How to Handle the Emotionally Charged Conversation

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC.

When I teach coaching skills to leaders, someone always asks what to do if a person cries. They usually want to do something that would make the person feel worse for crying. Here are tips for effectively handling emotions that could come up during difficult conversations.

Note: Take the Rate Your Zone of Discomfort quiz to judge your ability to deal with uncomfortable situations.

What if the person cries?  

Allow people to take a moment as you calmly wait for them to signal they are ready to move on.

Crying is a natural physiological response when someone feels hurt, sad, or had expectations that weren’t met. Their reaction could result from stress or a buildup of disappointments. Generally, if you tell the person to take her time and calmly sit in silence, she will let you know when she is ready to move on (I say “she” but men cry too). If you have a tissue available, offer it. If the crying is uncontrollable, ask if they would like to reschedule the meeting but only do this as a last resort. It is always better to give the crying person a moment to recoup than to make her feel wrong for crying.

How do you react when someone gets angry?

If you stay calm and listen, their anger usually subsides.

When you sense someone’s anger, you might instantly defend yourself, getting angry in return, or you shut down. If you feel you are at risk of being harmed, you should find a way to remove yourself as soon as possible. If not, give the person a chance to vent to release the steam. Then when he starts to calm down, ask what has made him so angry and sort out what is true from speculation. Then maybe you can find some ways of dealing with the situation so he regains even a small sense of control.

What if a person or a group of people are confused or afraid?

Dig deep to find what they are afraid of losing.

Do not try to diffuse or soften their emotions; better to tell them you would like to understand what is causing the fear so you can help them move forward. What do they feel they have lost or afraid they will lose? Listen to their stories so you can discover what is holding them back. Is the loss real or speculation? What do they need so they can take one step forward? Listen first, then seek to find what will restore their confidence and feeling of significance.

Avoid judging people for their reactions. Respectfully hold them in high regard during a difficult conversation. Recall what you believe they are capable of achieving. From this perspective, you have a chance at holding an amazing conversation that could surprise both of you.

To hear more about effective ways to handle difficult conversations, join us for our Soundview Live webinar with Marcia Reynolds on May 28th: Turning Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.

Do You Think Triggers Will Change People’s Lives?

Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Triggers, will be released on May 19th. This blog is his answer to those with questions about the concept of behavioral triggers.

The sole purpose of this book (Triggers) is to help you become the person you want to be, to help you change your life. In Triggers, I won’t tell you who you should want to be. I won’t judge you or tell you who should become.

I will tell you why we don’t become the people we want to be. And, I do this for the sole purpose of helping you become the person you want to be. For instance, I explore the Two Immutable Truths of Behavioral Change. These will stop change in its tracks!

  • Meaningful change is very hard to do. It’s hard to initiate behavioral change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick. Adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.
  • No one can make us change unless we truly want to change. This should be self-evident. Change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not wholeheartedly commit to change will never change.

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging—and causes most of us to give up early in the game—is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course.

How do triggers work?

Belief triggers stop behavioral change in its tracks. Even when the individual and societal benefits of changing a specific behavior are indisputable, we are geniuses at inventing reasons to avoid change. It is much easier, and more fun, to attack the strategy of the person who’s trying to help than to try to solve the problem.

We fall back on a set of beliefs that trigger denial, resistance, and ultimately self-delusion. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result. These are called belief triggers and a few of them (there are many!) include:

  •  ‘I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation.’
  • ‘Today is a special day.’
  • ‘At least I’m better than…’

The environment also triggers us. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel of a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise friendly demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us.

Some environments are designed precisely to lure us into acting against our interest. That’s what happens when we overspend at the high-end mall. Other environments are not as manipulative and predatory as a luxury store. But they’re still not working for us.

The environment that is most concerning is situational. It’s a hyperactive shape-shifter. Every time we enter a new situation, with its mutating who- what- when- where- and- why-specifics, we are surrendering ourselves to a new environment—and putting our goals, our plans, our behavioral integrity at risk. It’s a simple dynamic: a changing environment changes us.

The Solution

The solution I describe is to identify our behavioral triggers (any stimuli that impacts our behavior). These can be direct or indirect, internal or external, conscious or unconscious, etc.

The more aware we are, the less likely any trigger, even in the most mundane circumstances, will prompt hasty unthinking behavior that leads to undesirable consequences. Rather than operate on autopilot, we’ll slow down, take time to think it over, and make a more considered choice.

We already do this in the big moments. It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most outsized and unproductive responses. The slow line at the coffee shop, the second cousin who asks why you’re still single, the colleague who doesn’t remove his sunglasses indoors to talk to you.

Isn’t it time to learn how to be who we want to be in every moment possible? If your answer is “Yes!” then this book is for you.

To learn more about behavioral triggers directly from Marshall Goldsmith, join us for his book-launch webinar, exclusively with Soundview, entitled How to Create Behavior Change that Lasts.

Creating Amazing Customer Experience – Excellence Or Consistency

Today’s guest blog is from Lior Arussy, president of Strativity Group, a customer experience transformation firm, and the author of 6 books including Exceptionalize It!.

We live in challenging times. Customers’ expectations are increasing exponentially. Their tolerance for anything less than amazing is diminishing. They demand excellence or they go elsewhere. Competitors are trying harder to delight customers constantly raising the customers’ expectation bar. On the other hand, cost reduction efforts are everywhere. We try to control costs by optimizing services. We do so by creating consistency everywhere. While striving to solve the excellence question, we end up with consistency as the answer.

We often make the mistake of confusing excellence and consistency. Consistency is about optimizing services and products to be without flaws. Delivering a “consistent” product or service focuses on removing elements of dissatisfaction and achieving parity.

At best, consistency meets customer expectations. Eliminating inaccurate invoices is an example of a consistency effort. Ensuring that all your products share the same level of quality is consistency. Responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner is consistency. Consistency is heavily dependent on processes, and these processes become the primary objective of the performance; employees are merely executers of carefully managed procedures. In a consistency-driven environment, employees themselves are secondary to the process. They are subservient to the roles dictated to them by the process definition. Consistency emphasizes optimized processes and de-emphasizes the role of employees. At best, consistency reaches parity but never exceeds expectations.

Consistency is basically just doing your job. Some companies do it well; others do it in a mediocre way. Delivering consistency is nice, but it is not excellence—unless the rest of your industry is consistently awful and you stand out for being able to meet basic customer expectations. In fact, the definition of consistency is being on par with customer expectations. It is a boring, uninteresting place to settle. No one will celebrate your consistent performance.

Excellence and superiority, on the other hand, are about going above and beyond. They are about pleasantly surprising the customer. Excellence is all about exceeding the expectations, not just meeting them. By definition, this type of performance requires human intervention to set higher goals, individualize and humanize the interaction, and be authentic throughout the whole experience. At the core of the contrast between consistency and excellence is the role of people and processes. With excellence, processes are merely a means to a goal. A tool to deliver a greater solution. Employees are in charge, and use of accepted processes are subject to their judgment. If a process assists them in achieving the goal, they will use it. Otherwise, they use their discretion to get the job done and exceed expectations. With excellence, the corporate culture permits such employee discretion and provides permission to perform, as well as permission to make mistakes.

Excellence requires an emotionally engaging performance that delivers an authentic and memorable caring touch. Processes are not able to do this, only people are. So, excellence is not a matter of a better process. To achieve excellence we need to place processes in their rightful place, as tools, and give people the freedom to perform.

In times of excellence or nothing, we must exceed the consistency paradigm and focus on reaching to the excellence standard. To do so we will need to rethink the tools, information and authority we provide our employees to deliver on the ever increasing customer expectation for excellence.

To hear more about meeting customer expectations, join us on May 12th for our Soundview Live webinar with Lior Arussy: Stop Boring & Start Exciting Your Customers.

Process versus the People

Today’s guest blogger is Linda Sharkey, author of Optimizing Talent. Dr. Sharkey is an HR Executive and Business Strategist with experience coaching and developing leaders and teams in Fortune 10 companies.

Is your Performance Evaluation System Helping or Getting in the Way of a Talent Rich Culture

Process versus the People

Are your year-end performance discussions more painful than they are worth and would most of your managers prefer to throw the system out?  Are you doing them merely to comply with legal requirements or to decide who gets paid what?  If so you are missing the mark on a very powerful system that can build your brand as a talent based culture and market leader.

We need to consider some key human resource systems to make sure that they are aligned with the culture you are creating and not working against it.

As we researched performance management systems in over 500 Fortune 1000 companies and talked with HR leaders in over 60 of them we discovered that the process was often more important than the outcome.  Checking the box once a year to make sure the employee and manager had at least one performance discussion seemed to be the prevailing outcome achieved.  Others focused on compensation alignment.  Few focused on creating a system where employees and their managers truly had a dialogue that actually helped employees understand how they could continue to grow and improve.  To quote several senior HR leaders “we are highly tactical in our approach and we don’t really use it to drive alignment to our culture and to our overall business strategy”.

Getting it Right

Here are ten proven steps that everyone can use to support a talent rich culture.

  1. Be crystal clear on the purpose of your performance management system.  What is the people philosophy that you are trying to promote through this system?
  2. Ensure that the system aligns with your values.   Make sure that these values are discussed so that everyone understands that what you do is as important as how you do it.
  3. Create a working profile of what the values look like in action.  State the values in terms of behaviors that everyone can recognize.  This way everyone in the organization understands the standard of the” best”.
  4. Train all you leaders and managers to recognize great behavior, assess talent and provide specific and actionable feedback.
  5. Teach managers and leaders how to effectively coach.  Agree on a coaching model and consistently apply it throughout the organization.
  6. Create peer coaching circles to help teams support each other in learning new skills and “grooving” new behaviors.  These circles enable employees to learn to ask each other for help when they need it and share suggestions and ideas.
  7. Create a simple form for year-end performance reviews that is 1 page – no more than 2 if you must.  Include specific business achievements, behaviors demonstrated, career goals and aspirations and finally what the employee needs to do to continue to grow in their current role or prepare for the next role.
  8. Don’t just reward for business outcomes; reward for expected behaviors as well.
  9. Measure and track the impact your system is having on the desired culture.  Examine your employee engagement scores to ensure feedback and coaching is happening through the year and measure your alignment to your culture so that you don’t lose sight of keeping your values on track.
  10. Link all your talent and performance discussions together to make sure you are sending consistent messages in the talent discussions as well as in performance calibration discussions.
  11. Communicate, communicate and communicate more about the impact of an effective system and how it is building a great place for shareholder value, customer loyalty and employee engagement!

If you follow these ten steps you will build a system that becomes part of your DNA, where people and leaders regularly help each other to succeed through effective feedback and coaching.  This was you will be providing performance feedback through the year and the end of the year “pain” goes away!  Try it you might like it.

You can hear more from Linda sharkey about optimizing talent at our Soundview Live webinar on May 7th: What Every Leader Needs to Know to Sustain the Ultimate Workforce.

Shoot for PAR in Plugged

Today’s guest blog post comes from Krissi Barr, president of Barr Corporate Success.

In the real world, a crisis can crawl out from under a rock at any time. The bigger the problem, the more important it is to have a swift and accurate response.

Ideas for how to deal with such a crisis can also emerge from an unlikely place, as is the case in my book Plugged. My co-author Dan Barr, senior executive at Cintas, and I created a fast-paced business fable in which the protagonist’s passion for golf turns out to be the mysterious but ingenious source of inspiration.

Only hours after his boss leaves for a weeklong vacation, Chet McGill, the dedicated VP of Sales at AlphaMax Manufacturing, gets thrown for a loop. His company’s biggest client is seriously considering switching to a competitor, and it’s up to Chet to rally the troops. Faced with the biggest crisis in his career, Chet discovers what’s most important to his customer — and his company — through inspiration he finds on the putting green.

At its core, Plugged is about digging out and getting the right things done. The central message Chet learns is that he needs to shoot for PAR. This is not “par” in the golfing sense, but in a simple methodology based on three proven principles:

Prioritize — Focus on what matters most. Chet learns he has to concentrate the entire company’s efforts on the most critical elements in order to hold on to their largest customer.

Adapt — See change as an opportunity. The world is changing rapidly and only those who can quickly adapt to those changes will survive.

Responsible — Take ownership of the outcome. Only when each member of the team accepts full accountability for their actions are they able to turn the tide.

Everyone measures success differently. You may measure success by leading your company to growth and prosperity. Maybe your view of success includes sending your children to college or finally having the lowest score in your golf foursome. However you define it, Plugged is a road map for you and your entire team on how to dig out and get the right things done.

Krissi Barr is president of Barr Corporate Success, a business consulting and coaching firm specializing in strategic planning, implementation, leadership coaching, and training. Visit www.PluggedTheBook.com for FREE tools, including an assessment to see how well you get the right things done and a planning and implementation scorecard.

For more business fables including Patrick Lencioni’sSilos, Politics and Turf Wars” visit Summary.com.

Why Good Boundaries Make Good Leaders

From time to time, we like to feature a post from a guest blogger to give our readers a more in-depth look at one of the subjects we feature in our summaries. Today’s post comes to us from Keith Merron, founder and managing partner of Avista Consulting Group. Merron offers us an interesting thought on improving leadership by establishing boundaries.

Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Mending Wall, ends with the statement “Good fences make good neighbors.” 

The poem speaks to the mixed consequences of fences. They define personal space, and they separate.  Good boundaries are like that as well.

Boundaries are crucial for leadership.  Leaders that are not clear about expectations, goals, and values create ambiguous work places and the consequence is often confusion and unnecessary conflict.  Boundaries create a sense of what is acceptable and not acceptable.  They clarify.  They focus.  On the other hand, when held too rigidly, they create tension and a sense that there is no room for play. 

Rules, for example, are boundaries.  When applied rigidly they can be off-putting and people can feel patronized.  Rules, when applied sensibly, can be relaxing. Good boundaries create trust.

One of the signatures of a conscious leader is to know when to apply boundaries and when to relax them in the service of something bigger.  When values become rules, leaders act like “Big Brother”.  When values are principles, they teach us and guide us.  If they are too rigid, we lose our capacity to apply discretion. When they are too lax, they have no meaning.  When decisions become rigid, we run the risk of being unable to adapt in the face of changing circumstances.  When they are too loose, we are confused. 

I believe that one of the key characteristics a leader needs to embody is the ability to be decisive and yet open.  This means that the leader says: “I’m betting my money that this is the way to go, so let’s do it.” At the same time, the leader acknowledges that it may not be the right decision.  A good leader remains open to learning, and discovering new information that calls for an alternative decision.  This is a good boundary for a decision—held firmly but not too tightly.

Good boundaries make good leaders. 

Keith Merron is founder and managing partner of Avista Consulting Group, an organizational consulting and leadership development firm dedicated to helping organizations with bold visions achieve sustainable high performance and industry leadership. Dr. Merron received his doctorate from Harvard University and is the author of Riding the Way: Designing Your Organization for Enduring Success, Consulting Mastery: How the Best Make the Biggest Difference, and he is currently completing his next book, Your Inner Compass: Living the Authentic Life You Were Truly Meant to Live. For more information visit www.remarkableleaders.com.

Visit Soundview at Summary.com and check out our latest leadership summaries, including Brian Tracy’s “How the Best Leaders Lead.”

Great Tips on How To Hire

One of the most important aspects of an executive’s arsenal of skills is the ability to make smart hiring decisions. I contacted management expert Gerry Czarnecki for more information. He provided this guest blog post with some essential tips on hiring.

How to Hire

By Gerry Czarnecki, author of Lead with Love

Most leaders know that the most important, and possibly most difficult decision they will make is also the first decision they will make: the hiring decision. Unfortunately, most leaders are also simply not well prepared to make that decision. All too often, the bright, articulate and outgoing leader will make one fatal mistake in an interview process: talking too much. In an interview, the leader should spend 5% of the time talking and 95% of the time listening. If not, you’re not interviewing, you’re making a speech.

But assuming you are listening, how do you look for the right qualities in a candidate? My most important technique is to do a behavioral interview and listen intently. I also use aggressive follow-up questions to drill down on the experiences of the candidate. Here are some qualities you want in an ideal candidate:

1)    Values – Does this person share our organizational values? If not, then he or she will eventually be a misfit.

2)    Intelligence – It makes no sense to hire somebody who does not have the intellect to understand and complete the complex task of our modern world based in technology and an expanding base of knowledge.

3)    Desire – You want someone with the drive to achieve.

4)    Communication – In an organization, all associates must possess the ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple way. I always try to distinguish people who talk from people who communicate.

5)    Logic – The application of logical thinking and the ability to look for root cause of results is an essential trait in today’s competitive business landscape.

If you’re hiring a manager, there is one additional, essential quality to consider: the capacity to Love. This trait is in line with my message in Lead with Love. The core concept of the book is essential to a successful leader. Leaders must see their staff as humans first and resources second. Leaders can not allow themselves to be biased by the idea of liking or disliking individuals, they must love all their staff as humans. The well-being of all associates and the ability for the organization to achieve its goals is driven by the team is what creates the jobs and keeps them viable.

With over 40 years of experience as a leader, Gerry Czarnecki has been consistently committed to sharing his experience and vision by coaching organizations to achieve peak performance. Czarnecki helps companies achieve success by teaching effective leadership, focused strategy, superior organization and sound financial management.

For more information visit Gerry online at these sites:

LeadwithLove.com

GerryCzarnecki.com

And don’t forget Soundview’s newest summaries! Click here to see what”s new.

Have Kids? You Have Management Experience

I recently invited Eric Bloom, author of Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers to join us as a guest blogger for today’s post. Here’s what he’d like to share with everyone:

Have kids? You have management experience.

Believe it or not, caring for your children is good management training. As a parent, you learn to praise and discipline your children, as well as providing guidance, direction, leadership and a pleasant living environment. You teach your children new skills and provide them with additional training via teachers and trainers. You provide them with the supplies needed to perform various tasks, like crayons, scissors and paper. You teach them to minimize unneeded risks, like running with scissors and looking both ways before crossing the street. You learn that each child is an individual with his/her own personalities, likes, dislikes, motivations, skills and abilities. Lastly, you realize the need to treat each child as an individual and the importance of being part of a family and the responsibility that being part of a family brings.

Another thing that a parent quickly realizes (or at least I did) is that you don’t have all the answers. As a parent, you find that you must learn new specific skills, like changing diapers, food preparation and family budgeting. You also learn the importance of decision-making. Questions such as, “What to make for dinner?”, “Does the child need to see the doctor?”, “What school is best?”, “Should a child be punished?”, “Is it ok for my child to go to a party if the parents are not home?” have to be answered. You also have to learn how to properly react when your children whine, yell in restaurants, throw their food and/or complain about their siblings.

Now let’s talk about being a manager. As a manager, you have to lead and motivate your staff, administer praise and discipline, provide guidance, provide work direction and facilitate employee growth through on-the-job training and formalized instruction. Being a good manager also requires good judgment, fairness and the ability to foster teamwork among your employees. Get the message?

Eric P. Bloom is the President of the management training firm Manager Mechanics, LLC which can be found on the web at www.ManagerMechanics.com

For another great management read, check out Soundview’s summary Managing by Henry Mintzberg.