5 Ways Productive Email Dialogue Breaks Down

Productive email dialogue is not complicated if you are mindful of yourself and the people you communicating with.

Have you ever had a face-to-face conversation that seemed to only flow one-way? You just sat there as the other person talked and talked about their job or their family or their vacation… or whatever, never giving you a chance to participate.

When we write email, what we write is almost always about our needs, experiences, ideas. That makes sense of course, but that isn’t dialogue – that is telling, and if you have one simple message to tell (like Thursdays 10:30 Sales meeting agenda attached), and your audience is expecting it, then that works. But, if you need to communicate… email dialogue is more complicated and you have to think about different things.

To have a productive email dialogue, great communicators go beyond their needs to intentionally have a conversation… and this is a lot more difficult than we think. For example, an above average communicator is self-aware, they take the time to confirm their message is understood… and they constantly evaluate the emotional impact of their message (email always have an emotional impact). Writers also acknowledge that no two people are alike, so they consider the communication styles, needs and work environments of the people they email. That’s a lot to consider.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To help you do all of this, the following are 4 ways productive email dialogue breaks down so that you can avoid them.

Not Engaging The Individual

If someone is not engaged a productive email dialogue is not possible.

This may be because someone may have no interest in the subject. It may also be that their attention may be distracted by something or someone else (speaking with or listening to someone else or if they are reading your email on a smart phone).

If you know this may happen, find ways to make your email relevant to their success. Bottom-lining is one great solution (see below).

Discounting Information

When someone dismisses the information being shared.

This may be because the reader / listener doesn’t value or respect the person or the information being presented. If the reader doesn’t care about your story they are not going to read your email with their full attention.

Make sure you send your email only to the people who need to know… and use Cc: properly. Don’t automatically send to people as a way to escalate your need/request… and bottom-line your message (see below).

Misinterpreting Your Message

This happens often with email because vocal inflection and body language is not experienced.

It can also happen when the writer uses words or jargon that the reader does not know. Most readers (and listeners), will subconsciously guess / assume the intended meaning.

The result is that an email may be interpreted as bossy or the message may be misunderstood completely. This is especially true if the reader is very busy or having a bad day – something the writer likely has no control over but is just one more reason to keep your message simple, polite and considerate of their needs.

Over-detailing Email

Like the name suggests, when someone gives far too much detail his or her audience shuts off and doesn’t read anything. This happens in email, face-to-face, meetings, presentation and all other communication.

This often happens because the writer or speaker is passionate about what they are communicating but are not considering what their audience needs at that moment. Sometimes the short story is the best story.

Technology Etiquette (Tech Etiquette)

Technology etiquette is a growing challenge in business. It is about being mindful of when you should use your technology and when you should leave it alone. It’s important to be aware of how your use of technology impacts you and those around you.

Technology etiquette training focuses on the behaviours you should and should not emulate and the impression you create when you use your smartphone or tablet in the company of others, in meetings and/or when you are with or on the phone with clients. Our training looks at the ‘What’ and the ‘Why.’

Conclusion

The above are 5 email tips you should be aware of when you write and read email. You may be making assumptions that are hurting your ability to be as productive as you can be.

I want to leave you on a positive note, so here is one email tip you should always do.

Know What You Want – Then Design Your Dialogue Backwards

Most often this is called Bottom-lining or Getting To The Point.

Grab your readers’ attention by putting your action item at the top of your email. Follow your action item with your facts and logic as support information. Designing backwards to how we often write email lets your reader know the context of your support information if and when they read it… which make you and your email dialogue more relevant to them.

Happy email communication.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates business etiquette courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Leadership Styles, Leadership Qualities, Leadership Skills

Business is about people — it always has been although sometimes we forget this and put the bottom line before customers and employees needs. In the short-term we get away with the putting bottom line first, but soon goodwill begins to drop, employee and customer loyalty drops and turnover increases; creating a very risky and more expensive organizational challenge.

And while human capital is an organization’s most important asset, in today’s job market employee loyalty is low – in part I believe because employer loyalty has been on a steady decline for the last 30 plus years. Many employees wonder why they should be loyal if the company isn’t. So, most full-time employees (especially Millennials), see themselves as entrepreneurs who are working a contract and happy to move on. Why? Because all the evidence has taught them they are dispensable.

A Bruce Mayhew Consulting I enjoy helping leaders create leadership development plans and create great teams. To help you do your own not-so-quick analysis of the state of your leadership development plan, here’s an extensive list of 20 important leadership development goals.

1. Focus On Strategy

The leadership team need to know and support its business strategy, key objectives and stakeholders of the organization.

Without doubt I believe having and sharing a vision is one of the most important goals of a Leader. Their next most important role is establishing and supporting their team… what I will call Talent Management (point 2).

I’ve mentioned in some of my other blog posts how during one of my corporate jobs I had a boss who rarely shared a clear vision with the team. And he was so involved in the ‘doing’ of our work that he became a bottleneck for productivity and a significant drain on moral and creativity. The result was the department regularly missed deadlines and frustrated employees (like me), left.

2. Talent Management

This is a big area.

Leaders hire (using BEI), by thoughtfully considering the talent AND soft skills required for the job as well as the team/department.

Leaders mentor their staff to collaborate and depend on each others talents, look for opportunities to grow and to not be shy about adding their opinion or discouraged if/when another recommendation is made or someone builds upon their recommendation.

In best cases, leaders keep a written list of their employees strengths close at hand.

3. Increase Knowledge

Working hand-in-hand with Talent Management, ‘Increasing Knowledge’ is a way leaders better themself as well as inspire their team. One of my most favourite leadership qualities is to always look to improve. Increasing your knowledge or gaining a new skill keeps you fresh and open to new ideas. Whether its reading a book, finding a mentor, listening to a pod cast, group training or attending night-school, increasing your knowledge sets a motivating example to employees.

As employees see their leaders participating in training and development and reaching personal goals, they are encouraged to do the same. In addition, great leaders work with employees to plan team and individual goals. Increasing knowledge is critical at all employee levels and supportive step as they set high performance challenges and encourage employees to step out of their comfort zone.

Want to engage your team more? Turn this into a team-building, collaborative exercise by asking team members what group training they want. Work with each employee to create their personal development plan – both for their professional and personal goals.

4. Tap Into Your Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Emotional intelligence is a persons ability to draw on their soft-skills and to mindfully interact with others. Emotional intelligence builds trust and supports a mutually beneficial relationship. More technically EI founders Peter Salovey and John Mayer define EI as follows;

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

– Mayer & Salovey, 1997

A department head that lacks emotional intelligence is just as unqualified as a department head that doesn’t have technical knowledge and experience.

5. Practice Coaching

Coaching isn’t easy.  Coaching creates an environment that’s conducive to growth – helping individuals succeed by expanding their abilities (knowledge, experience and soft skills), and move up their professional ladder. And lets not forget work/life balance.

Leaders who coach help their employees to recognize their strengths, develop their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.

6. Support Collaboration

Leadership creates and maintains an environment that supports collaboration where team members respectfully share information, decision-making, responsibility, learning and recognition.

One of the most important leadership qualities is the ability to guide employees to see how their work and work habits support the greater vision and goals (personal goals, professional goals, team goals, organizational goals).

7. Motivate

Motivation often sits hand-in-hand with ‘Communication’ (point 16), and together they inspire employees to give their best. When leaders learn motivation skills they maximize effectiveness and improve employee engagement and loyalty.

Employee motivation can take many forms – from wanting to work for leaders who make decisions quickly so the team keeps moving forward (point 20), to many other non-military motivators like telling someone they did a great job and/or are a valuable part of the team.

Zenger Folkman have done lots of great research here as well.

8. Manage Off-Site

What are the chances that your next best employee lives within 50kms of your office? Slim!

More and more employers are using technology to plan, communicate and collaborate virtually with their team members. And, more and more employees are embracing the work-from-home (or Starbucks), lifestyle. Millennials are naturally used to working, managing and being managed off-site… and more and more Boomers and Gen X are seeing the personal and professional benefits.

9. Manage Difficult Conversations & Conflict

When we avoid a difficult conversations the issue can never get resolved… until valuable talent or clients leave – and then it’s just gone… not resolved. I write extensively within some of my Blog Posts and Difficult Conversation Training that when we participate in difficult conversations we have an opportunity to build trust and respect which means our relationships with other people and/or organizations improve greatly.Long Term Gain

When we participate in difficult conversations we demonstrate we care enough to bother. Short term pain = long-term gain.

10. Practice And Encourage Time Management

Time management lets us be consciously aware of being proactive – not reactive. Time management and Leadership skills mean leaders help their teams practice good time management skills and focus on their important work / strategic work vs. busy work. Sometimes this means learning how to say ‘No’ or ‘Not Now’ to some requests.

Being a good leader also means learning how to prioritize, delegate tasks, set realistic deadlines and avoid distractions. Time management helps employees effectively manage their workload, thereby spend more time on the projects and tasks that have the greatest contribution to personal and professional success.

11. Embrace and Steward Change Management

Most people are naturally resistant to change even though change management is necessary to stay current and relevant. A successful leadership quality is the ability to have a clear focus AND also be open to change.

Setting change management goals is a first step to motivate employees to embrace change. Then, bring employees into the discussion on how to implement change – letting them add to the discussion and become part of the implementation solution.

When you incorporate change management into your training and development plan, you will experience increased employee retention, productivity, and your employees will get used to staying open to change – not resistant to change.

12. Cross Train Employees As A Motivational Tool

Cross training is a leadership style often overlooked by organizations looking for VERY low-cost ways to improve profitability, team performance, collaboration and employee retention. All leaders should use this as a highly beneficial, non-monetary recognition AND investment in their employees.

Aside from the confidence that there will always be someone available to get a key activity done when (not if), an employee is sick or on vacation, almost all employees see cross training as their employer making an investment in their personal and professional future. In addition, employees see this as a desirable way to expand their personal and professional knowledge/experience (Win/Win).

13. Industry, Competitive And Customer Knowledge

Moving away from supporting their team, one of the best leadership qualities is to fully understand their industry, who are their competitors and to know what their customers need and value.

14. Trust & Be Trustworthy

We all have experienced people who ignore our suggestions or who take credit for others’ ideas. Employees must trust their leaders just like customers must trust your product / service. Employees must trust their leaders to be knowledgeable, fair and to support them when they need to escalate challenges.

In addition, employees must feel their leaders trust their judgement, knowledge and that they are acting in everyone’s best interest.

Trust is a two-way street.

15. Read The Financials

My least favourite leadership skill is spending time reading, interpreting and using financials even thought I know its an important part of improving business strategy.

This is an important part of being a leader… and now I’m moving on.

16. Mindful Listening / Communication

Leaders know productivity and motivation is tied to communication. Effective leaders openly share goals and vision and other relevant information in real-time… keeping the team up-to-date.

One of the most important leadership qualities is how leaders communicate to build a community and an appreciative workspace that also respects work/life balance. Leaders teach their employees to be clear and to get to the point with their verbal and written communication.

When communicating, skillful leaders use mindful leadership and mindful listening techniques like not judging, waiting to respond vs. react during conversations, and asking open-ended questions. Mindful leaders demonstrate patience and caring.

17. Look Around

Leaders also don’t wait for a performance review to tell people how they’re doing. Millennials especially want coaching and feedback on a regular basis – even if all you share is “Thank you – you did a good job on that report”.

Leaders notice employees’ unique, specific contributions and they take the time to acknowledge those contributions. Leadership skills also include having respect for others no matter if they are a Secretary or a CEO.

18. Lead Effective Meetings

Practice and share your meeting skills. Most of us spend too many hours in meetings. Great leaders keep coach their team to use meetings sparingly… and to be efficient when you do have them. The following are a few general points to keep in mind in order to lead effective meetings:

  • Start & finish on time
  • Always share the purpose of the meeting in advance so attendees can prepare
  • Everyone has an equal voice
  • Decisions get made
  • Action items get assigned
  • Document decisions and action items
  • Everyone acts on agreed upon decisions and action items in a timely manner

19. Find The Right Job For The Right People

Great leaders work with their staff to understand their talents, their passions and their aspirations. The better the leader the higher the engagement.

Great leaders put and keep the right people in the right jobs. When people love their jobs they are more productive and creative. If a promotion is the right decision for an existing high achiever, a great leader helps that employee understand any gaps that may exist and help them overcome those gaps (develop a new skill), with coaching and training.

20. Speed and Agility

Nobody likes to work for an organization or leader that can not make a discussion or move forward.

This may also be a leader that gets stuck at 95% on a project and try to hit 100%. While there are places (like space travel), where 100% is important, in many cases the effort to go from 95% to 98% will be similar to the time and cost to get a whole new project up to the 95% level.

Great bosses always understand the vision – and allow that vision to make decisions quickly. This means that employees always know what they have to do next… and are always moving forward… learning, doing, accomplishing greatness.

Conclusion

Leadership is no easy task – it takes lots of work just to lead… which supports the idea that leadership is a full-time commitment to strategy. Quality leaders can’t be knee-deep into doing the ‘doing’.

When you are planning your strategy and managing the other 20 steps, be sure the goals you set are:

  • Realistic – While goals should be challenging, they should also be achievable.
  • Appropriate – for current personal and professional goals.
  • Clear – Managers should easily understand the goals they’re working toward and why those goals are necessary.
  • On A Timeline – When goals have beginning and end points, team members work to reach the finish line.
  • Measurable – The ability to identify progress encourages employees and boosts confidence.
  • Rewarded – If a goal is achieved, it’s essential to give recognition. This heightens employee confidence and encourages further progress.

The biggest challenge leaders face is the desire to forgo long-term strategy for short-term gain. Decades of research on leadership styles and leadership skills demonstrate that emotional intelligence and social skills are critical for long-term leadership and organizational success.

Happy communicating.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates training and development courses including Difficult Conversations, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting

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3 Email Etiquette Techniques Not Often Discussed

Email is the main source of workplace dialogue – even for people sitting next to each other. This means that knowing and using email etiquette and business etiquette rules is important to our professional reputation, organizational reputation, productivity and organizational profitability.

When we communicate by email it’s difficult to build rapport. The result is that often our email sound abrupt, bossy, angry or like we (the writer), don’t care. This is even more valid when we are typing on a smartphone or tablet.

This means your employees soft skills and emotional intelligence (or lack of), may be alienating their audience… and your investment when you hired excellent talent and trained them is being undermined.email étiquette

Learning and practicing email etiquette and business etiquette rules helps employees write email messages that are professional and engaging – even when they have difficult conversations, say ‘No’, or provide bad news.

Three email etiquette techniques that are almost never discussed when people write about best practices are:

1. Spell names correctly. Names are important – they are personal and our identity, individuality is connected to them. So, it’s important to get them right.

The best way for someone to get the impression you don’t have attention to detail is to spell their name incorrectly.

2. Never use Mr, Mrs, Ms until you are sure about the gender of the receiver. If you don’t know – don’t guess. There are a lot of gender-neutral names like Jamie and Chris. Also, as we experience greater cultural diversity, guessing will surely lead to embarrassing and potentially costly errors.

In addition, avoid ever using Dear Sir/Madam. It appears dismissive and like you don’t care (like junk mail). Your receiver will notice and their opinion of you will not be a good one.

3. From country to country, appropriate email and business etiquette can vary widely. In certain countries, email correspondence is expected to be highly formal, much like a written business letter. In other countries (like America), they are often shorter and more to-the-point.

If you are unsure – stay professional, get to the point and add links to any additional information or attachments… then wait and see what comes back. Do you get formal back, or a short to-the-point message or a casual email? Their response will give you insight into how they communicate.

Always remember email is best used as a way of sharing data, charts and directions. It’s not a great place to discuss choices, brainstorm or build rapport.

Conclusion

Business etiquette and soft skills training is a critical part of all professional development training plans.

When you do write email, get to the point quickly and write in full sentences following proper capitalization and grammar rules. Avoid slang and jargon and always be sure to use the spell-check. While it’s difficult to take the time to re-read you message impartially – try whenever you can… especially for important or sensitive messages.

If it’s a new relationship try to have a quick call with them. This will do wonders to establish a long-term, valuable relationship which can then be carried forward via email.

Happy communicating.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting

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Email Etiquette When Looking For A Job

Email etiquette when looking for a job is important because it’s very likely much of your job search communication will happen by email – and some by phone. Every point of contact you have puts your professionalism under a microscope, so be careful with your email etiquette and phone etiquette.

Act like every email and phone call is part of a job interview.Job Application Email

How Is Your Email Address?

If your email address looks like drinkingparti101TotalyON@gmail.com it compromises your reputation. Your email address may be the first thing your potential employer notices, so make sure it is professional and promotes respect.

Set up a new gmail email address if you need to (gmail will appear more ‘current’).

Write SMART Email Subject Lines

An Email Subject Line that says: Resume or even Resume of Bruce Mayhew will likely not get a reply unless you are the only applicant.

Your future boss (hopefully), may get 50, 100 or more applications, so… you have to stand out. Your email subject line should identify the job you want and why your resume is important (to them – not you). Integrate keywords into your email subject line… in around 8 words. For Example: Executive Travel Coordinator Application / World Traveler Bruce Mayhew

Say Hello / Salutation (CRITICAL)

Every email – especially email sent to your future boss should have a greeting; otherwise you look abrupt and rude. Use ‘Dear Mr. Mayhew’ or perhaps ‘Thank you for this opportunity Mr. Mayhew’. Even ‘Good morning’ would work (especially if you can’t find their name).

Names are important to people. When someone uses our name we naturally pay attention. If you don’t know their name, check LinkedIn, go online and looked for the company directory and/or call the company and ask the receptionist. There is no better way to get noticed than to value social niceties and relationship building.

Use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ only as a last resort.

Your Main Message

Get to the point and write full sentences. Start with one or two short sentences about why you are right for the job. If your opening is ‘Please find my attached resume’ you might as well work on your tan instead.

Use punctuation which means start sentences with a Capital and finish them with a period (I recently trained someone who had a hard time with this – and they were not a Millennial), and be sure you check grammar and spelling. Be professional, polite (but not too polite), and grateful for the opportunity (but not too grateful).

When you finish writing, save your draft, go away and return to re-read/edit.

Every email should have a call for action. Usually your call to action would be one of the first things in your email – but for a resume put your call to action second after you’ve let them know why you are special.

Reply To Email In Less Than 24 Hours

A quick email reply is respectful. Lets say they want more documentation but you are on your way to the cottage for 4 days with only your smartphone. Do you hold off before replying? NO! Especially because you are looking for a job, reply to email asap and let them know when you will send the documentation. Better yet, phone them and establish a one-on-one relationship. As soon as they hear your voice, you will have an advantage over everyone else… relationships are just that way.

If you’ll be out of range for a few days use an Out of Office message. Be polite and friendly and remember – your future boss may be receiving the message.

Attachments

Missing attachments are one of the easiest ways to make a really bad impression when using email when looking for a job. Attach your resume before addressing your email so you don’t forget.

Closing & Signature

If you use an automatic signature line (which is a great time management best practice), be sure it is appropriate for your potential future employer. Include your full name, email address and primary phone number. If you write a relevant blog, link to it as well, but be careful because some organizations’ firewalls block email that have links, you may want to check.

After Your Interview

Congratulations, all your attention to detail as you were looking for a job has paid off and you got an interview.

After your interview send a ‘thank you for the interview’ email. Then, as George Armes suggests in his article, send a handwritten note by mail/post… where you use a stamp. Do this quickly; I recommend the same day so be prepared and have everything ready in advance (including the stamp).

Happy communicating and job hunting.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting

If you enjoyed this Business Communication blog post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew is founder and President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting a Professional Development firm that excels at quickly and easily tailoring programs to meet the unique needs of our clients and their employees. In addition to being an effective professional development trainer, Bruce is a popular conference speaker, writer and has been featured on major TV, Radio and Newspaper networks ranging from CTV to Global to The Globe & Mail.

Connect with Bruce on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Mindfulness, Time Management and more.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Beliefs

Beliefs became a topic of study when I was developing my Managing Difficult Conversations training program. I kept asking myself; “When and How do we change beliefs?” and ”What are the barriers that keep you and I locked into our beliefs not wanting – or not able to change?”

So lets answer these questions… and if you have any other questions or thoughts, please comment / submit them below.

What Are Beliefs?

Beliefs

Changing a belief; like climbing a mountain.

Beliefs govern our behaviour. I like how James P. Carse (Professor Emeritus of history and literature of religion at New York University), explains beliefs as having boundaries.

I’m visually oriented (please stick with me), so in my mind I see the beliefs / boundaries as walls of a home. This home has rooms which contain and support our goals and values. We are very comfortable and feel protected in this home. There are doors and windows, but the windows have curtains (that makes it difficult to see a different perspective), and the doors are locked. We cannot leave unless we choose to unlock the door and then make another choice to leave the house (but those two actions don’t happen easily).

This home is built using the social, political and entertainment norms we’ve grown up with. It’s also built with the education and the experiences we’ve had. We experience conflict and feel stress when our boundaries (our beliefs), are exposed to different norms that we can’t ignore (like someone banging on the door). Argh!!! And shouting “Go Away” doesn’t work.

Our Beliefs Guide Our Behaviour

When we are calm and happy in our home, our beliefs guide the ideas we have, our judgements and assumptions. They create a base for many of the automatic responses we have to the world around us. Beliefs act as support structures for our behaviour and control our actions like:

  • Where we live
  • Who we spend time with
  • How we behave
  • How we think others should behave
  • What grocery stores or restaurants we attend
  • For Millennials And Gen Zers especially, it’s likely their beliefs will guide who they work for

Beliefs Can Be Helpful: Because our beliefs shape our actions and how we experience the world, we depend on their consistency to keep us safe and to help us make predictable, automatic decisions. We don’t have to analyze every moment of our lives and every decision. Our boundaries make life easy because we stop being curious about many things.

Beliefs Can Be Restrictive: Because our beliefs create a boundary within which inquiry and curiosity is very limited, our beliefs keep us from trying new things. Beliefs have rigidity and closure – we can actually become fearful of trying new things…  surprise is ruled out. Most of the time when this happens (and this is important), people do not realize how constrained beliefs keep them.

When we react automatically without thinking or analysis it feels safe, it saves time, it feels good… it can even make us feel smart… and this is why it’s so difficult to change people’s mind.

Believing offers people emotional safety, the potential to speak with authority… to be respected and even honoured.

Changing Beliefs

Believers will always be able to answer any question and their answer will seem perfectly rational (to them), even if there is no proof. If you don’t agree with their beliefs then they’ll think you are the one who is wrong… which makes it difficult to win an argument with a believer.

Asking someone to adopt new beliefs puts their current reality and support structures at risk; you are asking them to move from a familiar and secure place. This will be very unsettling to them – feelings most people try to avoid. Because we depended on our barriers of beliefs, we will accept even illogical arguments to support them.

Changing BeliefsTo change a belief you have to create a reality where the person will feel safe. Believers must have something new to believe in – new support structures (including new emotional supports). Then, give them an opportunity to change/migrate their beliefs – like a ship crossing an ocean moving from one port to another.

Stories are powerful tools to change beliefs because stories often trigger emotions, and emotions are proven to be better motivators than logic. Stories push creativity – curiosity – wonder – ideas – judgment – humanity – empathy – compassion and… independent thought.

Like I suggested above, logic alone will often not work (if it did people would not smoke). But if you are able to emotionally trigger people, you’ll be on your way to changing their beliefs.

Conclusion

Beliefs give us security, dependability and confidence; we use them to justify our behaviour. They control almost every decision we make or judgement we have. Our beliefs help us predict what tomorrow will bring and give us the confidence and comfort to predict the types of challenges we might face, the people we will meet, how we will act, the conversations we will have, the foods we will eat – and so on.

Beliefs make our lives easier… we depend on them even thought our beliefs are often illogical, unproven and even contradictory. And yet, we count on them for much of our emotional and practical well-being.

PS: Supporting Our Beliefs About People

Beliefs give us rules on how we should act and in many cases what to think. Because of this we tend to decide whether we like or dislike people very quickly – often based on one thing. We then use every other experience we have with that person to support our decision; for example, you may think “I like Doug’s politics,” therefore you’ll find Doug’s voice pleasant and then might begin to list all the things you have in common…. however, if you don’t like Doug’s politics, you will likely find many other things about them unpleasant (like their voice or how they dress). In other words, if you believe in the conclusion, you will also begin to believe any of the arguments (strong or weak), that will support the conclusion. Like saying “I don’t like fish because I don’t like the smell of canned smoke oysters.”

Happy communicating.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Turning Around A Bad News Business Story

There is no doubt that social media can take a bad news business story and spread it around quickly, but can you recover from a bad news story? Here is an example of one business story that went viral and how it demonstrates a bad and a good outcome.

The thing that makes this business story powerful for individuals like you and me is that the customer did what most of us would have done. We can see ourselves in exactly the same predicament and experiencing the same disappointment… we can relate!

The Bad News Story

The story is simple… which is the best kind.

Recently, CTV News reported that during a nation-wide promotional contest a customer rolled up the lip of their beverage cup to find the tab said they won a $100 store gift card. The customer then did what most of us would have done – and perhaps have done in the past; they removed the tab with the winning notice and threw away the dirty cup.

Unfortunately, the customer was unaware of a new (and little-known), contest rule to claim their winning. The rule that even some franchisee owners didn’t know of was that winners have to present both the tab and a PIN number which was written somewhere on the cup.

As a result the $100 prize was not offered and the customer was disappointed.

The Good News Story

A franchisee owner of this coffee chain heard about what happened. His response was to give the customer a $100 gift card anyway.

Because of the simple and quick actions of the franchisee owner, I bet the owner has received a constant flow of compliments from family, friends and customers. I suspect he also has solidified customer loyalty throughout his community and beyond (not to mention an incalculable amount of free advertising).

In addition, it would not surprise me that the franchisee owner has chalked up a partial recovery for the reputation of the coffee chain. I hope there is a steady stream of well deserved thanks coming his way from the other franchisee owners no matter what city/province they are in.

Conclusion

written by Daniel Kahneman

written by Daniel Kahneman

There are powerful lessons for business owners in these two stories.

First lesson is to be careful with your marketing messages and managing customer expectations. Poor communication can backfire.

If you are introducing change, know that in most cases change takes time to be absorbed – especially when small, familiar things are changing. As Nobel Prize winner and Professor Daniel Kahneman outlines in his bestselling book Thinking, Fast and Slow, our human brains are designed to filter out ‘the familiar’ so we can focus our attention on things that are new and/or important and which therefore may need higher-level reasoning.

Second lesson is that most mistakes can be made into a win if you move quickly and take ownership of them and engage in empathy and compassion as you respond.

Happy communicating.

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Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We listen.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Millennials Are Changing How We Work Training Part 2

Millennials are changing how a multigenerational workforce works. For example:

  • A performance review once per year is no longer enough.
  • Working long hours with only a 2 week vacation is no longer enough.
  • The idea that if they work hard that eventually they will, ‘Have their chance’ is no longer enough.
  • A paycheck is no longer enough.
  • Being patient is near impossible.

In Part 1 of this series we began discussing the generation gap and how Millennials expectations are different. We also pointed out that Millennials are leading by example and changing what Baby Boomer and Gen X leaders want from their work and personal lives.

4 Generations At Work

4 Generations At Work

Lets continue that discussion.

Recognition

Unless you are calculating bonus amounts, one end-of-year performance review is not enough feedback for todays multigenerational workforce. Most Millennials prefer frequent, smaller wins. It’s not because Millennials are ‘needy’; in part it’s because Millennials want to do a good job and be proud of accomplishing something.

Receiving regular feedback lets your employees know they are doing a great job (they don’t want to do a ‘good job’), or gives them the opportunity to course correct – which means everyone saves time and money. The added value is that smaller wins boost feelings of engagement and ownership of the project – which is a significant benefit when it comes to work quality and productivity.

Footnote: It’s not only about Boomers and Gen Xers changing to close the generation gap and satisfy Millennials. Millennials are learning they should expect feedback less often than they would like… while Boomers & Gen Xers are learning to provide feedback more frequently.

Face-time With Leaders

Millennials grew up with lots of interaction with their parents, teachers, coaches and other leaders. They feel comfortable around them and see them as people they can learn from.

One great way a leader can engage Millennial employees is to have what I call laser meetings. For example: Once or twice a week have a fast 10 minute meeting to review objectives, progress and critical needs. It’s not a gabfest on the way to Starbucks – its meaningful and deliberate. In today’s fast paced workspace, face-time with leaders this is also becoming an effective tool to stay up to date with Boomer and Gen X employees.

Set Short Term Goals

In line with more frequent feedback, Millennials do better when they have short term goals they can celebrate.

Work with all employees to identify and agree upon goals to reach at the end of the week. As you discuss goals also discuss the learning opportunity; this is a great way to keep your whole team focused, motivated and invested in the project.

Collaboration

Most Millennials work best in teams. Ask a few Millennials to collaborate and to come up with a few solutions if you have a problem to solve. I’m certain you will be amazed.

That said, Millennials are demonstrating for Boomers and Gen Xers the value (and enjoyment), of being creative together. So, collaboration is a great opportunity for different generations to learn what is important to each other and to close the generation gap.

Loyalty

Loyalty isn’t what it used to be. If a Millennial isn’t happy they likely won’t stick around… even if they don’t have another job to go to.

People rarely leave companies they leave managers. This has been true for years and years and years; it’s just happening at a much faster pace with Millennials. If a Millennial doesn’t feel their boss is giving them challenging opportunities, supporting them and/or respecting their work… don’t expect them to stick around.

Appropriately motivating and recognizing all employees is cost-effective and will help keep all generations engaged and committed; Boomers and Gen X included.

Conclusion

Leading change is a daily occurrence for todays multigenerational workforce and while Millennials are changing how we work today, it’s likely going to speed up as technology continues to develop and Gen Z enter the workspaces.

Great leaders know that if they don’t manage Millennials (and now Gen Z), it will lead to conflicts in the workplace, lower productivity, job hoppers and higher re-hiring costs/re-training costs.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Difficult Conversations vs. Conflict

Difficult conversations are not always conflict situations.

Difficult Conversations vs. Conflict

Conflict is a situation where there is a difference in perspective, values, belief, behaviour or needs that creates a gap. To close this gap, conflict situations almost always require negotiation and / or compromise by one or both organizations / persons.

Difficult conversations also have difference in perspective, values, belief, behaviour or needs but it is not imperative for both parties to agree to close the gap. It is important for both parties to state their perspective – and then each party gets to decide what they want to do with the information – to change or not… to close the gap or not… to find synergy.synergy

Here’s an example.

Bob misses an agreed upon deadline. In this case, there is no conflict – the reality is Bob missed an agreed upon deadline.

It will likely be uncomfortable for Bob’s boss to discuss how Bob can avoid letting the team down in the future. It will likely also be uncomfortable for Bob to be on the receiving end of this conversation. But, we can agree there is no conflict with why they need to have a difficult conversation.

Perhaps Bob’s need was for another project deadline, or his belief was that this project wasn’t important, or that his values meant he spent more time with his family. It doesn’t matter – negotiation isn’t required… Bob missed the previously agreed upon deadline.

Benefit of Managing Difficult Conversations

Managing difficult conversations and conflict almost always has a long-term and significant positive impact. In addition, the negative, (difficult), components are often not nearly as severe as we ‘think’ they will be. It’s natural that the drama we create in our own mind is far worse than what happens – everyone does this.

Conclusion

Most of us are really good at stewing on difficult conversations and conflict situations – but we are worried about upsetting relationships that are close to us – if feels better to smile and pretend to be happy – but might erode the relationship and/or productivity.

The reality is that when we manage difficult conversations and conflict situations we find they are an opportunity for the whole relationship or team or organization to see things differently, learn and to grow.

Happy communicating.

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Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

 

Business Stories Help Us Build Trust And Connections

A lecture allows us to share information while storytelling allows us to do so much more. Stories allow us to share our principles, ideas, values, actions, beliefs, needs and lessons in a way our audiences are able to easily remember far longer than any lecture… they allow us to build trust and connections.

I believe business stories are one of the most underused tools organizations have. They would be used to:

  • Hire new employees
  • Motivate and educate existing employees
  • Share information with and support customers
  • More more moreTarget Audience

And, even when they are used (which is usually for marketing), storytelling is often sanitized to evoke only mild emotion so not to ‘disturb’ people likely far away from being the target market… which unfortunately tends to turn a story opportunity into a lecture. I believe we strip down our message so aggressively because we fear causing a negative emotional reaction.

Do Not Fear Grumpy Attitudes

If you have a great story, tell it. For example, The ‘Dove Campaign for Real Beauty’ is a powerfully amazing and positive message to women AND men. The campaign shows women – all women – “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” and “SEE HOW OTHER PEOPLE SEE YOU.” The Dove campaign is creative storytelling which shares in a visceral way that many women do not see their own beauty; the beauty others see every day. Bravo to the Dove campaign for sharing that story and for helping all of us be more aware and kind – even to ourselves!

Dove Campaign For Real Beauty

Trademarks owned by Unilever Canada Inc. Copyright © 2015 Unilever.

But even with the positive message, they received some negative feedback because they created the campaign to increase sales. Seriously!?!? Of course that was part of the objective, but how about we look at the positive? These bold business stories and their message to women are amazingly powerful. Thankfully, they had great story to tell and they told it. Again, Bravo!

If we look to build trust we have to get and keep our audiences attention. We do that by supporting our audiences objectives as well as our objectives. Most of the time a good old-fashioned emotional push does the trick well… which should finish with a data point. When we lose our audiences attention we lose their interest in everything we are hoping for (a purchase, vote, etc.).

How To Build Trust And Connections Using Stories

  • Use Familiar Language. The more complex your words, the more room there is for misinterpretation. If you are working with professors then use jargon they will understand – but even then, keep your message simple. As I said in my last post on email etiquette, “We have to remember that 10 different people can read the same words and depending on their education, experience and objectives they will interpret those words 10 different ways…” Everybody has many stories in their mind. Those business stories are often quite different from the story you want to tell… even at work
  • Use Examples your audience will relate to. The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign which focuses on activating grandmothers in America is a wonderful example because they use stories of grandmothers in Africa so grandmothers here can relate to the parental emotions. On a personal note – I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Stephen and his daughter about this campaign: what wonderful people.
  • Lead With Emotion and end with a data point. Like the following example that could be part of a fundraising letter, “Imaging being a mother in Africa where you have to bear the unnatural burden of having to helplessly watch your children suffer. Last year infant mortality rate remained high at 61 deaths per 1000 live births in Africa.”
  • Use Metaphors to simplify complex stories. Metaphors are great because they can instantly evoke a mental image and an emotional response. But be careful not to use complicated metaphors your audience might not know. You might… “miss the boat” if your audience does not understand. Images can also be used – like an image of a tall mountain symbolizing a long struggle or… a photo of a grandparent holding a child.
  • Be Positive. Especially if you are trying to motivate. Use positive language to lift their spirits and make them want to continue ‘listening’ to your story… and take action. Positive energy is contagious and inspiring.

Any long-term conversation and relationship will be different when your audience becomes involved – and they’re more likely to be involved when you engage them emotionally AND logically through a story.

Conclusion

Storytelling lets us share experiences and emotions. Business stories help us relate and understand each other and to build relationships.

Happy communicating and thinking of all the ways you can use stories.Bruce Mayhew Consulting

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Bruce Mayhew is founder and President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting a Professional Development firm that excels at quickly and easily tailoring programs to meet the unique needs of our clients and their employees. In addition to being an effective trainer, Bruce is a popular conference speaker, writer and has been featured on major TV, Radio and Newspaper networks ranging from CTV to Global to The Globe & Mail.
Connect with Bruce on Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Mindfulness, Time Management and more. Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to the right to watch us on Canada AM.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

* The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Dove are Trademarks owned by Unilever Canada Inc. Copyright © 2015 Unilever.

* The Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign are Trademarks owned by The Stephen Lewis Foundation.

How To Deal With Passive Aggressive People

I often get asked during my ‘Managing Difficult Conversations’ training workshops “How to deal with passive aggressive people.” So, of course I decided to write a blog about how to manage people who try to manage us.

Sure, some people are naturally manipulative or angry… but I believe the majority of people aren’t aware they are being passive aggressive; instead they are unconsciously using a learned behaviour (from dramatic parents, daytime soap operas and 100 other examples in society), to avoid difficult uncomfortable conversations. Also, we need to accept that all of us are passive aggressive sometimes… it just slips out.Passive Aggressive People

So, instead of facing difficult conversations, passive aggressive behaviour is an effectively covert albeit manipulative way to:

  • Express anger
  • Show disagreement/disapproval
  • Manage someone or a situation
  • Get our way

Examples Of Passive Aggressive Comments:

It’s difficult to deal with passive aggressive people because their behaviour can be so subtle it’s not immediately recognizable. Lets look at examples so we can learn to recognize it quickly.

  • The Hapless Victim / Teflon Man: Often play the “You never think I do it correctly” card so might ask “How would you like me to do it”
  • The Sarcasm Master: They say things like, “Sure, I’d love to stay late. What else would I be doing?”
  • The Silent Treatment Snubber: Nuff said
  • The Withholder of Information: They say things like, “I thought you knew.”
  • The Controller: Say things like, “No one else would help you like I do.”
  • Back-stabber / showing artificial concern: “I don’t want to hurt you; I’m saying this because I care.”
  • Deliberately Poor Performer: So they won’t be asked again rather than having to say ‘No’
  • The Late Runner: Someone saying, “I’m coming,” and then shows up even later.
  • The Procrastinator: Not doing something that’s asked of him/her… or “I Didn’t Know You Meant Now.”

Still not sure you can recognize passive aggressive behaviour quickly? One of the best indicators that you are running into passive aggressive people is when you notice you feel uncomfortable about how someone is behaving or if you’re getting angry, upset or disappointed by someone’s behaviour.

How Leaders Deal With Passive Aggressive People

When you notice somebody being passive aggressive it’s the time to begin preparing to find out what’s bothering them or what they are avoiding.

Like I mentioned above, everyone exhibits passive aggressive behaviour from time to time. But, when it’s happening often there’s a great opportunity as a leader for you to offer to help them correct their behaviour and support your whole team.

The biggest mistakes leaders make is letting the behaviour slide. When we let it slide it will almost always get worse and eventually can destroy relationships. Instead, see it as an opportunity to making a situation better – even if you have to have a difficult conversation or two to get there.  Here are three things to keep in mind:

  • Passive aggressive behaviour happens at home and at work. Give your employees and your family members safe space to have conversations when they are feeling frustrated.
  • Be clear about your purpose. Global phrases like “You’re always this way!” will put someone on the defensive. Don’t be aggressive; be respectful with timing and language. Use phrases like, “I’ve noticed that I feel XYZ when you enter the room… vs., Every time you enter the room…”
  • Be patient to what is happening. Don’t react to them, take a moment to respond with controlled intention. This likely isn’t about you at all – it’s about them. Be mindful of your goals and values and if responding to their passive aggressive behaviour will jeopardize your integrity.

Passive aggressive behaviour will escalate conflict if left unchecked. Don’t let your or your team be manipulated. Approach the situation the same way you would approach a difficult conversation. One of the most important steps is to show how this is impacting you – like Point 3 in my most recent Difficult Conversation blog post, show emotion but don’t be emotional. Use ‘I’ language not ‘You’ language.

Conclusion

People who don’t feel they have permission or who are worried about how the other person will react will often use passive aggressive behaviour as a ‘safe’ attempt to express their needs, anger and/or frustration. Sometimes the person is aware that they are doing it and sometimes they are not.

Avoiding a passive aggressive situation is almost never the best solution. If this is happening at work or with your family / friends, if the problem isn’t dealt with honestly and respectfully it ends up either creating more problems or escalating current problems until they get too big to handle.

Happy communicating and dealing with passive aggressive people.

Click here to join our priority list of people who receive our latest Business Communication blog posts. If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Mindfulness and more. Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to the right to watch us on Canada AM.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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