October 2015 Archives

"Listening is related to influence, such that those who are better listeners are more influential," says a 2012 Columbia Business School research study, LISTENING AND ORGANIZATIONAL INFLUENCE, CLICK HERE.

The study goes on to suggest that, "How well organizational members listen is positively associated with their tendencies to influence others, over and above how well they engage in expressive communications."

Listening is one of the most important, yet under developed skills, necessary for success in our personal and professional lives. However, if we're going to be honest, most of us take listening for granted and we aren't very good at it. Unfortunately, our schools don't recognize the significance of this reality. In addition, for those of you who are parents, when was the last time you thought your kids were listening to you, much less in school?

My friend and colleague, Executive Coach, Henry (Chip) Scholz, reminds me that Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Ford and Chrysler said more than thirty years ago that, "Business people need to listen at least as much as they talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions."

Iacocca also said, "I only wish that I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen." The reality is that most schools don't offer classes nor teach listening skills.

Bernard T. Ferrari, dean of The Johns Hopkins University's Carey Business School and accomplished corporate strategist and management consultant to Fortune 50 companies, says in his book Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All, that, "

Power listening-the art of probing and challenging the information garnered from others to improve its quality and quantity--is the key to building a knowledge base that generates fresh insights." What's wrong with this picture?

Many years ago while working for AT&T in Michigan, I hired Dr. Lyman Steil, then Chairman of the communication department at University of Minnesota and currently Chairman & CEO, Communication Development, Inc & International Listening Leadership, to help us improve the listening skills of mid-level managers and above.

This three-day (required) class became part of the catalyst for measuring AT&T's customer satisfaction (from the customer's perspective), rather than an internally created metric. Ironically, what was once thought of as the holy grail of business, customer service, has been displaced in today's marketplace by the importance of the customer's experience.

Kathy Doering, President of Ann Michaels & Associates, Ltd., one of the most sophisticated mystery shopping organizations in the U.S., understands the benefits of listening, more than most.

She says, "Your front line employees are an often untapped source of innovative ideas and information on what customers think about doing business with you. Lead by example-show them the of value good listening skills. Mentor those who need help in this area and reinforce it, then, watch your business prosper."

In the article "Listening and interpersonal influence," in the Journal of Research in Personality (2012), Author(s): Daniel Ames, Joel Brockner & Lily Benjamin said that, "The gold standard of good listening is not measured by how quiet you are, it's about doing things to let the other person know that you are seriously considering what he has to say:

"We might also do well to remember that the most highly crafted presentation in the world is useless, if no one is listening.

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5 Gifts to Your Employees

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American traditions abound next month and Thanksgiving: traveling to visit family, overflowing dinner tables, football games on television, Black Friday sales and, for many workers, a long weekend. But there can also be cultural pressures to meet an elusive holiday ideal and, for many, it's stressful when family relations go awry or dinner falls short of Martha Stewart perfection.

Add multiple doses of commercial tactics to ramp up holiday spending and another frenzied set of expectations emerges. Layer this atop an economic climate of insecurity and you've got the perfect recipe for stressed out employees. No wonder we sometimes neglect both the thanks and the giving in Thanksgiving!

But employers can help put both back into the holiday season while assisting their employees in the process. Consider these five ideas:

1. Model Gratitude. Thank your employees for what they do for your department and the organization. Catch them doing things well and let them know you notice and appreciate it. Give positive feedback whenever possible to help them feel motivated, encouraged and engaged in their work.

2. Appreciate the Whole Person. Employees don't bring compartmentalized pieces of themselves to work. For better or worse, they bring their whole being, their enthusiasm, talents, concerns and problems alike. Get to know your employees as unique individuals; learn about what's important to them and let them know that you care.

3. Create a Culture of Wellness. Everyone is better off when staff members are healthy, physically and mentally. Absenteeism and turnover go down; teamwork and productivity go up. Employees feel cared about when you pay attention to their well-being. Create wellness events, such as yoga, mindfulness training and nutrition classes, and provide an Employee Assistance Program to help staff manage personal issues and hardships.

4. Support Volunteering. The opportunity to serve others is gratifying. It can even be therapeutic when experiencing difficulties in one's own life. Consider a policy that allows employees to spend some work time volunteering for a worthy cause. Your generosity in allowing employees to themselves be generous will be appreciated and will encourage loyalty and greater commitment among your staff.

5. Nurture a Sense of Community. Trying to get more done with less these days, stressed out employees can narrow their focus, hunker down, view other departments as thwarting and lose sight of the greater picture. To counter these tendencies, create opportunities for staff, across departments and functions, to get to know one another better. Interdepartmental projects, committees and social events can foster cooperation, collaboration and even friendship. The U.S. Congress of twenty years ago engaged in socializing and friendship across party lines that resulted in compromise and cooperation which, today, is almost non-existent. It's all too easy to demonize others when you don't know them.

It can take mindful effort to pause and be thankful. But the more you do it, the easier and more habitual it becomes. So take some time out this week and in the coming weeks to encourage your employees to likewise pause, breathe, pay attention to others, engage in helping those less fortunate and appreciate one another.

Model, cultivate and provide opportunities for healthy, cooperative and generous behaviors and your organization will enjoy a culture of more committed, collaborative and appreciative staff.

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As technology quickly advances, there's sure to be at least one critical new platform that you'll be introducing to your organization. You will move into that new technology with either a technology vendor, or a partner.

The selection of a technology company can be an arduous and daunting process. There's no doubt you'll research references, look at work samples, and meet several times before you commit to a contract. So, you can assume with some confidence that this company is professional, has integrity and has been successful in your industry.

But make no mistake that once selected, that relationship will be based on trust. Because only time will tell whether you selected a true partner, or just another vendor.

Lets explore some ways you can better qualify companies and discern between those who will step up to the plate and become true partners and those who will fall by the way side as just another vendor.

1. Experience is just the beginning

A well-selected partner can rely on their previous experience to guide your franchise system in making informed decisions that will strengthen your organization. But that's just the beginning. A partner will do more than just impart best practices in your industry. A partner will care about making you and your entire organization successful. A well-chosen partner will ask probing questions about how they can help take you to the next level, not just complete the project at hand.

A partner will ask lots of questions, looking for ways to push the envelope for you. They will always look beyond the short term, focusing instead on the long term success of your entire organization.

In time a partner will gain the respect and earn the trust of those around them, as they work towards a relationship of loyalty.

2. Partnership is a two way street

A relationship based on trust and respect is a two way street. When a partner makes a valuable contribution to your organization, they expect to be recognized and rewarded for it. This type of 'ask' should be expected, as a partner who understands that their 'going above and beyond' is a valuable contribution to your organization should not be shy about wanting to be recognized for their efforts.

Here are some simple questions you should expect from a company that is seeking to be your partner:

1) Do you have a vendor of the year award at your national convention?

2) When we win your loyalty, will you be a reference for us?

A partner expects to win such recognition and making you a loyal customer who's willing to 'shout from the rooftops' about their exemplary service.

3. Communication is the key
One way to discern between a partner and a vendor is by who the company asks to talk to in your organization, ie. who do they want involved in planning meetings, business reviews, etc.?

A vendor wants to meet with the decision maker. A partner wants to meet with everyone, from the franchisees to the managers, directors and 'C' suite. A partner understands that the success of their one project depends on the entire organization and affects the whole.

With this approach to communicating with your organization a partner can gain a clearer understanding not only of what your organization does and needs, but why. And to make the most impact to any organization you must understand the DNA of that company, and why they do what they do. A partner understands this and seeks to understand your DNA at every turn.

Lets face it, in many ways the success of some of your most important initiatives in 2015 may rely on building a relationship with a new partner, or going back to the drawing board with an existing one. The partners you choose will undoubtedly reflect back on you and your integrity, reliability and ultimately your value to your executive team, franchisees and customers.

Building a partnership will require some additional effort by you and your staff, but the potential benefits of the relationship far outweigh the extra time. When you have a great relationship with a partner, they become an extension of your company's team, and this can result in new opportunities, savings, and benefits for your entire organization and franchisees.

In the end, a partner's influence is far reaching, because it's trusted. It's not an opinion; it is advice and insight. It's in this spirit of shared success that you will find the characteristics of a company that shares your values, and will become an invaluable partner.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2015 is the previous archive.

November 2015 is the next archive.

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