Speak Your Mind

Speak Your Mind Do you shy away from speaking your mind?  Do you have good ideas that you don’t share?  Do you want someone to do something (or stop doing something) but you don’t let him or her know?

Perhaps you’re afraid that you’ll explode.  Maybe you think you’ll sound silly or like a whiner. Are you afraid that you might make a fool of yourself and get too emotional?  Maybe you are worried that anything you say will hurt your relationship.

When you have spoken up you’ve lost control and uttered words that you’d wished were left unsaid. It’s not uncommon for people to swing from saying nothing (and being tromped upon like a door mat) to bursting forth in anger or anguish.

To avoid this swing you need to find a communication structure that you are comfortable with.  Instead of the “script” that you learned as a child, you need to find a new pattern that will give you confidence to speak your mind without causing hurt to yourself or others.

We suggest the I-statement.  It includes an honest statement of your feelings (instead of your swallowing them), a non-blameful (non-blameful is the operative word) description of the behavior that’s troubling you, and information about how that behavior affects you.

For example, “I’m really worried when you are late getting me your report, because I may not have time to get the whole report together by the deadline.”

In Communication Case Studies you’ll find further discussion of the I-statement and lots of examples.

Try it, and let us know what works.

That’s it for now,

Carolyn and John

What Makes Your Group Work?

Group workMake a list of what you think makes your group work.  Then divide the list into “task” roles and “maintenance” roles.

The task roles are those related to completing the group’s goals – making a decision, solving a problem or completing a project. The maintenance roles are those that recognize the socioemotional needs of members of the group, how people feel about being a part of the group.

Review task roles – the roles that help to get the job done.  See how your list compared to the six listed by Ann Porteus of Stanford Univerisity:

Initiating – starting things off, changing direction when needed.  “I suggest we begin by….”

Clarifying – making sure everyone understands, encouraging people to be specific, paraphrasing.  “What I think I you’re saying is….”

Information seeking – exploring facts or information germane to the topic.  “Sean, what do you think of that idea?” “Who knows something about this?”

Consensus testing –  challenging assumptions.  “Are we agreed on that?”

Summarizing – checking what has been achieved.  “It likes we agree on… but need more information about….”

Now review the maintenance roles.  How does your list compare to that of Ann Porteus?

Encouraging – being warm and responsive.  “Rachel, that was a great suggestion.”

Harmonizing – reconciling disagreements, reducing tension. “What can we all agree on?”

Expressing Group Feelings – sensing moods and relationships.  “It seems like some people have withdrawn from this discussion.”

Gatekeeping – facilitating participation  “Mark, I’d be interested in your input, too.”

Compromising – seeking ways to bring about agreement. “This may not be the best solution. What about a slight modification?

Standard Setting and Testing – checking whether the group is satisfied.  “I suggest we review our ground rules.”

A successful group has people who contribute these varying roles.  The effective leader will be aware of both the task and the maintenance needs of the group and adjust his or her behavior to bring balance.

How is your group working?  Are their roles that are missing?

That’s it for today.

John and Carolyn

Dealing with Intimidating People

Intimidating PeopleDo you have to work with intimidating people? Are there people with more power, money or popularity than you who intimate you?

Consider these tips:

  1. Bolster confidence in yourself.  Be firm in your convictions and look beyond the superficial marks of power.  Is your position right?  Is your behavior appropriate?
  2. Speak directly and respectfully.  Let the person who is intimidating you know what you believe and why or how you interpret a set of facts.  Don’t mumble or fumble.  Maintain good eye contact.  Show your confidence.
  3. If the behavior persists, it’s time to call it.  Speak to your intimidator honestly and calmly and let him or her know that their actions are not appreciated.  Sometimes intimidators control because you allow it.  Don’t allow it.
  4. Recognize this person in positive ways.  Why is he or she intimidating you?  If it’s recognition that is needed, provide it.  Find something nice to say.
  5. Find ways to diffuse this person’s need to use power.  Humor often works.  Active listening can work, too.
  6. Look for common ground.  Go beyond the intimidating behavior and focus on what you can do together.
  7. Be aware.  If this is an abusive relationship, get out.

Try these and let us know how things work for you.

John and Carolyn

How to Deal With Overbearing Personalities

Overbearing Personalities - PradaSean told me about a woman in his organization who is causing him a lot of grief.  She’s at times overbearing, more outspoken than he’d wish, and often tactless in her communication style.  She interrupts.  She’s frequently angry. She engages in name calling.  She tries to make decisions for the group without going through the normal channels (and not conferring with Sean).  Sean said, “How can I handle her?”

Most every organization has such a person.  Consider these tips:

1. Attempt to diffuse her anger and energy by letting her know that you are hearing her.  Instead of shutting her off or avoiding her, invite her to explain her concern.  Consider how you can modify her ideas to work for both of you.

2. Find ways to put her energy to constructive use.  If her need is to be the center of attention, there may be a project that she can manage and feel a sense of control.

3. Establish limits. Sometimes this kind of person sees you are a tool to get her own needs met.  Defend your individuality and stake out limitations.  Call time when she’s monopolizing the conversation.  “Thank you for making that point/your enthusiasm.  Now we need to heard from others.” or “Now I’d like to share my concern with you.”

4. Set the standard for communication styles.  Refrain from name calling.  Refuse to engage in argumentation. Deal with conflict as learning experiences.  “Let me understand your concern/the reason for your proposal.”

5. Use “I-statements.”  “I’m worried that….”   “My concern is….”  Reveal where you are coming from.  The entire organization will appreciate your leadership in sharing your views and concerns.

That’s it for today.  Share with us your experience.

John and Carolyn

5 Conflict Styles Match the Animals

Friendly DogHow do you feel when you confront conflict?  “Oh, no!” or “This is something we need to face” or “I wish I had stayed home.” Or “Maybe we can learn from this.”

Whatever your reaction to conflict, you will inevitably be involved at one time or another.   Do you know your “conflict style?”

The Thomas-Kilmann diagnostic instrument identifies 5 styles based on your degree of assertiveness and your degree of cooperation.  Knowing these styles and how your behavior compares can better equip you to choose the style that works best for you in a given situation.

Jennifer Kim, in completing her studies at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, equated the five styles to familiar animals – a great way to remember.  They are:

  1. The Bull – Assertive and uncooperative, usually stubborn and strong-willed, power oriented and eager to win.
  2. The Dog – Unassertive and cooperative, friendly, easy going, eager to please and accommodating.
  3. The Turtle – Unassertive and uncooperative, one who withdraws or avoids, even hides and retreats.
  4. The Eagle – Assertive and cooperative, collaborative, soaring above, gaining vision, observing the big picture, taking time before diving in.
  5. The Fish and Shark (in a symbiotic relationship) – representing a mutual relationship in which the fish gains protection and the shark gains freedom from parasites.  This is where compromising takes place.

Each situation calls for a different style.  In an emergency, for example, a bull is needed; there is not time for compromising.  When matters are trivial, the turtle has it right; avoiding the conflict would be best.  Collaboration, like an eagle, is an effective mode when buy-in is essential.  Compromising, as illustrated by the fish and shark team, works when the parties in conflict have equal power and a temporary solution will do for now.  Of course, every group needs a dog – friendly and accommodating.

What is your preferred style?  Can you modify depending on the situation?

That’s it for now, from Carolyn and John

Be sure to give us your comments (and “like” us on Facebook).




3 Signs That Your Team Members Are Onboard

thWhether it’s a new computer system, a new treatment procedure, or a new employee, change is tough, and you will need each team member pulling in the same direction.

 If you’re looking for a team in which everyone is connected to the organization’s mission, you will want to check to see if these three signs are apparent:

  1. It is apparent that everyone, including new employees, understands and embraces the vision and mission of your business.  Occasionally take time to ask your team members to describe the vision and goals of your organization.
  2. You’ll also want to see evidence that the team members understand their roles and how they impact the organization. You will see that each employee understands how he or she can make a difference.  It is a pleasure to work with people who care about their work and want to advance in their career.  Even better for the business is to have employees who want to contribute to the vision and mission of your endeavor.
  3. Your team members speak up.  In order to contribute to the unit’s goals, you want employees who have ideas and are willing to contribute their ideas.   Interaction with these team members will enable you to know what they are thinking and to tap into ideas that can enrich the implementation of your mission.
  1. Plan training to review the organization’s mission
  2. Be visible, repeating the vision and mission often.
  3. Get to know each of your team members and their concerns?
  4. Empower your team members to speak up.

What are you seeing in your clinic?  Share your experience with us.

Carolyn and John



Three Steps to Communicating Your Vision

VisionPeople want to know what you’re up to, what makes you tick, where you’re headed.  If you are a leader in an organization, your employees and colleagues want to know. Or maybe it’s your family and friends. And, maybe it’s you!

 Remember the saying, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re sure to get there.

Vision So, clarify your vision for yourself and others, and then spread the word.

 Communicating Your Vision, Step One: Draft it. Put it on paper. Read it to yourself. Does it sound like where you’d like to go, or what you’d like to be? It is where you want your organization or group to go? the kind of business you’d like to be known for? Write and rewrite.

 Communicating Your Vision, Step Two: Share it. First share it with your friends and family, your staff and coworkers.

 You’ll need buy-in from those who work for and with you. Discuss your vision openly and honestly. Own it. Proclaim it as yours. In order to fulfill that vision, however, you will need help from others. That will only be forthcoming if others can own it, too.  It may mean modifying your vision and rewriting the vision as from all of you.

Communicating Your Vision, Step Three: Release it.  Once you’ve settled on the vision, release it. Put it on your website. Tell a story that illustrates how you came to this point.  Describe how you intend to fulfill that vision. Repeat the vision to yourself and others, especially your staff. Get your team talking about it. 

Communicating Your Vision, Step Four: Implement it. Work with your team to develop strategies to implement the vision.  What has to be done to get you where you want to go?  What changes need to be made to enable your organization to fulfill its vision?

 As the stories are repeated, the vision reviewed and the strategies put into place, your culture will develop. You’ll move toward your vision.

Empathy in the Workplace?

th-8What do you think about empathy in the workplace?  Does it have a place there? After all, you’re not a psychotherapist.  Another question: Is showing empathy in the workplace toward customers an unintended invitation to get too personal or “too close?”

We recently led a workshop for dealing with just those questions with the staff at the Ark Animal Hospital in San Diego.  To get the discussion going we dramatized the case study, “Is Tabby Toby Too Tubby?” The issue was NOT Toby and it was NOT about overweight pets.  That was not a problem for Ark. We chose this case because it gave us an opportunity to talk about how staff members talk to their clients or customers (or should they or should they not).  We also chose it because it evokes a lot of laughs and everyone relaxes before we discuss the hard stuff (like soft skills.)

This clip will give you a flavor of the case (and why it brought lots of giggles.)

Empathetic Replies

More sobering, of course, was the effort to identify useful responses, even empathetic replies, to clients. After participants wrote notes in response to several questions, we discussed what the doctor in the case study could have said to Toby’s owner, which might have prevented her from storming out of the clinic.

The first suggestion was to listen – to the verbal and non-verbal signals.  What mood was the client in? What was on her mind?  Some small talk might be just the thing to establish or re-establish contact. “How was your vacation?”  “It’s hot out there today, isn’t it?”  “What’s new with Toby?”

When it’s time to respond, we considered the following:

  • Silence.  What an idea!  Actually say NOTHING and let the client fill in the space!  You might be surprised at what you’ll learn.
  • Parrot or paraphrase, repeat what you’ve heard.  It’s a great way to check on your perception, while letting your client know you’ve been listening.
  • Decode her comments or her body language.  What is she thinking?  Equally important, how is she feeling?  Can you tell from her words, the tone of her voice, the look on her face?
  • Reflect back to her what you are hearing (and sensing).  Wow!  That’s the hard part.  And it’s the more powerful part.  “Mrs. Martin, I’m sensing that this procedure is frightening for you.  Am I reading you right?”  or “You’re apprehensive. Right?”  or “Are you confused?”

Feeling Feelings

Empathy is when you actually, even for a moment, feel the feelings of the person with whom you’re interacting. That’s only possible when you take time to listen and decode the message.  Your response is a powerful way to connect, defuse anger or frustration, or clarify understanding.  Without taking the dialogue into a psychotherapeutic encounter, you have begun to establish a relationship.  Employees know that successful customer/client relations depend on relationships.  An efficient and satisfying workplace depends on your establishing positive relationships with your colleagues.

At the workshop we practiced the three kinds of replies.  At the end of the workshop we all knew that it was just the beginning. Learning a “new script” is not easy.  It takes lots of practice. Try it.  You’ll experience the difficulty and the magic!

And send us a comment on how it went.

Bye for now,

Carolyn and John

P.S. “Like us on Facebook.  Forard this to your friends and colleagues.

Three Statements to Avoid

01-01Whether you work for HP, a hospital, General Motors or a veterinary clinic, you have probably run into someone who likes to boss people around.  And then, what do you say?

At The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho we dramatized one of the cases from our book.  It was Case #15, “He Thinks He’s boss.”  It describes that situation which every worker has faced in one way or another.  In this case Martin, who has been working there for 20 years, caused problems for Corie, who had worked at the clinic for less than six months.  She felt quite intimidated by Martin. Clearly, she was younger than Martin. This was her first job after college. Besides, as one of the participants noted, it is admittedly sometimes more difficult for a female to confront a male.

Martin lit into Corie for not wearing her name tag. She could let that ride, but then he began making taunting remarks about her work.  She really had had enough when he carelessly left a mess for her to cleanup.  She felt put upon and bossed around by someone who was not her boss.

After cleaning up one of those messes, Corie said to Martin, “You know, I cleaned up the mess in your exam room last night after you left.”  Martin just blew her off saying, “Well, when you’ve cleaned up as many messes  as I have, you’ll get used to it.”

The discussion among The Cat Doctor staff following the presentation of the case was lively.  One member of the group noted that Corie tried to confront Martin, while another member of the group claimed that she didn’t really try or, at least, her effort wasn’t successful.

What could she have said that would have been move effective?  Is Martin the type that won’t listen?  Should Corie go, instead, to her manager?

Some staff members in the group were familiar with “I-statements” and thought that a carefully phrased “I-statement” would be appropriate and maybe more effective – whether confronting Martin or taking the issue to her manager.  Others in the group were not familiar with the concept of the “I-statement.”  The mix of experience in the group provided for a useful discussion.

Have you ever tried to use an “I-statement” to resolve conflict? At The Cat Doctor we defined the “I-statement” for those not familiar with the concept and talked about why it is useful:

By “owning” the issue (“I have a problem”), you have control.

  • By declaring your feeling, you make a statement that the other person can’t refute.  (“I feel demeaned when you….”)
  • By describing the behavior that bothers you in a non-blameful way, you avoid a statement that might be offensive.  “I feel…when you leave the clinic without cleaning up the mess in your exam room because….”)
  • By outlining the problem and how it affects you, you give the other person an opportunity to come up with a solution.

Most of all, the “I-statement” enables you to avoid statements that can escalate bigger problem. Here are four statements to avoid:

  • Ordering. Corie really wanted to give Martin an order like, “Stop it!”  or Get out of my face!”  Her “I-statement” avoided that: “Martin, I am really annoyed when you….”
  • Threatening. Corie thought that a threat might have more power. She was tempted to say, “If you keep bossing me around, I’m going to talk to our practice manager!”  Instead, an “I-statement” might win his attention without escalating the problem.  “Martin, I want to do my job right here, but I feel put upon when you leave your work for me to do.”
  • Namecalling or labeling. It was on the tip of her tongue to say, “Martin, you’re a jerk!” or “Martin, you are so bossy!”  But she realized that those comments are “You-statements.”   They are about Martin.  She preferred to talk about herself: “I am worried, when you say…., that you don’t think I’m measuring up here.”

Have you tried using an “I-statement” as an alternative to one of the “You-statements” above?  Tell us how it went.

Bye for now,

Carolyn and John

Sent from my iPad

Things To Say When Hiring

Things to say when hiringSome say hiring is a crap shoot. If you’ve hired the wrong person in the past, you know how costly it is.  There are three things to say when hiring.  They can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Chances are, you’ve spent most of your career learning your trade and not studying communication, not learning the things to say, not learning how to query candidates for a new hire. So we have a few things you should say when hiring.  We know they will improve your odds of hiring the right person for the job. What you say will make all the difference!

# One: “Tell me about a time when…. What did you do?”

This is known as a behavioral question, since past performance is the best predicter of future performance, a series of questions like this will give you insight into the candidate’s qualifications and problem solving ability. This question is also not likely to be one that the candidate can rehearse in advance of the interview.

# Two: “Show me….”

Take your candidate into the lab and ask him or her to show you how she or he would set up for ….  Or give the candidate a list of tasks. Ask the candidate to show you how he or she would prioritize them.

# Three: “Describe a mistake you made and what you did about it.”

Candidates are usually prepared to tell you what they do best but may not be ready to reveal their mistakes. If, however, you believe that people learn form their mistakes and you want to hire people who are honest about their mistakes and willing to make repairs, then the response to this question will be useful.

That’s it: One, Two, Three.  These questions will give you the information you need to make a good hire.

Let us know how it goes.

John and Carolyn