Monthly Archives: April 2013

Lack of Professionalism in Communication – Why it happens and What to do

25 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

Why do we react in ways that may not be professional?

Anger, frustration, lack of patience, sarcasm, abruptness, or any of many other reactions that may damage professional relationships, cause tension, result in lack of performance and initiative, and resistance.

Consider these truths:

  1. While we are well beyond animalistic and untamed in our responses, we still have emotional reactions based on our passions, beliefs and frustrations.
  2. Despite these initial reactions, we have the ability to decide what to do and say next, if we decide to use that Opportunity Space before we respond.
  3. Every person has their own ‘good and valid reason’ for doing and saying what they do and say, which makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t seem ‘good’ or ‘valid’ to others.

What does ‘emotional’ look like in the business world?

Emotional reactions in the business world come in the forms of:

  • loud verbal frustration with performance of lack thereof,
  • avoidance of people or situations,
  • saying everything is okay and yet complaining when the person isn’t around,
  • sarcasm with coworkers or employees,
  • refusing to speak to another professional or gossiping,
  • firing or writing off employees as incapable to avoid the tense conversation, just to name a few.

Why do ‘emotions’ have to get in the way?

Personally, I would much rather corral emotions than deal with someone who has let their passions be buried by life’s stressors, failures, and the beliefs of others.  ‘Emotions’ come into play because we are passionate, full of potential and see opportunities in the world of how things should be and could be.  Every one of us does.  If you feel your passion has been dulled by life’s events – find it again.  It’s a good thing and a powerful force.

Simple example:  Driving on the country road by my house, following a vehicle going 24mph in a 45mph zone, where I had been known to drive 65+mph in my Audi S4 before I started driving the mini-van…  I begin to get emotional, frustrated and mad because of this person’s slow driving.  Why?  Because I’m just an emotional, grumpy person?  No, it’s because there are certain things I am personally passionate about:

  1. Unused potential – we could get somewhere a whole lot faster if we went the speed limit, and we could use our time much more productively than driving.  I thrive on finding unused potential and maximizing results – even if those results would be to have an extra 10 minutes to play with Lincoln Logs with my children.
  2. Lack of concern for others – when someone ignores the impact they are having on others, they cause unneeded stress and frustration, and possibly have more serious consequences if there is a more critical reason to get somewhere.
  3. I don’t like being late – because I see it as inconsiderate of the other person’s time, we were already running late for soccer practice, and I could make up a bit of time on this country road.

At the same time, as a former Nursing Home Administrator, I’m compassionate to the elderly driver, who may be preserving their freedom by continuing to drive, while going slowly to compensate for senses and reflexes that aren’t as strong as they used to be.  So, immediately my emotions calm down, until I see the elderly driver talking on the cell phone in the car in front of me.

It’s not about you!

Remember, it’s typically not about you, and another’s behavior is usually not meant to be a personal attack.   People do things for their own reasons, based on what is happening in their world, and often do not consider, or purposely plan, consequences that affect you.

How to address situations that cause ‘emotional’ reactions?

Use the moment between when they say or do something and you react, which I’ve called the Opportunity Space, to make the best decision.  Consider:

  1. What do you want to accomplish in the long term?  Your own mental and physical health?  Productive relationship with this person?  Specific results you may need this person’s help with?  Utilization of strengths you believe to be present in the person who is aggravating you?
  2. Where are they coming from?  They have a ‘good and valid reason’ for doing what they are doing – in their head, it makes sense.  Think of six possible reasons why they are doing what they are doing, see if you can learn how they are thinking, identify common beliefs and values, pinpoint a common goal or common approach on which you can agree, and then move forward to a solution.
  3. How are you making them feel?  Your words, non-verbal expressions, and actions can have serious consequences on another person.  Remember, they are an ‘emotional’ being that has strong passions and beliefs as well.  You cannot take back words and it takes a lot longer to repair a relationship than to keep trust and respect by acting purposefully.

Once you get emotional in a conversation, it ceases to be productive and you lose credibility – regardless of what prompted your behavior.

Note:  This assumes each person’s best intentions and there are situations where people trigger your emotional response on purpose, to manipulate the situation, or out of anger.  You should be alert to these possibilities and consider those with whom you interact.

“Good” isn’t enough, bring me the data!

17 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

“How is … going?”  You fill in the blank.  What have you asked your team about?  Projects?  Sales?   Customer satisfaction?   Daily tasks?

And have you heard in response, “Good!” or “Fine.” and wondered just what those phrases really meant?  Sometimes they mean to communicate:

  1. “Things are not all that great right now, but we’ve got a solid plan to address them.”
  2. “I’m really not sure how things are going, but nothing appears to be in fire, so I think we’re okay.”
  3. “If I say, ‘Good!’ or ‘Fine.’ you will not worry as much and give me some room to go figure out how things are really going.

This is not only the case if you have a few slackers on your team who avoid accountability.  In many very successful businesses, even good performers may not have a handle on specifically how things are going.  There is this common aversion to data collection and analysis in many organizations because it requires time and effort that could be spent doing things instead.

Brad Robertson, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) St. Francis Hospital has a sign hanging in his office which reads, “In God We Trust, all others bring Data.”

What data might your team need to bring you?

  • Customer service metrics
  • Sales and Pipeline data and pipeline building activities
  • Profitability, and the related pricing, expenses, execution, rework, delivery
  • Company overall health – current assets, long term liabilities
  • Where we are, where we’ve been, trends, projections
  • Industry specific measurements

How often do you need to see this data?

Part of the objective of gathering data is that the process can become part of the daily routine, so metrics are gathered and reviewed routinely (at least monthly, more often for some metrics), not only by a leader, but by team members as well.  If a doctor had to assess you without any tests, lab results or equipment such as a blood pressure cuff or stethoscope, and only saw you once in a while, an intuitive doctor might be able to make some guesses, but you would not have the same opportunities for good health.  It’s the same for the business or department you lead.

Identify the right data to gather, the easiest way to obtain it, a set time to review it, a consistent way to use it for making solid decisions, and stay consistent in that process.

On a final note, for those of you reading this who think that data is fabulous and you could spend all day just gathering and analyzing because there is so much good information to be gleaned, be careful to balance the value of gathering and reviewing accurate data with the objective of using it to improve business processes and ensure greater success.

Top Five Reasons Why People Fail to Achieve Their Goals

08 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

When you realize it’s April, the first quarter of the 2013 calendar year is over, and you look at your goals for the year, are you:

  • Energized by your progress?
  • Depressed by the lack of achievement year to date?
  • Frustrated by what took you off track?
  • Unsure of how exactly you are progressing because you haven’t looked at your metrics yet?

Top 5 reasons why people fail to achieve their goals:

1 – Never wrote goals in the first place. If you never committed to paper, you didn’t see the value in spending that time, were unsure of exactly what your goals were, were never committed enough to put them on paper – lest you fail, or believe things change so quickly that you were going to go with the flow. The commitment from goals in your head, to goals written on paper by your hand, and shared with others – is a big commitment. And it’s a leap for most people. If you have never written your goals, jump that hurdle and put them on paper. Then share them with someone. And, if you have a team who is responsible to achieve these goals with you, by all means, share the written goals with them!

2 – Goals were way too ambitious. Have you ever made a list in your head of what you want to accomplish on your day off, or on a weekend – and never made it even half-way through? Excited by the prospect of a day off, or some ‘free’ time on the weekend, we quite rightly, think of all the things we want, need and would like to accomplish, including some time lounging at the pool. In business, it can be the same way. If you are excited about your job or your business, you will have high hopes and ambitions. Don’t let them get away. Just make sure when you write your goals list, you pinpoint realistic goals, corresponding strategies and reasonable action items, so you and your team can make progress, and can celebrate those achievements at month or quarter-end. Then, also keep a list of your hopes and dreams, ambitious goals and ‘to do someday’ items, and consistently chip away at that list.

3 – Never created a detailed plan. Being able to execute on a project or initiative is a lot harder than it may appear, and the skill is not in everyone’s toolbox. Even the most diligent of people cannot always get things done on time without a solid plan in place that clarifies objectives, creates the roadmap, identifies milestones, pinpoints key action items, assigns responsibility, allows for obstacles that will inevitably occur, and monitors progress on execution of that plan. This is not a lengthy paper document, but it is a plan on paper, with the ‘how’ we are going to get this done (in relatively small bites), ‘who’ is going to do it, by ‘when’, and ‘what we will do when things don’t go as planned.’

4 – Failure to measure progress. It takes some work to identify metrics to measure performance upfront when goals are written, and then to take a moment to check on those metrics throughout the quarter. However, it is more effective to spend this time upfront than to get to the end of the time period and find out you missed your goal. Enormous Accounts Receivable balances don’t occur in 90+ days without first occurring in 30 and 60 days. Closed sales don’t plummet without first seeing a drop in calls and appointments.   Whatever you are concerned about should have a measurement associated with it, not only so you can measure your success, but also your progress. Some measurements are more subjective, and based on manager or owner evaluation. These can be just as effective, when the criteria are spelled out up front.

5 – You moved the finish line. If you work with or for someone who might be called an “Achiever” or even an “Over-Achiever,” you’ve learned that no matter how much success is experienced, it’s never enough – and they are quick to celebrate and move on to the next challenge. Written goals help with this challenge as well, because while you are excited about achieving a goal and setting the next one, you can’t continually move the finish line and not frustrate the team. However, the team can move the finish line as long as the success is acknowledged and don’t burn themselves out working overtime.