Tag Archives: listening

A Bad Haircut – and Bad Listening Skills

I recently went in for a haircut and said, “just trim it so that it lays down nice.” When the BadHaircutyoung lady finished, she had cut it way short in a way that it was spiking up on top… if I had added blue sunglasses and an ear stud I could have gone to a costume ball as Bono!   I had told the stylist what I needed… but instead of truly listening she interpreted my needs through her 20 something lens of what she thought it should be.   The net result was that I came out looking like an insecure baby boomer trying to relive my 20’s.

As I was reflecting on the prospect of going out in public looking like Bono, it brought back memories of a similar experience I had with a city hall staff a few years ago.

I was considering the purchase of an atypical infill residential lot to build on that had some unique challenges. Whether the lot would work would be determined by the side yard setbacks. So I called the city’s development services department and asked “what are the side yard setbacks?” The secretary said she would have someone call me. I got a call back about 48 hours later from a development services representative and I asked again “what are the side yard setbacks?”

This time I was told “I am sorry but to answer any development questions, you need to come in for a development review meeting.” So within another about 48 hours, a secretary called me and scheduled me for the next available date for a development review meeting – which was approximately three weeks later.

I showed up at the conference room where the fire marshal, the building inspector, a zoning representative, a planner and the development services director were all in the room. I sat down and they asked what they could do for me. I said, “I need to know what the side yard setbacks are.” So the planner looked at their map and responded with a number that made it clear this lot was not able to be developed for me.

huffyIt had taken me a month and a meeting with five city officials to get a 30 second answer to a very simple and straightforward question.

Later, in a separate context I had a conversation with the development services director and she asked about my experience with the city. She was stunned (and even a little offended) to learn that I did not consider it a very positive experience. She said, “It was excellent customer service – we had a room full of people there to address any concerns you had and we were able to answer your question immediately and with clarity. How could you not consider that excellent customer service?”

The development services director had viewed the customer’s needs through her lens of providing a reliable process instead of through my lens as the customer. Yes, her city hall-centric process was reliable and accurate, but it took me a month and required me to schedule a live meeting at city hall to get a 30 second answer that should have been handled with a single phone call. A city hall-centric process can easily deceive staff into believing that just because it is reliable and accurate that the customer is being well served.

It is not accidental that one of the 12 core values of Servant Leadership is listening.   ListeningMystery shoppers, customer surveys, focus groups, social media and even just asking are all great strategies to improve your organization’s listening skills. Take advantage of them.

You may be surprised at what you discover – and how easy you could improve citizen relations just by making sure your organization is doing a better job of truly listening to customers.

Ron_H_new
Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources
governmentresource.com

 

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Sending the Right Message

Have you ever had a conversation with someone or sent an email that may not have been interpreted the way that you intended it to?

sarcasmI have. In fact, in face-to-face conversations I tend to have issues with my level of sarcasm. I often hear, “I can never tell if you’re being serious or not.” In which case, I giggle to myself and then explain that I am indeed simply being sarcastic.

I bring this up to emphasize the fact that communication is a two-way street, and that in order to be sarcastic with someone or to simply send a normal toned email, text message or make a phone call you must know how to specifically communicate with your intended audience. We all know that jokes don’t go over well if someone doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about…

Back in high school we all learned about the Two-way communication model with the sender, receiver, verbal pubefftea3and non-verbal messaging types, but since we originally studied that way back in the day, things have changed. Technology, telecommuting and other scenarios have taken communicating to a whole other level; making something as seemingly simple as communication extremely challenging.

In the 1960’s, Professor Albert Mehrabian established a statistic for the effectiveness of face-to-face communication, suggesting, “interpersonal communication is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent facial”.

giphyThose are some crazy statistics! So for those of you who tend to not be able to control some of your facial expressions, you must learn. This is especially important with public speaking, and this would be why you may want to practice in front of a mirror before you deliver any kind of speech, because if you are standing up at the podium slouching and sad-faced while giving a motivational speech, I’m pretty sure that your intended message will not be received in the way that you had planned.

Taking this topic back into an office environment, I write all of this to tell you to make sure that you get to know your employees. Take some time to talk to them and understand what type of communication they prefer, get to know their background, culture, etc. Understand that there are many barriers that can hinder a message from being received as intended; including physical (music, noisy group of co-workers, etc.), psychological (hunger, stereotypes, etc.), perceptual (perception of meaning), and experiential (cultural misconceptions and attitudes).

Getting to know the people who you work with in person, or via Skype or whatever you prefer will help for you to understand each other and will cutback on communications issues in the office.

And well, if you’re still having issues with communication, you can always rely on the “emotional spellcheck for email,” ToneCheck.

MichellePelisseroPhoto

 

Written by:
Michelle Pelissero
Communications Coordinator
governmentresource.com

 

Cutting Out Workplace Negativity

We’ve all heard the phrase, “it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch,” and while much of the time this can ring true in an office environment, it really doesn’t have to.

giphyIf you have someone in your office that you feel has a “negative” attitude toward work, this is a huge red flag for you as a leader to look around and make sure that all of your employees are satisfied with their positions and the work environment. Chances are, the negativity or frustration is affecting more than one person. This is where relationship building comes in and the importance of actually getting to know your employees. Not just their names, but actually who they are.

Let me give you an example. Many moons ago I worked as a retail manager. While in this position I was transferred to a new store, a store that already had their own culture and employees who were used to a certain management style. Let’s just say that the change in management did not go over well with employees, because after all, adding someone new into the mix, especially a newly promoted manager, can be a hard thing to adjust to. Instead of letting the defiant attitudes get me down, what did I do? I got to kIf you treat employees as if they they makenow my employees. I learned about who they were, what they liked to do for fun outside of work, and most importantly what their aspirations were for their careers. I listened.

What I learned from all of that is that, like customers, frustrated employees simply want to be heard. They want to build that rapport with their managers so that they can go to them with any issue they may be facing, because they then know that their manager will look out for them and get things done. So while you must listen, you also must show that you follow through with your promises. Never make promises you can’t keep. This is what makes a good leader.

So here’s a list of some suggestions for how to become a better leader and cut out office negativity:

  1. Get to know your employees and build a lasting rapport with them.
  2. Listen to them. This is where that open door policy that everyone talks about comes in.
  3. Show them that you are a doer not a don’ter, because the minute you promise something to an employee and don’t follow through, you lose their trust.
  4. Finally, ensure that you are treating your employees as well as you treat your customers.

In my opinion, dedicating yourself to these steps will help to cut out any negativity that may invade the workplace. Treating your employees as well, if not better, than how you treat your customers will give them the motivation to succeed, contributing positively the organization’s goals.

That’s just my two cents. What are your thoughts?

MichellePelisseroPhoto

 

Written by:
Michelle Pelissero
Communications Coordinator
governmentresource.com

 

Do You Really Need an Answer?

It’s a bit of a joke around SGR, but there’s a touch of truth in it, too. The running joke is when one of us says, “How many times have I told you that ‘I am a Team Player!’” The touch of truth behind it is our theory that the more someone tells you that “I am a Team Player!” the less likely it is that they really are a team player. Team players care too much about the team to constantly be talking about themselves. The truth is that if you’re a team player, you don’t have to always go around saying it. It will show. People will know.

Along those lines, I’ve developed another theory: “The more someone tells you that they want help, the less likely it is that they will listen to the help that you offer.” I can think of several situations recently where l found myself listening to a leader pour out his complaints, punctuated by seemingly earnest pleas for help. However, it became obvious that they didn’t want, and perhaps didn’t need, any help beyond being listened to.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with needing to be heard. We all (and by all I mean ALL) need for others to listen to us. No exceptions. Therefore, one of the real gifts we can offer to people is merely the gift of listening without criticism or solutions. As a leader in your organization, you could probably make a much larger impact than you realize by listening empathetically to your team. Try it.

Related to that, it’s an indication that you need more emotional intelligence if you too quickly rush in with solutions, opinions, and suggestions when what the person really wants and needs is just for you to listen. I’ve made that mistake more times than I care to admit. People don’t usually appreciate unsolicited advice.

But what does it mean when a person repeatedly asks for help, yet objects to every solution?

It might mean that they already know what they need to do, but they just don’t want to do it.  Hence the theory, “The more they ask you for help, the less likely it is that they will take your advice.” Because it’s actually not an answer they need.  It’s the courage to act on the answer they already know.

So, time to look in the mirror, my friend. What’s the issue that you keep asking someone to help you with, while at the same time rejecting every solution as unacceptable? Could it be that what you need is not the answer, but rather the courage to act on the answer that you already know?

Here’s a challenge: If you want to be the kind of leader whose organization is a 16 percenter…stop asking for someone to give you an answer that you already know. Great leaders have the courage to act!

Mike Mowery


Written by:
Mike Mowery
Chief Operations Officer, Strategic Government Resources
governmentresource.com

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