If I’m visible and checking to see if they need anything from me, I’m the leader. I don’t check on people to see if they are doing the job the way I think should be done. If I’ve done my job in hiring, coaching and mentoring, I don’t need to be concerned. They’ll be doing it as I asked, or even better.

The next time you’re tempted to tell a colleague, employee, or your child what to do without providing an opportunity for clarifying questions, you’re not communicating or leading.

Garth Roberts