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Now you're talking manager


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Now you're talking manager

  1. 1. Personal Branding Ref: 0073Now youre talking, manager Use respect: Susan Heron, Australian Institute of Management Luis AscuiBy Leo DAngelo Fisher2 August 2012Executive coach Jon Michail is often brought into companies plagued by dysfunctional culturesthat impede performance at individual, team or organisational levels.Known by his professional name of Jon-Michail, the veteran coach spends time in theseorganisations, getting to know their eddies and flows. One thing that often doesn’t flow, he says,is conversation.“At great companies there are great conversations going on all the time,” says Jon-Michail, whostarted Image Group International in 1989. “People are conversing purposefully, relationships arebeing strengthened and it’s all for the good of the organisation.”One trend that disturbs the ebullient coach is the decline in “authentic” conversation, particularlybetween staff and management.“Those one-on-one conversations that are so important for building relationships andpartnerships are lacking today big time. Ten years ago I thought maybe this is a trend that will goaway, but it’s got worse.” For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: Page 1 of 4 ©2012
  2. 2. Personal Branding Ref: 0073Perhaps, he muses, it’s the confluence of several factors that inhibits conversations betweenmanagers and staff – a restless economy, restructuring and cutbacks, diminishing trust, the riseof jargon and spin, and the advent of litigious workplaces in which managers feel they cannotspeak freely.“It’s actually very difficult to have authentic conversations in the workplace today. There are somany games going on, so many mixed messages and out of control human resourcesdepartments and political correctness are causing so much damage,” Jon-Michail says.Managers skilled in elaborate communication techniques or who simply parrot company lines riskalienating already disengaged employees. Often these managers find it difficult to initiatespontaneous conversations and even when they do, they resort to corporate speak or guardedlanguage.“The word I keep using is ‘authentic’, and I mean it,” he says. “A manager may be slick andpositive and think he’s being very clever when he is having conversations with staff but everyoneknows it’s just more blah, blah, blah.”The ability to communicate clearly and credibly is critical for anyone working with or managingteams. For managers, the clearer the directions to teams, the more likely those directions will beunderstood, followed and executed.“The quality of conversations with team members affects the quality of the work they do, itimproves their morale, it leads to better relationships in the workplace,” Jon-Michail says.“The clearer the task at hand, the clearer the context of what you are asking your team to do, thegreater the value that you create for yourself, your team and the organisation.”Difficult conversations are a particular source of angst. A book by management trainer DarrenHill and psychologists Alison Hill and Sean Richardson, Dealing With the Tough Stuff , is aboutmastering “crucial conversations”.“As a leader, supervisor or manager, there’s one inevitable task you will encounter: the tough-stuff conversation. Whether it’s addressing underperformance, critiquing work or dealing withheightened emotions, some situations with some people will be tough – there’s no escaping it,”the authors warn.These conversations can cover many issues: customer complaints, disputes with colleagues,poor performance or job cuts. Conversations have to be equal to the challenge.“When we have to deal with the tough stuff, we often fluff around the subject and avoid beingclear and getting to the point. Others around us also use fluff [including jargon],” they write.“To get rid of the fluff, you need to get clear in your communication, get clear in your intent andget to the point.”Difficult conversations are a fact of organisational life – especially for managers – so there’s nopoint hoping they can be avoided, says the chief executive of the Australian Institute ofManagement for Victoria and Tasmania, Susan Heron . For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: Page 2 of 4 ©2012
  3. 3. Personal Branding Ref: 0073She says an important factor to keep in mind when initiating an awkward conversation is thatthere is another person on the other side of the table.“These are difficult conversations and you have to be skilled in getting the message across,”Heron says.“If the problem is underperformance, for example, it’s important to make sure that he or sheunderstands where they’re going wrong and how they can address the problem so that theindividual has a chance to turn the situation around.“It’s about respect for the other person but also being aware that you represent yourorganisation. It’s knowing how best to approach the conversation, being alert to areas ofsensitivity, legally and personally, and making sure that nothing is said that insults the person orappears as flippant or uncaring.”It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some people are not naturally gifted conversationalists. Thereal surprise is that managers can make their way up the corporate ladder without those skills.Corporate communications coach Brett Rutledge says spoken communication is the primary toolof leadership – whether in front of 1000 people, in a boardroom or to a single colleague across acoffee table. And yet, Rutledge laments, there is “a crisis of self-expression in the business worldwith people who literally can’t make their point”.“A lot of leaders forget that the most trusted form of communications is verbal communications,”he says.Presumably they had those skills as they made their way up the corporate ladder, but Rutledgesays that the higher they go, the more remote they become as communicators.“As they move through their career, there’s a pressure to conform, to change the way they speakor come across. In effect they’re being asked to become an actor,” he says.“What people want is for leaders to be genuine and that’s the one thing that many leaders havetrouble with. We have a business culture that is producing automatons who are largelyinterchangeable.”One of the greatest obstacles to effective communication is the use of jargon and language thatinvites suspicion, or worse, ridicule. Rutledge urges clients to simplify their language, speakplainly and unambiguously, and treat their audience with respect.“If you spoke to your friends and family the way you speak to people at work, they’d think you’rean idiot. Why do you think people at work think any differently?” he says. For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: Page 3 of 4 ©2012
  4. 4. Personal Branding Ref: 0073Dealing with difficult conversations01 Stay calm while still being firm.02 Keep the volume of your voice underneath the other person’s and do not allow the situation toescalate.03 Allow the person the opportunity to calm down by ceasing communication for a short time andthen returning to it once they (and you) have calmed down.04 Recognise that things said in anger are not usually grounded in fact or reason.05 If someone is volatile, safety is paramount. Cease the conversation if you feel unsafe bydeferring to another time. If necessary, involve a third party.Tips for dealing with tears01 Allow the other person to cry; don’t feel you have to stop them.02 Offering tissues is a simple, empathic gesture that gives you both something to do and says“It’s OK to cry”.03 Your silence is okay in this situation as this allows the other person to compose themselves.04 You can acknowledge the validity of the other person’s behaviour by expressing empathy. Forexample, you might say, “This is upsetting for you”. 2012 BRW For further information on this handout and the consulting and coaching programs available please contact: Image Group International Asia Pacific Head Office T: (+61 3) 9824 0420 E: Page 4 of 4 ©2012