Posts Tagged ‘ Performance Execution ’

Diffusing Defensiveness – Preventing Power Struggles for Oneness!

SERIES: Part Three of a Four-Part Article

It’s all about egos, competitiveness, saving face, and not being seen as the one having to make a concession that leads to a need to win at any cost!

Many times it is this cost of power struggles that, in the final accounting, leads to significant loss of true gains and wins for the greater whole because individuals get caught up in the minutia of petty struggles. And from there, a pattern develops whereby struggles become the norm. Many studies indicate that men experience these struggles due to a need to be above others in a position of power and influence. For women, these struggles are often caused by the need to be the center of influence and acceptance.

Individuals must rise above the need for power struggles and finesse energies and individuals together for a sense of “oneness” that will allow true greatness to be attained and experienced by all!

For leadership success in the home and workplace, here are ten ways to create “oneness” in the face of a “power struggle”:

  1. Enlarge the final solution to incorporate aspects from all players’ desires, versus an either/or option (you versus me’ism).
  2. Invite plurality of suggestions, versus a this-or-that mentality. From these multiple ideas before implementation, one can gain better perspectives and better final resolutions.
  3. Avoid the first person language (I, you, think, but, however) that tends to inflame interactions and induce additional defensive postures among individuals.
  4. Increase the use of inclusion language (we, us, team, feel, other ideas) that brings people together and makes it more difficult for an individual to create a divisive climate.
  5. Share credit and glory liberally. While in the presence of others and success, make sure the credit and rewards are publicly experienced by all appropriate individuals.
  6. Document heavily when you know you are in the presence of those that tend toward power struggles. For example, in the initial stages of a project launch, send an e-mail, letter, voicemail message, etc.) to all participants about the agreed- upon action plan.  Note who specifically owns each piece of that project and send corresponding copies to supervisors and any other influencers that can encourage “oneness” actions.
  7. Disengage and walk away gracefully if you determine your participation, input, or opinion will not have a “significant” influence on the outcome. Many power struggles grow out of individual’s desire for their action plan to be “the” action plan.
  8. Involve a valued and respected elder as the leader of an issue that may lean toward defensive behavior. Let him or her either lead or council you as to exact action plans – and listen!
  9. Break down decision-making responsibility among multiple individuals to avoid any one individual becoming too important or developing an over-inflated view of their net worth to the overall “oneness” of the team.
  10. Limit volatile individuals’ exposure to issues and other individuals that ignite defensive behaviors.

The ability to tactically engage others in the face of impending power implosions and redirect potential negative and destructive energies toward a greater positive outcome is the mark of a true leader in today’s workplace.

These intrusions can create scars that may heal quickly with some individuals, but can also create long festering wounds that reveal themselves in future defensive behavior eruptions. These scars reside in that subconscious brain!

As a leader, you will want to tactically engage – in a non-threatening manner when possible – an individual exhibiting defensive behaviors. Consider:

  1. Start with an empathy action or statement, revealing you acknowledge their position.
  2. Do not take an immediate position of agreement or disagreement with the other person – that is what they will be expecting.
  3. Invite them to share plural solutions to the problem that has brought about their defensiveness. Plurality is a powerful tool, as it allows you to engage all parties in civil dialogue. If you solicit for a singular idea, you may merely elevate the level of challenge, and increased defensiveness may (perhaps on your behalf) as a result.
  4. Establish either privately or jointly a follow-up plan to demonstrate you are committed to resolving what raised the defensive behavior in the first place. Continue to ensure the emotional wound heals and the person in question does not digress or attempt to tie in future unrelated issues to this issue.
  5. Make sure you continually avail yourself to them and keep a conscious ear to what is happening in the workplace. This will ensure others don’t antagonize the wound you are attempting to heal.

Healing emotional wounds and ensuring defensive behaviors do not erode an otherwise effective organization is crucial in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive workplace, where people’s emotions are at wit’s end. Your ability to subtly engage individuals when they are defensive to others, allow them to save face and move onward to greater productivity and profitability outcomes is a trait of tactical leadership.

Dr Jeff Magee
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Personnel Assessment for Cultivating Performance Greatness – Converting Your Terrorist Into a Transformer!

SERIES: Part Four of a Four-Part Article

So you thought it was unique to you. You never thought anyone else faced this. You stayed up late at night wondering how you ended up with this person.

Well the reality is you are not alone!

Some people have evolved into a behavior and mindset that they are the only person in the universe and they can do whatever they want. Unfortunately, this mindset has evolved due to years of an overconfident economy and protective self-serving entities that have rewarded their behavior by overcompensation and avoidance. But most importantly, it has evolved because no one has ever truly held them accountable for their actions!

That behavior that gets recorded gets measured.

What gets measured gets addressed.

What gets addressed gets fixed!

Like a cancer within an organization, these people erode the mettle that makes an organization great. They serve to bitter those that would have otherwise been great contributors to your team.

So what are possible solutions? Consider:

  1. Employee Assessment Instrument Facilitation – Consider the active use of your performance review instrument with this person and all employees. If the net purpose of a performance instrument is to coach individuals to peak performance, the case is self-made for regular monthly completion.
  1. Employee Assessment Instrument Measurement Categories – Consider the behaviors necessary for an optimal performing business unit and the players within it. Each category of behaviors should be listed on your instrument. The score grid should be fair and allow for positive and brutally honest constructive feedback as well. If someone “fails/stinks” in an area, it should be brutally listed accordingly. Conversely, if someone excels in an area, they should be listed accordingly.
  1. Employee Assessment Instrument Measurement “Problem Behavior” Categories – Recognize that with many problem employees, their implosion-causing behaviors are typically just outside the scope of your standard instrument. Every time a new corrosive behavior appears, let that be your clue to add a new individual entry or entire section for future assessment. Although the instrument will grow over time, it is actually a good thing. Remember: the purpose of the instrument is to improve professional performance, and one individual’s act of poor performance serves as a benchmark for ensuring others not evolve into poor habits and behaviors.
  1. Duality of Signatures – Whichever instrument you use to identify poor behavior performance, it should require a signature by all parties involved in the review process. This should also specifically stipulate when the follow-up session will occur to determine if the identified behaviors and action plans are being addressed.
  1. Resignation of Employment Clause – Consider crating a statement into your assessment instrument, stipulating that if the problematic behavior continues, the next assessment will serve as a 30-day notice.  The notice should confirm that if the said behavior continues, the signed document would serve as a voluntary “Resignation Statement” that can be implemented by that organization’s leadership without further notice. This allows for two entire months for a person to change their behavior and two entire months for the leadership team to be held accountable to work with them from a solution-oriented perspective (for a sample instrument, get a copy of YIELD MANAGEMENT, a leading graduate management text with Appendix Instrument templates, at

The unfortunate situation that has grown out of this terrorist behavior is that it has become so corrosive to the team that the levels of greatness, which everyone could be experiencing, are lost. Also, there is always the concern of litigation after you free up someone’s future. Overwhelming documentation of a poor performer who has not aggressively worked to change that station is hard to legally defend. Conversely, your lack of data upon letting someone go will make for a heavy payday for the ambulance- chancing legal team!

While there is a significant amount of institutional knowledge, training and financial investment that an organization has made into every player in an organization, just “firing someone” should never be a first thought – or a thought at all! Robert Half & Associates, a leading employment search firm, estimates that the cost of transitioning one player out and going through the processes of getting a functioning new player online can cost upwards of two and a half times a person’s annual salary. As a tactical leader, it is necessary to realize the heavy investment you have made and determine every possible mean of salvaging that investment.

The “Personnel Assessment” you use for cultivating performance greatness and converting your terrorists into transformers will serve as a powerful objective instrument and allow for you to hold yourself to fair assessment.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Personnel Assessment For Cultivating Performance Greatness – Rebuilding & Using Performance Applications!

SERIES: Part Three of a Four-Part Article

Is there a way to build a better mousetrap? Of course there is. If done, would anyone want to buy a better mousetrap or are people so complacent that they don’t really want to improve their performance?

Businesses have evolved into using very similar methods for immersing new players to a team and ensuring that all of the government mandates are met. This has detracted from real performance, however, causing it to become the third or fourth most important factor on the list of priorities.

One simple way to improve the performance of every player in an organization is to rebuild the application that one traditionally fills out when applying for a position. Convert this application that one would fill-out away from the traditional “Position Application” and to a “Performance Application” and share this new insight with everyone vested in these results – everyone should know the performance abilities of every player on a team. Once this knowledge is shared, everyone can be held accountable for drawing upon one another – in an appropriate strategic and tactical manner – for peak performance!

Cultivating performance greatness from the beginning can be drawn from the valuable information that one would give you if asked the right questions. Consider: 

  1. Basic Contact Data – Obvious data collection points on an application, such as name, needed contact data, address, phone, DOB, etc…
  1. Formal Education – Solicit all levels and highest level of formal education attained.
  1. Work – All applicable previous work positions and additional questions as to how any of this data would be an added value to you and the present team. Allow them sell themselves and illustrate how they can impact the team, if allowed to join, by aiding it in increasing revenue, saving revenue and/or increasing productivity.

As a tactical leader, to cultivate peak performance and coach greater performance on a daily basis, you actually will not be drawing upon this information for someone to perform, but rather:

  1. Practical Education – Solicit from individuals the last twenty or forty seminars, symposiums, home study courses completed or workshops they have attended. Ask them to recap how at least five to ten of these can be immediately drawn from for utilization in your environment. Solicit how these ongoing educational exposures can actually have more immediate and lasting positive performance impact upon you and the team than any traditional formal degree!
  1. Certifications – Solicit the totality of any life certifications they have attained and ways others on your team could glean value from them. Inquire how those could be drawn upon and in what ways they could serve as the team’s subject matter expert in those domains, thus leading others’ performances to greatness!
  1. Must Have – Also solicit on this performance application by category prompts all the necessary skill abilities a person must have to even rise to the state of peak performance in any specific functioning area. You know what people must have to be true performers and what the functionality traits are that one must possess to be successful; don’t keep those a secret.  Rather, enter them into this application template.

In essence, consider expanding the traditional second data collection field of education into both the “Formal” and now the “Practical” educational requirements or ideal sought capabilities. Most organizations DO NOT COLLECT this data presently!

Once this data is collected, don’t keep it a secret. Broadcast these performance insights both horizontally within your business area and vertically to leaders to have as strategic access opportunities.

Performance success does not just happen. Success leaves clues, and the purpose of this “Performance Application” is solicit exactly that – performance showcase snapshots from the past that can be extrapolated for the future.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Personnel Assessment For Cultivating Performance Greatness – Building Peak Performance With Benjamin Franklin’s Secret Decision Tools!

SERIES: Part Two of a Four-Part Article

Businesses have evolved into many inefficient habit patterns that actually hold back their own individuals and teams from peak performance.

Consider the tasks that you and others may be assigned, may assume or work on daily. If you were to evaluate the depth of skill, knowledge, experience and overall ability one has in connection with the tasks, in many instances there would be a radical adjustment to be made.

Think of it this way. If you started your own business and built a team from scratch, you would evaluate all of the tasks needing to be functionally addressed. With that data clearly defined, and maybe even written out, you would begin finding, interviewing and appropriately assigning the tasks that play to each player’s strength index!

The reality in the work place today is that people enter an organization, are led to their assigned workspaces and associated tasks and told to GO!

I see this every day with my Fortune 500 clients, major associations and government agency clients. Managers inherit personnel and never see beyond the surface level of the players’ abilities. Colleagues sit side-by-side for years – decades – and, in some cases, never learn of the true talent depth of the person next to them. Without that talent base being made public, no one benefits from its richness!

Right player, right task, right time, right development, right success, right performance!

 Cultivating performance greatness from within oneself and from others starts with an introspective look at one’s base talent pool. A quick way of determining this depth is by using the decision model alleged to have been used by the great Benjamin Franklin in pursuit of making decisions. For yourself and for each player on your team, take a simple piece of paper, write the person’s name at the top center of the page and draw a vertical line down the middle of the page from top to bottom. Now:

  1. In the left side, enter descriptors for the said person: Positives, Attributes, Strengths, Skills, Educational Attainments, Certifications, Accomplishments and Things They are Good at Doing!
  2. In the right side, enter all of the descriptors for the said person: Negatives, Detriments, Weaknesses, Specific Lack of Educational Attainments and Things They Stink at Doing!

As a leader, you cannot lead others to greatness if you cannot innately tap into a positive side depth. By weighing the two sides against one another, you should determine the number of entries on a person’s weakness side, and your goal should be to know three to five times more about them on the positive side

To determine the richness of each player that you lead, do this drill for each player on a separate piece of paper or electronic word document. Challenge yourself to greatness by recognizing what others’ greatnesses are. If you are unimpressed with what you know or do not know, let that become the motivator by which you engage each player and ask for their feedback to complete this model.

Individual  success = increased self-esteem = increased motivation = increased passion = increased commitment = increased winners!

To enhance an organization’s performance, routinely list all of the core functions of your organization or business area on separate pieces of paper. Then set those to the side and do the same for each person on your team. With the players’ names and Strength/Weakness Index (Ben Franklin +/- Model) detailed, lay the names on a chart or table, take the stack of functions and place them like your playing cards adjacent to the person best suited for that task, regardless of current positions. When you are done, you will notice where people are overloaded, who needs to be trained for greater performance participation and whether or not you have someone on your team that is a non-performer with no tasks assigned to them. This becomes either a training and development opportunity for the both of your or a termination identifier for that person!

Cultivating performance greatness from all players on a team is the critical factor in the business place today. As the tactical leader, this tool will aid you in determining how best to grow and deploy your people’s assets.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Personnel Assessment For Cultivating Performance Greatness – Building a Performance Template for the Right Stuff?

SERIES: Part One of a Four-Part Article

We have ascended into a strange point in time in the history of the planet in respect to organizational effectiveness.

While most organizations boast they seek greatness in what they produce and from their employees, we have actually arrived at a point in time where minimum effort for maximum paycheck and minimum skill asset for maximum rewards has become the condoned norm!

“Great people ascend to a position to which they are functionally incapable of fulfilling, and they, the organization they represent and the individuals they serve and who serve them all become failed.” Known in management as the ‘Peter Principle,’ this is becoming too often an evolution reality in American businesses.

As a performance advocate, you can build systems that will guide both you and those around you to greatness. By crafting a “Profile” assessment for every function within an organization, for every position one seeks and for every credential differentiator, an organization creates in the marketplace.

To create an objective and thorough assessment instrument or “Profile” of performance greatness in an endeavor, consider these EIGHT Models:

1. The “Player Capability Index©” Makes It Very Clear!

A model or formula that can take the subjectivity out of assessing one’s abilities and capabilities, thus allowing an objective, thoughtful and thorough analysis, can be attained through the “Player Capability Index.” This model serves as a guidepost to questions and observations necessary to see the totality of an individual to be hired, transferred, promoted or trained. Consider:

C (T2+A+P) = R


The ‘R’ represents the ‘Results” necessary or desired from any position/function/candidate. In order to get the desired ‘R,’ it is critical that one understand the depth of the ‘C’ (‘Capabilities’) either a position requires or a candidate possesses. To thoroughly understand from where the ‘C’ comes, look into the parenthesis portion of the formula. For example, if you seek a new job or are unemployed and seeking a position, ‘R’ becomes that new position. By thoroughly analyzing these other letters and the totality of what they mean for you on a piece of paper, you will arrive at what you have to offer, and it will become obvious as to whom in your marketplace would see value in that!

The ‘T’ represents ‘Training,’ and the number two represents two interpretations of the ‘T.’ The first interpretation is for exploring the depth of the historical or past tense training one possesses. If the answer indicates one does not have the ‘Capabilities’ to deliver the ‘Results’ needed, there would be a need for ‘addition training,’ which is the second interpretation of the ‘T’ to be fulfilled. The ‘T’ will be matched by the ‘A’ of one’s ‘Attitude,’ which will greatly influence how the ‘T’ is used. To further explore the ‘Capability’ level of a candidate, also look at the ‘P,’ which demonstrates the ‘Performance’ of a candidate. All of this insight will be weighted by two interpretations of the ‘E,’ which represents ‘Expectations.’ The ‘E’ represents both the candidate and the organization or position.

In assessing an individual, there are some areas to consider from within each category of this formula. You can examine personal credentials, resumes, job applications, citations, etc. to objectively measure the depth of training, seminars, symposiums, classes, courses, degrees and certifications represented by the ‘T!’ Consider one’s body language, posture, tone of voice, face inflections, etc. in measuring the degree of the ‘A’ they possess or may possess! Review one’s credentials, past employee reviews, letters of reference, citations, etc. to gauge the level of validated ‘P’ they have experienced; this will aid in benchmarking future expectations. Of course, all of this will be weighed by both parties’ ‘E’ factors, so make sure you ask very candid and direct questions to solicit their level of ‘E’ about you, the team and the organization before entering into a potential relationship!

To further enhance the development of an individual or team, management could use this model as an overlay to present positions and forecasted positions. The model would be used to determine (absent of personalities) what the necessary answers would be for each category within the model for a position itself. ‘R’ would be the net task to be handled by any position and, thus, what the critical ingredients would be for a successful candidate within a position.

2. Industry Certification

Benchmark any existing industry certification for your desired performance application. If there are any certifications offered within your organization or industry, get them and craft your actions around those perimeters. If your are building a “Profile” for performance greatness for your organization, use these preexisting criteria as consideration benchmarks in designing your template.

3. HR Assessment Instrument

If your organization has a preexisting human resource-designed and administered assessment instrument for a given position, use that as a benchmark of minimum “Profile” criteria. Performance enthusiasts will use such instruments – and hybrids of them – on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) to continue performance coaching opportunities, regardless if the organization encourages annual or biannual use – which is indicative of nonperformance-oriented managers that have ascended into would-be leadership positions!

4. Success Assessment Bio

Consider the most successful person you “actually” know in the position or endeavor that you seek. From that person, develop an inverted “L-grid.” Write their name across the top, and within the grid start drafting every descriptive characteristic you know of that lead to their perceived greatness. If you can actually interview them, dig deeper and ask questions to determine what they feel are the characteristics, traits, abilities, skills, etc. that have lead to their greatness. Once you have done a brain dump, return to this comprehensive list. On the outside left of the “L-grid,” for each entry you have written, identify an appropriate identifying label or category for that entry. Now, with these entry categories, you have additional data to consider using in your master “Profile” for performance greatness!

5. Core Competencies Assessment

Based upon what you know are the minimum skills necessary to perform in a position and the expected competencies that the end user expects from someone in a position, draft a list to serve as an additional reference point when crafting a powerful performance “Profile” for greatness within a business or for a sought-after position.

6. Competition Assessment

If there is a means to determine the behaviors and competencies that are used by the number one and number two organizations in the industry you seek, use that gained data as a benchmark in crafting your performance “Profile!”

7. Personal Performance Goal Assessment

Focus on your endpoint. Where do you want to go with this performance measurement? Ensure that from the above insight, if any measurement for greatness is omitted, you will need to build that into your “Profile” for sustained greatness.

8. YIELD MANAGEMENT Performance Review©

In YIELD MANAGEMENT: The Leadership Alternative to Performance and Net Profit Improvement© (by Jeffrey Magee and Published by CRC/St. Lucie Press), a leading graduate management text, a powerful template was crafted from the most consistent performance measurement categories from the leading Fortune 500 organizations’ appraisal instruments. The most common descriptions for sub-section measurement categories were General Performance, Job Applications, Adaptability, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership, Supervisory, Other.

As you can see, the applications of these performance assessment models are explosive, whether being deployed as an introspective of oneself or in assessing others around you. These may serve as a genesis to other assessment considerations in sustaining your performance greatness throughout your professional life. You can use these as guide posts in the interview process, then performance improvement coaching process on an on-going basis, and as a benchmark for exit strategies with non performing players in an organization.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Communication Effectiveness – Dealing With Known Problem Players, CYA!

SERIES: Part Five of a Five-Part Article

Sometimes as a leader, you will need to communicate with a person who you know to be difficult or who has a reputation of being difficult. In those instances, for an effective engagement and an intended positive outcome, there are some safeguards to consider.

Dealing With Known Problem Players
Means “Covering Your Actions” (CYA)

In Non-Confrontational Ways

There are clues that you have a possible problem ahead of you and that a person is branded as “bad luggage” (although management has not or is unwilling to free up their future for other career opportunities at the health benefit to an organization):

  1. If the employees of an individual turn over faster than they do
  2. If colleagues leave, quit or take a lateral transfer faster than the individual in question gets promoted
  3. If peers to an individual limit their exposure to them, don’t go out of their way to engage them and are reluctant to give you insight to how best to engage them when you ask for coaching guidance
  4. If you have ever witnessed individuals having communication implosions with a person
  5. If vendors have more critical than constructive comments about an individual
  6. If a long-standing, positively contributing event, program, initiative or service is attacked by an individual for the sake of drawing attention to him or herself
  7. If you have ever been mislead or used by an individual
  8. If you know a person is a political animal and they use people – at the expense of the organization – for their own goals
  9. If a person uses their position (tenure with the organization, age, gender, race, personal connections, etc.) as their insurance policy for not being “terminated”
Many times, problem and difficult players are a cancer
with which leadership refuses to deal.
In that wake, many times more contributing forces

to organizational success are lost!

Forecasting problematic players to communicate with is easy if one pays attention to the numerous clues. The question then evolves to how best to engage them for solution-oriented, organization-benefiting outcomes. If you have someone like this in your organization, consider these strategies:

  1. Pre E-mail or Correspondence – Look for an opportunity for an upcoming initiative on which the two of you will work together. After your initial dialogue, e-mail them an after-action review, recapping your understanding of the essential 5-Ws and 1-H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How). In essence, make sure you specifically speak to – in a non-confrontational manner – any item that the person has previously demonstrated to be a point of contention. Then send a copy to all appropriate supervisors, vendors, clients, etc. This will be a positive intention e-mail, and the copy provides for initial documentation that will motivate the other party to constructively participate when they see others have received copies. You can preface the reason of sending copies to others under the pretense, “If anyone has suggestions as to how any of us can attain a higher level of success with our individual responsibilities, please share immediately.”
  1. Backup Documentation – In heightened situations where you know someone to be difficult and you really need to cover your actions, keep appropriate documentation off site. When push comes to shove, documentation always wins if you have the facts. Then, and only then, will a habitual problem player be held accountable and possibly purged from an organization!
  1. Assume Follow Up – Between when you initially talk about doing anything and when it is actually done, determine consistent and regular interval update times to ensure they are on track.  By doing this, you will avoid deadline implosions. This may mean setting check points in your PDA, calendars, tickler-systems or day planners. At each of these check points (again in a non-confrontational manner), document and send a follow-up correspondence to them with copies to all appropriate parties in the universe – otherwise it is your word versus theirs!
  1. Involve Neutral Parties – As appropriate, identify neutral third parties, whom the other person appears to respect and that you can accept as well. Engage them early and often to enhance one another’s actions plans for greater efficiency. By doing so, you are not focusing energies or attention on one another as personalities, but rather on the mutual gains. Thus, interactions will also begin to condition the perceived difficult player to be less difficult in your presence.
  1. Stay Focused on Big Picture – Another way to avoid the personal involvement with problem players in communication is to ensure your goal is always the end game of the organization. Tie your communications to that of the organization’s Mission Statement, and it will become increasingly more difficult for the traditional problem player to challenge you or attempt to undermine your initiatives!
  1. Alliance Communications – Associate your communication subject matter to others that have bought into it or are supporting it. Problem players are more inclined to come after you when it appears to be a “You versus Them” format. Likewise, they tend to be less confrontational when you seem to be a part of a bigger grouping. It could sound like this, “In talking with Susan, Tom and Chris, they thought it would be in our best interest if we…” Now, whatever you present appears to be part of a larger energy force.

It is a fact of organizational reality that many times that which holds an organization back from peak performance is not an outside force, but rather an internal one. And yes, it is also true that far too often these people are just clever enough (not actually smart enough) to play the system to their advantage that management is intimidated to do their leadership job and intervene with them, coach them, council them or terminate them. They become an actual passive-aggressive cancer to an organization.

As a managerial-leader you don’t have to become a victim of them. You need merely become a better communicator in the presence of them.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Communication Effectiveness – Becoming a Constant Solution Provider!

SERIES: Part Three of a Five-Part Article

Turning arguments and debates into solutions and alternatives is a hallmark of both effective communicators and successful leaders. As communication goes hi-tech and low-touch, it becomes easy for disconnection to arise in communication. These disconnections only serve to impede productivity and profitability to businesses.

A leader must be constantly cognizant of the individual tactics deployed to stimulate open dialogue.  While in pursuit of solution-oriented dialogue and an environment conducive to free spirited communication exchanges, how one engages or responds to another directly influences whether that communication exchange will be solution oriented or corrosive.

How you arrange a conversation has a direct influence upon the mindset of the participants, which will determine how healthy the outcomes will be. In her classic work, The Argument Culture, author Deborah Tannen illustrates how one sentence sets up defense posture and another creates inclusion. Consider: “Battle of the sexes” (argumentative) versus “Relations between men and women” (dialogue). Or, “Debate” (argumentative) versus, “Discuss” (dialogue). In striving for solution-oriented communication exchanges, be careful not to derail otherwise positive intentions.

Here are ten powerful ways to tactically stimulate solution-oriented communication among individuals in your work place:

  1. Establish Ground Rules – Identify how the other party likes to communicate (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and share with them how you communicate best. By establishing these most basic ground rules, you open yourself to gain greater participation from others!

  1. Covenant-Based – This implies that, as the sender of a signal, you “also” recognize what else you can do to make the communication exchange non- threatening and solution-oriented. So, in looking at the “What else can I do?” (covenant implies other responsibilities) factor, make sure to listen and take notes to objectively consider the other parties’ positions, ideas and views.

  1. You First – Become known as the person who always seeks others’ ideas before offering yours. This may allow for a synergy of action plans and a more cost effective final result!

  1. Demand Alternatives – Whenever someone voices a rejection to an idea or action plan, instead of defending, digging in and challenging the other party, simply back up, gently look at the attempted challenger and say, “What do you feel would be a more viable option?” If they don’t respond with a tangible answer, repeat the question again. What you are implying is, “Put up or shut up!”

  1. One Percent Factor – Regardless of a solution (whether yours or someone else’s), always ask, “What can we do one percent more to make this even more productive or profitable?” This causes people to strive even harder and implies that pushing for something better is always acceptable and expected!

  1. Learn to Forecast – Recognize that when circumstances dictate that you realize an impending problem, and adjustments are not made, this is a great opportunity to invest internally with your colleagues. Ask, task, delegate or assign to everyone to collectively workshop your forecasted challenge for alternatives, solutions or coping strategies so the forecasted issue does not implode the productivity of individuals in the future.

  1. Shop Your Ideas Electronically – Before implementing any solution-action plan, always bounce your challenge and perceived solution off of at least three other people. Someone you know, who previously has been where you are, someone two positions removed from you, who can provide an emotionally biased view and the person most likely to be affected by your action!

  1. Identify Internal Subject Matter Experts – Intrapreneurs – Cultivate from your colleagues, employees and customers (that would be entrepreneurs) those individuals who possess a wealth of knowledge (based upon their education, experience or certifications) and could be the official or unofficial “go to” people to solicit feedback for your solutions and quick-start ideas for your challenges.

  1. Solution Board – When time allows for solution (idea) generation, post that on a community bulletin board with all of your team (including yourself) listed vertically below the entry. Then, post a deadline and publicly invite everyone to write their ideas and allow for ideas to feed off one another. If someone posts an unprofessional energy, let it stand. Later, when you pull the idea list down for discussion in a meeting, engage that person by using technique number four in this list.

  1. Horizontal Action Information Grams – Encourage cross communication among individuals, not from a bragging perspective, but from a “lessons learned” celebration perspective. When someone has faced a difficult situation, generated a viable solution and experienced victory, encourage them to share that three-step evolution with everyone.  If someone else finds him or herself in a similar position in the future, they will be prepared with solutions!

As a leader, if you really want to empower your team and create an environment of mega solutions, design a system that both recognizes and rewards implemented solutions. Imagine giving ten percent of any solution that yields a savings or increase in profitability to an organization. Wow! Pure solution energy. The downfall, unfortunately, is that most leaders take a minimalist attitude towards this view; they don’t want to share ten percent of something they don’t have at the expense of never cultivating the solutions from their most prized assets (their people) that would otherwise yield them a 90 percent gain!

An effective leader continually focuses on individual performance improvement in a highly effective organization. A leader always appreciates, respects and focuses upon the tactics which turn arguments and debates into solutions and alternatives for positive outcomes in every communication exchange.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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