Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for June, 2015

Speaking your mind (most likely) will lead to true progress.

I had the following article published in our local paper this week. You may notice the title of the published article below is a bit different than the one reflected in the title of this entry. The reason for that is that I received a well-written and respectful email from a reader who shared a negative experience and outcome from her personal experience with speaking up to a difficult boss. She stated that it may not “lead to true progress” because she spoke up and lost her job. I immediately thought…Yes, there will be exceptions to true progress to speaking one’s mind—depending on the personalities, motives, and approaches on either or both sides of the exchange.

This got me thinking about the title in the paper being too absolute. (Oops, too late now) The interesting thing was that the D&C often adjusts my titles after their read of my submissions, so when I received the reader’s note, I was sure I’d left room in my original title for varied experiences and the paper had adjusted it. Yet when I looked at my submission—to my own surprise—I was the one who titled the article. Ah, reinforcement that we can’t even count on our immediate assumptions about our own behavior. 🙂

Anyway, here is the article. . . . The good news is that unlike my comments about the title, I confidently stand by the content of the article. I hope you find it helpful or, at the least, thought-provoking.

—————Originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY, June 23, 2015;
Speaking Your Mind Leads to True Progress

Excluding poor leadership, the number one obstacle to productivity, efficiency and success in the workplace is the inability or unwillingness to speak one’s own mind.

A person may experience his boss as a poor leader and have specific and well-intended ideas about how the leader might be more supportive. Yet, he’ll go years without having that candid conversation directly with his boss. Team members may be struggling with behaviors from a coworker that they experience as irresponsible or condescending. Yet, the coworker who is deemed difficult is not privy to the frustrations he may be causing, and therefore, may not have a clue that he’s in need of a behavior change. Managers will avoid addressing poor performance because they’re fearful of what they see as a dreaded honest conversation. Executives create professional cliques — in lieu of collaborative teamwork and honest communication — generating inaccurate assumptions about each other’s intentions and behaviors, and less-than-effective leadership.

Honest communication in the workplace is a simple phrase that reflects myriad complex skills and strategies. Fear of repercussions after an honest workplace conversation may be a valid concern. However, considering the importance, being well-prepared is one strategy that will increase your ability to generate positive results. Here are a few quick tips to help you prepare for that sensitive conversation:

• Keep your focus on the business impact.

• Bring solutions/recommendations and include your willingness and efforts to support what you’re recommending.

• Be prepared to respond (versus react) to anticipated negative reactions you might receive.

• Solicit agreement on next steps and then follow through.

Want to make a significant difference at work? Have an honest and respectful conversation with the intent to make things better, and you just might.

Training or Coaching Service Representatives? Here’s a tool that may help.

I designed the following self-evaluation as an opening exercise for workshops/coaching sessions I’ve facilitated over the years in varied service arenas (i.e., telephone customer service; internal service/support departments; client interaction/services). You can easily fine-tune it to best fit your audience and needs. The idea is that it can be used as a great opening exercise to help trainees reflect on their own successes and challenges, and focus on where they may choose and welcome development during their training and/or coaching experience.

So, here you go. . . . . .
Service Attitude Self-Evaluation

Top-notch service calls for a service attitude, professionalism, accuracy, efficiency, and effective communication. Place a checkmark in the box next to those areas where you feel you excel, and a dot in the box next to those where you feel you may be able to improve the level of service that you’re providing. (This is for your eyes and benefit only.) Based on the results ask yourself where you might welcome and focus on new approaches/skills to help you best provide service to your external and/or internal customers.

❑ I naturally tend to go the extra mile for my customers, clients, coworkers and/or supervisor/manager.

❑ I remember to maintain the esteem of my customers/managers/coworkers/organization regardless of the circumstances.

❑ I am consistent about probing/asking questions for specific information from my internal and external customers so that I’m sure to clarify, understand, and respond to, their needs.

❑ I tend to be a good listener.

❑ I am conscientious daily about the efficiency of my calls/conversations at work.

❑ I’m confident among customers and/or business partners when they may be disagreeable or upset.

❑ When I identify a need for more efficiencies, or a different approach on the job, I tend to take the time to recommend and document specific solutions to my supervisor or manager.

❑ Generally, I’m successful at separating my frustrations from the energy I give others.

❑ I return email and voice mail inquiries promptly.

❑ I have specific approaches I use when I find myself needing to respectfully, yet efficiently, close a call or conversation.

❑ I take the initiative to find resources or seek coaching when I feel I need more help or training.

❑ I’m thoughtful about my service attitude, professional appearance and presence.

❑ I’m approachable and happy to serve as a resource to my customers, coworkers, supervisors, and/or managers.