Hey Enlightened Managers!
I've been doing a lot of communication skills training this year, and one of the hardest lessons that we all need to swallow is that we cannot control other people. Sure, we have an ability to influence, but this has limits.
Giving the Gift of Good Communication
Here is something really cool though. We have tremendous power to make the lives of our coworkers better, simply by choosing to be good communicators. Ideally when everyone "pays it forward" by being a good coworker, the whole team benefits. But the truth is that it begins with each of us as individuals. We can each pay it forward.
Five Ways to Pay it Forward
1. Assume an Absence of Malice
I stole this language from one of my clients, the awesome Kathy Powers. In consultant-speak it refers to avoiding inferences or "guesses" about why people behave like they do. When someone does something that you don't like, assume they had good intentions. Hell, assume they had neutral intentions! Just don't assume they did it to be hurtful.
PS: Even if you are wrong and they were being an asshat, your assumption that they meant well will still benefit you and the team. Seriously.
2. Be Gracious
You read this blog and so I'm going to assume your Momma (or another family member) raised you right. That means that you know it's flat wrong to respond to rudeness with more rudeness. It also means you never talk smack about a coworker behind their back.
Practicing graciousness on a daily basis is an opportunity to strengthen yourself as a human being. The workplace is fraught with human drama. You can either give into it, or you can use those daily challenges as opportunities to practice compassion, forgiveness, and kindness. Think of the office as a kind of workout room for your soul.
3. Say What You Mean
We like to dance around what is uncomfortable, don't we? We have these awkward sideways conversations where we circle around the truth, feinting at it, but never really saying what we mean.
Say what you mean. Really.
Are you worried about being too harsh? Frame your honesty as a request for help. Nothing takes the sting out of honest feedback like a little vulnerability.
"Jack, can I ask you for your help with something? I've been feeling a bit frustrated and I have a request for you... I hope that is OK."
"Maria, there is something that's been bugging me, but I've been nervous about bringing it up to you. I really respect you and I want to make sure I don't give offense. Is it OK for me to say what is on my mind?"
4. Focus on The Positive
Chances are you work with some people who are... less than ideal. None of us is perfect, and then layer on top of that all of our differences in personality, style, politics, and more.
Find something that you like about each person you work with. It might be something small. When you are gearing up to work with that person, take a moment to remember what makes them wonderful. And yes, we all have something in us that is wonderful.
You'll be a better communicator if you approach someone human-to-human instead of gearing up for a battle. Think about the good. It helps.
5. Be Less Demanding
Challenge yourself to send 10% fewer emails than you do today. Schedule 10% fewer meetings or make your existing meetings shorter. Time is precious. Take up less of it.
Those are my top five anyway. How do you pay it forward? :) I'd love to hear.