tips for managers

February 3, 2018

Are You Listening Fast Enough?

How long has it been since you were having a conversation with someone and suddenly realized you had no idea what they just said to you? 24 hours? Five hours? Five minutes? It happens to all of us.

There is sciencey stuff to explain it that we always share in our communication training. Our brains simply process words faster than we can speak them. In fact, the differential is about 75%.

Yikes. Our brains have lots of time to wander around while we are talking to each other. That’s why the ability to listen attentively is such a critical part of communication. How much of your work depends on you listening to someone, or someone listening to you?

If you are a manager, being a good listener is hugely important. A recent Gallup poll shows that 65% of employees don’t feel appreciated at work. 65%!! One way to fix that is for managers to learn to listen in a way that make employees feel heard.

We listen differently

In addition to the brain stuff, communication preferences also affect listening. Some of us prefer to talk and think at a faster pace than others do. For me, I’m a doer. I’m all about bullet points and making quick decisions and moving on to the next challenge. I use fewer words, and need to hear fewer words. My husband is quite the opposite. He’s an analyzer. He wants a slower pace so he can process. Quite often, our conversations result in me getting impatient or being short, trying to move things along. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what he’s saying (well, mostly); it just means we are processing at different speeds.

Listening tips

Respecting other people’s communication preferences is one way to improve our listening skills. Following are three tools you can use to listen more attentively.

  1. Make eye contact: When you are looking someone in the eye, you are more focused on them. Plus, you are also reading their facial expressions, which are a big part of communication.
  2. Ask clarifying questions: Help your brain not only process, but also store information. Asking clarifying questions focuses your brain by putting it in the mode of information retention.
  3. Summarize, paraphrase or rephrase: If your brain is actively working on synthesizing the information you’re hearing, it’s more likely to stay connected to the speaker.

A lot goes into effective communication. Speaking and listening are equally important. Using these tips, and learning to read behaviors, can help you equalize speed differences. At Ignite, we spend a lot of time training on this topic. Let us know if your organization could use some help.

September 27, 2017

Bosses: the good, the bad, and the clueless

I’ve had good bosses, bad bosses, and at least one totally clueless boss. One of the best bosses I have had had really strong people skills.  She understood the need to encourage and develop each member of her team. She knew how to build trust, and you always felt like she respected you as a professional.

Bad Bosses

photo of three light bulbs representing good, bad, and clueless bossesThen there are the bad bosses. I have had several of those. One of the worst I ever had was totally self-focused.  Everything he did had at its core how it would advantage him. He never admitted making a mistake. Would never admit any weakness. And you knew you should keep your mistakes and weaknesses to yourself or else this guy would take advantage of them.

Clueless Bosses

The most clueless boss I remember working for very early in my career was a boss who had no idea that there are boundaries between personal and professional that must never be crossed. Did I trust this guy?  Heck no! Was there a feeling of respect among the team?  Sadly, no.

What Kind of Boss Are You?

To check yourself to be sure you aren’t being a horrible boss, here are three questions you can ask yourself and your team:

  1. Is there a strong level of trust within your team? (Do you admit your mistakes and weaknesses and make it OK for them to admit theirs?)
  2. Do your employees feel respected?
  3. Do you place importance on encouraging and developing each team member?

If you don’t get “yes” answers to question #1, stop there.  You’ve got work to do and we can help. We work with managers and teams to get this fundamental right.  When they do get it right, it makes an amazing difference to the team’s productivity and longevity, and to the company’s bottom line.

July 26, 2017

What did you expect?

photo of man holding sign that says "manage expectations"A friend of mine recently marked a significant work anniversary — 15 years. These days, that a pretty good record of longevity at one workplace. In fact, only two employees at the organization have been there this long.

She telecommutes. So when she was asked to come into the office for a staff meeting around the anniversary date, she figured there was going to be an acknowledgement, maybe some cake. And she was right, sort of. A certificate, with her name misspelled, and no cake. The CEO said thanks for the service and moved on to the next item on the agenda.

I will admit, I was shocked. The employees in this organization are its only asset. They sell nothing. I started thinking about the other folks around the table who were watching this. I have to imagine that they took note of how little their colleagues service was valued.

Would it surprise you to know that employee retention is a big problem for this organization? They bungled an easy opportunity. By celebrating the long service of this employee, they would have demonstrated to all that they are valued. Just a little cake, a small amount of fanfare, and a little quality control (get the name right, for heaven’s sake} could have said volumes. Instead, this big miss likely sent a very negative message throughout the organization.

Are you missing opportunities to value your employees? If you aren’t sure, you probably are. Let’s talk about how Ignite can help.

May 2, 2017

Change is coming. Three ways to be ready.

Change is just around the corner, just through the door, almost just with the next breath you take.  Everything is changing all the time because we don’t live in a static world.  

As a manager, your job is to help employees deal with change. That is easier with some than others.  In fact, research shows us that 35-40% of the U.S. population has a High S, or Steadiness, factor using the DISC assessment. These are the folks who are slow to accept change, and then only if there is a good reason to change.

To make your change effort successful, don’t forget the following three keys:

  1. Arm Yourself. Ensure that you identify potential concerns and questions. Then have clear, easily understood answers for those concerns, along with bottom-line pro and con information to share with everyone.
  2. Ally with the Adopters. Make the early adopters your partners in the change effort. There are always people who are ready and willing to support your change effort.  It’s up to you to identify them and enlist them as champions.
  3. Prepare the Resisters. People who are uncomfortable with change need your attention. You need to plan your change effort so that you give them the time and space they need, along with a great reason that demonstrates both the need for the change as well as the “what’s in it for me?” explanation.

At DaltonDupes, we help managers and leaders understand and make change in a way that helps employees engage in the change process.  Call if we can help you.

March 27, 2017

The Value of “Being Nice”

Let’s define some common ground around the word “nice,” especially in the workplace.  I believe that niceness is a huge motivator for employees. The thing is, you have to know what “nice” equates to for each employee, because remember, you are a great manager, and great managers motivate employees individually.  beingnice

So let’s take a quick look at what you need to do to be “nice” to employees. First and foremost, you can’t be authentically nice to an employee if you don’t know what’s going on in his or her world. To know that, you have to actually talk to them. That’s why we consistently encourage managers to have frequent one-on-one meetings with employees. Not only can you monitor work progress, but you also keep tabs on your employee’s well-being. You learn what is important to them and what they value. You can gauge whether they are doing work that is important to them and achieving things that fulfill their values. If you are listening to employees and supporting their values, you can score huge “nice” points.


Do your employees consider that where they work is a “nice” place? You know that means different things to different folks. In those regular one-on-one conversations you are having, you should make it a point to learn what working in a “nice” workplace means to each employee.  For example, some people will consider the place they work nice if they are paid well. For others, a nice work place is one that allows them to achieve, to move up the ladder. For some, it will be all about the experience of their physical space. And for still others, it is going to be about whether they have the opportunity to do research and solve problems, or they are allowed to be giving and helpful, even outside their own specified tasks. What does that mean to you?

It’s all about what they value.  If you, as a manager, or as an organization, are not acknowledging and supporting their values, they won’t see you as “nice.” If that’s the case, they likely aren’t going to work for you very well, or very long.

Our 12 Driving Forces™ tool helps managers identify what their employees value, what drives them.  We use it with teams to help build engagement.

March 7, 2017

Wait … What Did You Say? 

When was the last time you zoned out in a meeting? You know, you found your head bobbing you awake? Surely we have all done it at one time or another. If you are discovered zoning out, the consequences can range from mild embarrassment to something more severe, like agreeing to something without knowing what that something is.
Portrait Of Sad Business Team

Indulge me as I make a Friends reference. After spending a long night at the hospital with a friend, Chandler Bing actually dozed off during a team meeting.  He snapped to while being asked whether he agreed with the proposal on the table.  With everyone looking at him, he responded “Yes” so as not to admit he didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. To his surprise, he just agreed to move to Tulsa to head up a company office.  A huge commitment that wasn’t going to sit well with his wife.

Managing the “Zone Out”

It’s clear, Chandler should have ‘fessed up.  He could have apologized for his temporary lapse in attention and asked to have the question repeated. But he chose to protect his ego, perhaps because of the stories he told himself about what would happen if he confessed.

The stories we tell ourselves about others, the stories we bring into every interaction, damage trust. They cause us to prejudge how people will react to our failings. They cause us to put up walls.

Imagine that your head has just bobbed you awake and everyone is looking at you expectantly.  What stories immediately go through your head? Are you comfortable enough, trusting enough in your team, to admit your attention lapse? Or do you have to protect your ego?

March 7, 2017

Time: The Blood Out of Turnips Problem 

In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks taught me about Einstein time. Hendricks shares that with Einstein time, time comes from within us, so we can make as much of it as we want.  That’s very different from the Newtonian time model in which time is fixed and we are all struggling against it.Squeeze time

This is a huge shift in thinking for most people.  But I can attest to you that if you bring this into your consciousness, it works.  When I am rushing around, sure that I am going to be late for an appointment, I think about Einstein time, and remind myself aloud that there is plenty of time and that I will arrive on time. And I do!

Time Management Tips for Managers

Does that mean I can just goof off until the last minute, and then magically be where I want when I want? No. It does mean that if we are smart with our time, we will have enough of it.  Let’s face it, we all do so many things that are truly time-wasters.  Here are three. See if any of these hit home for you:

  1. Relying on mental notes. Failing to commit things to some sort of formal calendar or “to do” system can ultimately create confusion and even chaos. Trying to hold everything in your head bogs down your clarity, accuracy, and efficiency.
  2. Conducting frantic searches for mislaid items. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like when I do get in a hurry, my car keys disappear or that one thing I really have to have to do the job gets up and plays hide and seek. There’s a lot to be said for “a place for everything,” but also for taking a deep breath and causing yourself to focus.
  3. Insisting on perfection. This can be a killer. There comes a point in productivity where “good enough is good enough.” When we go beyond that in search of absolute perfection, we give up time that could be used on the next task or project.

What time-wasters could you do without to make yourself more productive?

February 7, 2017

A Clash of Perspectives? 

Man looking through someone else's glassesIn every single interaction we have every day, in and out of the workplace, there is always the unspoken factor of our perspective — and the perspective of others. We bring so much into our interactions. Obviously, this includes our mood of the moment and how well we are dealing with our existing stress level.

But there is so much more involved in entering into even the simplest of exchanges.  As a rule of thumb, we bring in the stories we tell ourselves about the other person. We bring our history of experiences with similar people or similar situations.

Our Perspective Includes

We also bring in our personal history of communication. That includes how we communicated in the homes where we were raised, especially around inquiry and conflict.  Were we allowed to question others’ statements and thoughts? Did we address conflict directly in our family, or was conflict swept under the rug and left unresolved?

And most certainly, we bring in both our personal style of communicating (e.g., fast or slow, people-focused or task-focused) and the values through which we filter our decisions.

That’s a lot of stuff, huh, when you consider how many people you interact with in a day, a week, a year?  What do you do with all of that?  You start with self-awareness.  Be clear about your own “baggage.”  When you understand what you are really bringing to the table, it becomes easier to recognize that we all have perspectives that color our communication.

January 4, 2017

Resolutions, No; Goals, You Betcha

Let’s start with some definitions from Oxford Dictionaries online:

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not do something.Set goals, not limits

Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

When we think about these two words, “resolution” feels very in-the-moment to me. Making a resolution means we decide something; we resolve to do it. “Goal,” on the other hand, has forward motion. It gives us something to aim toward, especially if we set goals that are SMART.

Just in case you aren’t aware, the SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I am particularly fond of the time-bound aspect because I am very deadline-driven and I tend to be a concrete thinker. Time-bound includes specific dates for completion, periods of performance, and/or frequency of performance.

Being Time-bound

For example, my goal to create this newsletter is time-bound in that I want to issue it twice each month (frequency), on the first and third Tuesday (date). Do I hit those dates every time? Well, almost. But if I didn’t set time parameters that help me achieve the goal, issuing my newsletter could be very hit-and-miss. If I only resolve (decide) to create a newsletter this year, I am not attaching anything to that decision to move it forward.

So that’s why I like goals instead of resolutions, for the most part.

How about you?  Did you choose resolutions or goals for your team or your organization this year?

December 7, 2016

Three Ways to Turn Down the Stress of Mistakes

“Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes.”                  ~Judy Hopps, Zootopia

MComputer keyboard with "oops" on return keyistakes in the workplace can be the source of huge stress. They can slow down productivity, cause rework, and/or create conflict. And right now, as many organizations have to balance the crunch of year-end deadlines with the social demands of the holidays and the unexpected impacts of winter weather, opportunities for mistakes intensify.

Managing Mistakes

Following are three things companies can do to reduce the stress employees feel when mistakes occur.

1. Expect. Unless your workforce is totally robots, mistakes will happen. You can reduce employee stress by giving them tools, including processes and procedures, to counter mistakes that you can anticipate.

2. Accept. Create a culture that supports the idea of learning from mistakes rather than punishing for them.  When you can remove the fear, you reduce stress.

3. Learn. Pay attention to “mistake trends” like creating routine time binds. Departments or individuals put others in time binds when they are overly cautious or they fail to properly prioritize. Creating time binds sets the stage for increased levels of mistakes when people have to work too quickly and/or have to ignore checks. You create unnecessary stress when you reduce employee ability to provide quality work.

The organizational attitude about mistakes starts at the top. Is your “mistake culture” fear-based or learning-focused?

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