Beliefs, wishes and goals!

A new year, a fresh start …
And I’ve decided I’ll be a more consistent blogger. Perhaps not better. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. 

Have you decided where you’re headed this year?
So, do you have plans? Important goals for 2008? And are they really big enough? Because if you shoot for the stars and fall a little short, at least you’ll land on the moon.

Can you get there from here?
Will what you’re doing now move you forward fast enough and in the right direction? If not, what are you planning to do differently?  I have a friend who is fond of telling his team 
If things don’t change around here, we’re going to end up where we’re headed!” And he could be right. So be sure that where you’re headed is where you really want to go!

Do you really believe you can do it?
Believing you have the ability to make it happen is essential. Do you think you should be able to achieve your objective because others have done it, but you’re not absolutely sure? Then it’s a probably more like a wish than a belief.

Beliefs – a call to action
If it’s just a wish masquerading as a belief you’re unlikely to make the consistent effort needed to achieve your goals.  Action level is the true measure of the strength of your beliefs. Do you act as if they are true? 

Test yourself – belief or wish?
Ask yourself, if you truly believed your plans were going to come to fruition, what would you be doing right now?  What one idea can you begin to put into action now, that gets you started?

Next up
What your self talk can reveal about beliefs. Or is it only a wish? Coming soon (see opening paragraph.)

Fuel Consumption And Competent Managers

Connecting the links
This started out to be simply two interesting links from Fast Company, but on reflection … perhaps there is a subtle connection? You decide.

Lower our reliance on oil and have our SUVs too?
Perhaps we can, if vehicle manufacturers would turn their creative energy towards mass producing innovations generated by people like Jonathan Godwin.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way … so what can we as consumers do to assist Detroit and others to discover the will? Interesting thought.

Motorhead Messiah by Clive Thompson
http://trax.fastcompany.com/k/w/mailman/fasttake/20071107/motorhead   

Management behaviours you don’t want to see
This one is worth reading even if you are the manager, since we all self-manage to some extent.  And perhaps discover connections. 

‘Ten Signs of Incompetent Managers’ by Margaret Heffernan
http://trax.fastcompany.com/k/w/mailman/fasttake/20071107/managers

My seven favorites follow, but why not check out Heffernan’s list for yourself.

A bias against action – no action also means no feedback about what will move your forward
Secrecy  – sure way to drain the power and passion from a Vision
Love of proceduresee previous post and think balance
Preference for weak candidates – leaders hand pick teams for excellence 
Focus on small tasks – what are they avoiding and why
Allergy to deadlines – energy and excitement comes from taking responsibility for meeting commitments and achieving goals
Addiction to consultantsavoid the dependency trap by ensuring your own people have time to absorb new skills   

Unconscious Communication And Job Fit – Part 4

Would more clues be helpful?
I had a call from a friend asking for a few more clues for this series so I’m thinking it could be be useful for others as well. (See Parts One through Three)

First, you may be wondering … 
When this series first published it was called decoding ‘non-verbal’ communication. It has been renamed because the focus is clearly on the (unconscious) structure and process of language and behaviour.  The non-verbal aspect of language.   Think of it as the subtext of the words, what language communicates – without intention or awareness – about how people function in a given situation.

Their mental filters, blind spots and what it will take to motivate them. Literally how they’ll behave, what they’ll focus on, what they’ll delete and what types of assumptions they can be expected to make.

Recognizing a preference for process
Sam in this series uses a procedural approach or filter when working. This is revealed by the words he unconsciously selects when speaking about his career.  In situations or contexts where people are using a procedural filter, we can predict the following behaviours: 

  • They need structure and a process to work effectively. In fact, give them a task without a procedure, and they won’t know how to get started!
  • Once they understand the process they’ll follow it, no matter how often the task is done. Or whether it’s installing software, assembling equipment, writing a report or making sales calls. 
    And that’s critical when compliance standards and SOPs must be met.
  • They’ll actually read the instructions for new projects — before starting!
  • Once started on a process they’ll feel a compelling need to finish it.
  • If they seem to be dragging their feet, it means they don’t have a procedure to follow. So give them one.
  • They’re more efficient when they can complete one task at a time. If you interrupt them in the middle of doing something, they’ll probably lose their train of thought need to start over at the beginning.  They’ll find frequent interruptions stressful.
  • Because they are comfortable with process, they will listen to your (sales) presentation without interrupting.   
  • They will talk about processes and having to do the right things, the right way, and following sequential or step-by-step procedures.

Who do you work with who may be filtering for process? And what if you have a different way of getting things done on-the-job? See filtering for options (the other end of the continuum) and Roger’s pattern coming soon.

Mental Filters, Unconscious Blind Spots And Motivation

Last week during a sales workshop on influencing motivation, the importance of beliefs came up. As it usually does. Because beliefs play a major role in how we perceive and make mental maps of our experience.  

The cliché ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ should actually be reversed!  ‘You’ll see it when you believe it!’
 

Synchronicity being what it is, Fast Company (a favorite business magazine) sent out a fast fact link on the same subject, same day.  I shared it with the workshop participants and thought you might enjoy it too. 

The Seeing/Believing Gap | by Marcia L. Conner
What you see may be only a fraction of what’s there. To
learn more, look beyond what you expect.
http://trax.fastcompany.com/k/w/mailman/fasttake/20071010/seebelieve

On a similar note, here’s a quote attributed to Buddha on the subject of judgmental thinking: “There is nothing to judge because perception can only see illusion. Perception is always partial and limited to arbitrary context.”
 

Unconscious Communication And Job Fit – Part 3

Did I mention this was Practitioner season? After the first of three ‘Thursday to Sunday’ Practitioner Certification weekends, followed by two Breakthrough Coaching Sessions, I went directly to toasted … totally toasted! 

So apologies if you’ve been looking for the follow-up to this decoding exercise and now … back to Sam and Roger. And while there is bound to be a little lost in my translation of their stories, there are enough clues and insights to make the exercise worthwhile. 

The words Sam and Roger used during our conversations provided enough unconscious clues to predict their default behaviours while working.

Sam speaks of being confused, struggling, hands on, concrete, stuck, frustrated; his comfort with things and tangible tasks; and discomfort with ambiguity. 

This language is a pretty good indication that he focuses on things rather than people or ideas, learns by doing and hands-on experience, and is currently in an unresourceful state (into his feelings) because of the absence of sensory based data. 

Sam also talks about managing processes, but not knowing how to get started, says show him what to do and he’ll do it. My notes from our conversation included “needing to see my development, progress, completion of a project.”

The subtext of these words indicates that Sam will be good at maintaining processes and procedures, but when an existing process stops working or a new procedure is called for, it’s unlikely he will be able to develop one on his own.

Rogertalks about being an idea man, creating opportunities and concepts, juggling totally different projects, language that indicates he will use his ability to create options and alternatives, is someone who will challenge the status quo, change the system, change his mind frequently and will resist following procedures.  

He also talks of being impatient with the detail needed to bring intangeble ideas into concrete form, preferring to have others guide that process.  And says he wants an assistant who is comfortable with ambiguities and can create and follow processes that will identify the best opportunities and move them forward.

What Roger is saying here, is the key to finding an assistant with the best fit for the job. This person must be flexible enough to see the big picture and deal with detail. As well, they will be good at developing procedures as needed, and managing multiple projects through an evaluation process. Then letting go … seeing the best turned over to others for execution.  

Roger
is brilliant at creating ideas and concepts. He will need an assistant who is equally brilliant at seeing the potential of his ideas and bringing order and process to the party so that those ideas are realized.

Unconscious Communication And Job Fit – Part 2

Difficult boss or miss-match of needs?
Let’s talk about Roger for a minute, the man Sam was working for as a personal assistant. Roger usually juggles five or six totally different business projects at once. He jumps from one to another like lightning on a hot summer night!  

Roger is an idea person. Creative, perceptive, with a gift for seeing connections and hidden potential. He wants to deal with the big picture and has little time or patience for the detail work needed bring ideas into concrete form. 

What Roger needs in an assistant is someone who can organize the different business concepts he creates into a cohesive, structured process for investigating the best opportunities and moving them forward.

The person who takes on this role will need to be comfortable with ambiguity and figuring things out ‘on-the-fly.’  Capable of developing and managing processes to bring intangible concepts into form.

In will require both seeing the really big picture – I’m thinking from 30,000 feet – and digging into detail, doing the research to screen out unsuitable ideas. 
And since worthy projects will be handed off to others, job satisfaction will come from simply knowing that you’ve contributed. Because it’s a changing game and there will be little in the way of concrete evidence of work completed. 

Decoding unconscious communications
Voice inflections, changes in breathing, facial colour and other subtle non-verbal cues guided my conversations with Sam and Roger, telling me when I was getting close to something really important and when to probe a little deeper. The structure of their language and choice of words provided a blueprint for how they process information and function when they are in ‘work mode’ or on-the-job. 

Words have a subtext
Now we’re getting to the unconscious part of language.  Decoding the structure and process of the words people use – unconsciously – in casual conversation is is an accurate predictor of how people will respond in specific situations – their default settings for acting, or not acting. Usually more accurate than paper or computer based profiling, because it is based on unconscious responses.  


Here’s a decoding opportunity for you
When you have a few minutes to play, go back and read Unconscious Communications And Job Fit – part 1, noticing language, the specific words used to describe Sam. (I used his own words for the description.)

Now, compare the language used above to describe Roger. What differences can you identify? Exclude the paragraph beginning ‘what Roger needs,’ for now.  And stay tuned for the next post where the language will be explained, unpacked or decoded, your choice, so you can see the implications for default behaviour. I’ll also finish the story of Sam and Roger ….

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.

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.

Listening Skills Take Two

Overlooking the obvious

In addition to using real questions (covered last week), what else can you do?  When someone else initiates the conversation, it’s especially easy to leap right in. Instead pause for a moment and set your intention. Stop whatever else you were doing, and decide on your intention for the conversation that follows.

 

Sure, we all like to think we can multi-task, but the truth is we’re really just dividing our attention into slices and switching it back and forth.  So as Yoda would say ‘there is no multi-tasking, there is only listen or not listen.’ You decide.

 

Hearing with your eyes

Watch the other person and you’ll notice telltale cues that whisper … stop talkingask a question … or simply … hear this! Visual cues let you know from moment-to-moment how others are responding. So you can pause, confirm their position and ask a relevant question if need be.

 

Notice colour changes in the face and neck areas and pay attention to altered breathing. Like colour changes, a sigh or a deep exhale signals you’ve triggered an emotion. Pause and ask a question. Find out if it signaled a move in the right direction before you go on. If you’re thinking “not me, I’m not going near emotions, not with a ten foot pole” or a version of the same, wait.

 

Emotions are a good sign

You know emotions are the key to motivation. No emotional engagement means little motivation. And relax. Most people probably feel the same about exposing their emotions as you feel about dealing with them!  Chances are they won’t even be aware of what they’ve just revealed. They will sense you’re really listening to them. And feel good about that!

 

Seeing with your ears

Notice changes in voice tonality, how the volume, tempo and pitch varies. People will underline important words using tonal emphasis. Focus your how and what questions on the words they highlight and you’ll discover the deeper meaning behind the words.

 

Good leaders are good listeners

How you listen and ask questions demonstrates the level of your interest. Sincere, deep or superficial.  Leadership studies show a strong correlation between listening skills and the being perceived as a good leader. And although it seems counter intuitive, introverts make the most successful sales people in many fields. Perhaps because they listen more.