Unconscious Communications And Job Fit – Part 1

Right person wrong job
Several weeks ago I was asked if I could help a new employee and his boss work more effectively together.  What fell out of the coaching process was that the real issue was job-fit.  

We all want the satisfaction of feeling like we’re contributing, being appreciated and valued for our personal qualities. So when our default settings for how we function – approach tasks, process information, what we notice and focus on and how we interact with others – are unsuited to the job, motivation plummets along with our sense of self worth. Low productivity and high stress levels follow. 

In this case the employee and his boss were both doing all they could to make the relationship work.  Now you may be wondering what this has to do with decoding non-verbal communications, but stay with me and we’ll get to that. (The following details have been altered just enough to preserve the privacy of all parties.)   


Sam
had been in his new job less than three weeks, but there were already cracks showing in the relationship with his boss. It was decided I would observe a series of out of town meetings Sam and his boss Roger were attending. Managing sales teams for a number of years taught me how valuable ‘drive time’ can be for discussing sensitive issues, so I arranged to travel with Sam.

During the drive to the meetings it became clear that Sam was confused about what was expected of him and struggling to please the man he worked for. Not a pleasant place to be! The reasons for his discomfort also began to surface.

What unconscious communication revealed …
Sam came from a industry where the job focus was on producing products. A few questions revealed that he functions best with things, concrete facts and tangible results. He is not comfortable with concepts and ideas, intangibles and ambiguity.

While good at managing processes, Sam is not good at developing them. Show him what needs to be done and he’ll do it. Ask him to figure out a new way and chances are unless he has a previous frame of reference, he won’t know how to get started. He’ll literally be stuck. And frustrated. 

To function well, Sam needs to be able to see, hear and have tangible sensory experiences of the work he does. Sensory based evidence is how he knows what is working and what needs improvement. 

Sam’s boss, a man I’ll call Roger, was also feeling the strain of having to explain what he saw as a straight forward request several times. I already knew Roger quite well and his communication style is anything but straight forward. He has unique needs.   Up next, Roger’s needs and the decoding that resolved this relationship.

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20 Coaching Questions for Managers

So …. I tried to post a link to a September 15 Globe and Mail article entitled ‘Managing Change, Don’t Boss Them Coach Them.’  Thought a list it included of 25 general coaching questions could be useful. But when I tested the link, no joy! 

So I decided to offer some of my own not so general coaching questions instead, because I’m still thrashing around the subject I really want to talk about – jop fit or as Yoda would say, “job not-fit!” 

Activating here and now motivation

  1. What’s important to you about doing or not doing (fill in the task/action?)
  2. And if there were one thing more?
  3. What do you want to achieve, or avoid?
  4. How else might you achieve/avoid that (answer to previous question?)
  5. What unintended consequences could you be faced with by continuing (the current action?)

Separating facts from interpretation

  1. What are you/we assuming about the situation?
  2. How did you decide that? Or … 
  3. I’m wondering, what evidence do you have for believing that? 
  4. What can we see/hear/what facts support this?
  5. What else could be true?

Antidotes for impossibility and non-accountability stories 
Great for handling “I am” +  a negative like stressed, frustrated” and “I can’t ” usually followed by “because … ”

  1. How do you know? (‘How did you decide that?’ works well too.)
  2. What prevents you?
  3. What would happen if you could?
  4. Has there ever been a time when you did?
  5. What was different then?

Handling overwhelm

  1. How is this a problem for you? (Great for issues expressed in long, vague, convoluted and all encompassing statements.)
  2. What is the best way you have handled a situation like this in the past?
  3. What are the moments of choice?
  4. What is the first step you can take?
  5. And the next?

Alternatively …  have the person write a list of everything they feel they must do.  (Rarely will people come up with more than 20 items.) Next, ask them to rank the list with A, B, C, D in order of priority. Finally ask ‘which would make the biggest shift/improvement’ if they got stared on it immediately. More on coaching skills for managers.

Questions A Key To Better Listening?

A couple of days ago I stumbled on some research about the use of questions. It seems 40% of all the questions people ask are really statements, and another 40% are actually judgments disguised as questions. (1)

I had to stop and think about that. On reflection, it makes sense, yet seeing the percentages in black and white was a little shocking. 

Those ‘don’t you think …’ questions
If 80% of our questions are just a way of stating the obvious or sliding in our own opinion, that means only 20% focus on hearing what the other person has to say! If you’d like to do a little research of your own, catch some of the interviews on cable news programs. Or listen to ….

Questions expose our intentions
They instantly give away whether we are in listening or telling mode. Stop for a minute and think of a conversation you had recently.  One that left you feeling the other person was holding back. Is it possible your questions discouraged their input? Accidentally implied you were not really ready to listen? Hum. Possible isn’t it?  
 

Listening requires content
Once you ask good questions you can begin really listening. Because good questions can uncover information people haven’t yet discover for themselves, they’ll need time to go inside and figure it out.  Time to pull up thoughts, feelings and perhaps even fears, about what really matters.  So after you ask, pause. Be willing to wait. It shows your intention is to listen.

And speaking of good questions … 
We weren’t, but it’s probably a good idea anyway.  As a general rule of thumb, good questions are how and what questions. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • What’s important to you about ….  ? Fill in the subject you’re discussing.  And then when they’ve finished telling you, asking with a meaningful look …‘if there were one thing more?’
  • You must have a good reason for saying that … do you mind if I ask what it is? Great for handling judgments and blanket objections.   
  • How is that working for you? Works well for those ‘we already have that covered’ occassions. Asking how sends people inside to evaluate.    

Let me know how these work for you, and if you have a sticky situation that needs a question, let me know that too.  Next, more ways to listen  

 

(1) William Isaacs of MIT, in Dialogue And The Art Of Thinking Together, 1999.

The Gap Between Knowing And Doing

The previous post suggested that most people already have a wealth of knowledge that if applied, would make them more successful.  The real question becomes what prevents us from doing what we know? Using our knowledge consistently? While answers may seem as unique as each of us, there are some themes.

Take my friend Paul who faithfully followed techniques recommend in the current success literature (media really.)  This new and improved version of positive thinking adds emotions as a critical part of the mix.  

All well and good. But as time passed Paul failed to make any progress in his life.  Even though he was working harder, he said it felt like taking one step forward, two steps back.  Know the feeling? 

Insights from neuro-science 
Doctors Joseph le Doux and Antonio Damasio, are respected neuro scientists working to understand how the brain processess emotions.  They now estimate that up to 95% of our emotions, decisions and behaviours are the result of unconscious mental processing.  Think about that.  Emotions, decisions, behaviours, running automatically without our conscious rational thinking.  

One step forward, two steps back  
Back to Paul who was using his new positive thinking + feeling techniques to achieve a very specific goal.  Here’s what a couple of questions revealed:

  • Although Paul had the skills to achieve his goal and knew others less knowlegeable who were succeeding, he still wasn’t sure it was possible for him.
  • He wanted to believe it, wished it was possible, but just wasn’t sure.  
  • The more he effort he made to move forward, the more stumbling blocks he seemed to find. The harder it was.

The fix
Once we discovered his lack of conviction, a fear lurking behind a wish, we used NLP to make the change.  Paul was able to unplug the fear, neutralize it and reconnect to a strong inner belief in himself that fully supported his goal.

We didn’t waste any time trying to figure out what caused Paul’s lack of conviction.  We simply updated his belief using a technique for working with the unconscious mind.  Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) has been teaching people how to work with their own unconscious mind for over 30 years, long before many would even acknowledge the concept.

Today Paul is seeing the results of efforts, he’s working smarter, has more energy and says he’s having more fun too!

Tomorrow ….  another theme, one that can cause you to to spin your wheels between competing priorities.