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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘employee interaction

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

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Leaders are confident that they are capable, through their actions and attitudes, of creating a healthy work environment. They foster open communication that encourages employees to freely ask questions and discuss any concerns.

True leadership requires open and regular interaction between leaders and employees. Leaders understand that they cannot lead from their office or behind a desk: to get a sense of what is actually happening in their organization, they must be actively involved.

It is important to understand that good leadership doesn’t demand leaders directly help employees perform their jobs. Rather, by simply maintaining an active awareness of what is going on in their organization, leaders can anticipate problems and opportunities, and respond accordingly. Furthermore, when leaders communicate and maintain a presence with their employees, they establish great rapport. As a result, employee trust and loyalty deepens and organizational cohesiveness broadens.

Leaders can encourage open communication with their employees by practicing the following techniques.

Encourage Questions

Leaders work with employees who have various levels of self-confidence and self-esteem. They must encourage everyone to regularly ask questions. This kind of interaction makes employees more comfortable with the concept of speaking up, and it also gives them confidence to approach the leader without hesitation or procrastination when the need arises.

Besides vocally encouraging employees, leaders must also support their people with actions. Specifically, leaders should be open and receptive when approached with a question, no matter how trivial the subject. Leaders who simply brush-off the questioner openly convey that questions are not welcome or there is no time to discuss them. Consequently, they undermine the process of open communication.

Look for Opportunities to Ask Questions

Leaders must not passively wait for their employees to come to them with questions. The nature of leadership demands being out among employees, asking questions and soliciting input. In this fashion, leaders can communicate their interests to each employee while keeping tabs on the activities and direction of the organization. Thus, they can anticipate and handle an issue before it explodes into a major problem.

Moreover, when leaders actively solicit questions and answers, they communicate care and concern for their employees and the entire organization.

Ask ‘Personally’

In the age of instant electronic communication, it is important for leaders to ask questions in person. Email doesn’t communicate the tone and nonverbal cues that people often require to fully understand a question. Additionally, face-to-face questions give leaders the opportunity to clearly explain their intentions and get a more comprehensive answer.

While email may be efficient, leaders should understand that not all employees are good writers and, therefore, some may not have the ability to communicate adequately in this medium. Many employees who are uncomfortable with email might not even attempt to reply unless forced to; in which case, responses will tend to be short and/or incomplete.

Respect the Questioner

In the daily workplace routine, it is not uncommon for a leader to hear a range of questions, from trivial to extremely important. In an open communication environment, leaders know they must treat every question and questioner with respect, even if the topic is trivial or lacks urgency. Rather than embarrass or alienate the questioner, good leaders validate the specific question and thank the employee for bringing it to their attention.

Listen Actively

When approached with a question, leaders know that it is important to give the employee their undivided attention. However, if the leader’s attention is necessitated elsewhere, they should ask the employee if the question could be discussed later, at a specific time convenient for both. The time selected must be sufficient for a full discussion, without any urgency to hurry the process along. Once the appointment is set, leaders make a point to keep it.

Again, effective leaders strive to always encourage open communication through their actions and receptivity to questions. However, circumstances and the workplace environment may not always make this practical. In such cases, rather than be short and appear to disregard the employee’s question, leaders need to explain that the timing is simply not right and that they would like to talk when they can provide the needed time and attention both the employee and the question deserves.

When finally discussing a question in-depth, leaders should paraphrase parts of the question or the entire question back to the employee to help clarify and understand the concerns being raised.

Be Cooperative

In most workplace environments, leaders are dealing with daily problems and issues that produce varying degrees of stress. Under these circumstances, it is easy for any individual to appear defensive or adversarial when asked a question, especially an unexpected one.

Effective leaders, however, will maintain a consistent attitude and posture that fosters a cooperative spirit within their organizational unit. They keep a friendly and open demeanor with their employees by paying attention to their own moods, habits, attitudes, body language and tone of voice.

Take Responsibility, But Don’t Solve Every Problem

All people in every organization have limits and responsibilities. When approached with questions, a leader should not respond by doing the employee’s work for him or her. But there are times when the leader is responsible for developing a solution. The key is to understand the appropriate response for the particular question.

Leaders need to set firm and fair limits on what they are willing and able to do so that employees don’t place unreasonable demands on their time and energy. At the same time, it is unrealistic for leaders to expect their employees to solve every problem without guidance. Generally, the appropriate course of action is somewhere in the middle, where the employee and the leader brainstorm to arrive at an acceptable solution.

Follow Up

Open communication demands that leaders follow up on their responses to employee questions by making sure the solution is understood, acceptable and implemented. Obviously, the degree of follow-up needs to be proportionate to the question’s impact and importance. That is, small problems probably only need a simple follow-up question to make sure that things are going alright, while bigger problems could necessitate a series of subsequent meetings.

Follow-up keeps communication with employees open because it often triggers additional questions, input and feedback. In this way, the communication process becomes a continuous, effective loop.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on improving communications within the workplace to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

Related:

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Functioning in a Less Than Meaningful Workplace

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depressedEmployee

Effectively addressing negative employee interaction requires singling out what truly engages the minds, actions and hearts of individuals. Leaders must identify the factors producing the need in some employees to act negatively and callously toward others. In almost all cases, negative interaction among employees is the result of functioning in a less than meaningful workplace. To stifle interactive negativity, leaders must identify both the factors defining and methods creating a meaningful, reciprocal work environment.

It is important for leaders to understand every employee has a personal set of factors defining a meaningful workplace. When leaders fail to apply practical strategies for making the workplace more reciprocal, with people respectfully and productively working toward a common goal, they can expect continuous negative interaction among employees. This creates havoc that slows productivity and advancement for both the individual work unit and the organization.

How employees define a meaningful work environment determines how they function within their current environment. Some factors are more important than others. For one employee, the top factors may be a desire for a deep sense of purpose, the freedom to be innovative, and the opportunity to build strong relationships in the work setting. Other factors might include ownership in ideas and solutions, an atmosphere that encourages overcoming challenges or a feeling of success within the work unit.

The leadership challenge for reducing and eliminating employee interactive negativity is to reflect on what it is that makes a work environment truly rewarding and fulfilling. Leaders need to create a workplace that keeps its employees busy and productive, but one that also keeps their minds and hearts actively engaged. The only way personal negativity and accompanying actions are displaced is with security, trust, comradery, positive interaction and mutual respect.

Leaders assess their workplace and put into word and action what employees desire to see in a meaningful and rewarding environment. In order to do this, leaders:

Conduct An Environmental Climate Check

Leaders analyze their own negative feelings regarding the workplace. They ask, “Do I often find myself dwelling on the negative aspects of my work and performance and the atmosphere that exists?” If the answer is “yes,” the reasons behind their feelings are a good indicator of why employees feel the same way and negative interactions are taking place.

Taking the time to complete an analysis of the entire work unit atmosphere is the first step in dealing with negative employee interaction. In order to effect positive workplace change, leaders should both ask themselves the following questions and take appropriate actions wherever a “yes” response exists:

  • Is there an unspoken understanding that work should always be first in every employee’s life?
  • Does the organizational culture favor workaholics?
  • Do employees that don’t share this “work first” philosophy feel guilty?
  • Is there undue pressure on employees to make trade-offs with tasks and assignments against time, resources and availability?
  • Do individual assignments have more importance than collaborative efforts, trial-and-error methods and interactive positive communication?
  • Is praise a lower priority than the completion of timelines and tasks?

Seek Out Specific Areas in Which to Focus Your Efforts

Every organizational work unit has room for improvement. The key rests in a leader’s ability to know where to focus his or her efforts for maximum effect. The following are actions proven to transform the work environment in the quickest and most effective way:

  • Finding out what is most important to employees as far as creating a non-threatening, secure and fulfilling work environment.
  • Understanding each employee’s top priorities as they relate to work and themselves personally. This can be the starting point for creating a more meaningful and productive workplace for all.
  • Allowing employees to pause after a major completed task or project in order to gain a sense of closure and to savor their accomplishments.
  • Acknowledging all progress and getting upper management to recognize major milestones and hurdles employees reach and overcome.
  • Making challenges exciting, somewhat demanding, but realistic.
  • Allowing employees to make best use of their talents and to freely use others whenever needed as resources for input, ideas and suggestions.

Track the Fit of Your Employees

Getting to know what fires up your employees is crucial in fostering a rewarding work environment. Identifying the skills and talents they have outside the workplace can help place them into a better fit inside the organization. One of a leader’s responsibilities is to find out what their employees’ interests are, or their sources of motivation and energy. It is vital to talk to each employee about their passions, talents and creative abilities, and then tap into them however and whenever possible.

Negativity permeates an employee’s attitudes when they feel misplaced in their jobs, tasks, assignments and responsibilities. In order to overcome this, leaders assess:

  • Whether the big picture of the organization is thoroughly discussed with employees so that they clearly understand their personal place in it and how they specifically factor into its success.
  • If there are any employees who feel a particular job or assignment “just isn’t right” for them. It is important to find out what employees feel they can take on more capably, then match them with projects, assignments, and duties where they can better achieve success.
  • If there are some employees who feel a clash between their values and goals and those of others in the workplace. When work makes employees feel they need to be a different person in order to “fit in,” a leader can expect negative employee interactions to occur repeatedly.
  • Whether employees are allowed to consistently tap into their strengths and spend a great deal of their assignment time in activities best matched to their interests and talents.

Analyze Your Unit’s Flexibility

Nothing creates more negative interaction among employees than a work environment that remains inflexible to their needs. Leaders need to establish a more meaningful work environment by making certain that flexibility exists for all employees. They need to make sure the corporate rulebook does not overshadow the positive accomplishments taking place within the unit and among its members. Leaders need to consider:

  • Are work unit rules flexible when certain situations arise, or are they rigid to the point where the rulebook is still the ultimate word?
  • Are policies and procedures followed to the letter without allowing employees to question their validity and necessity?
  • In order to accomplish certain things do employees feel they must sidestep rules and hope they don’t get caught?

Addressing and changing areas needing improvement allows leaders to spend more of their time doing that which works to motivate employees and move the organization forward. Strengthening these areas is best accomplished by interacting with every employee, and taking action to build stronger personal relationships and subsequently a more secure, meaningful workplace.

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Interaction is a Necessary Component of a Vibrant Workplace

Leaders Have Three Motivational Tools Available to Them

When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

with 10 comments

Leaders are confident that they are capable, through their actions and attitudes, of creating a healthy work environment. They foster open communication that encourages employees to freely ask questions and discuss any concerns.

True leadership requires open and regular interaction between leaders and employees. Leaders understand that they cannot lead from their office or behind a desk: to get a sense of what is actually happening in their organization, they must be actively involved.

It is important to understand that good leadership doesn’t demand leaders directly help employees perform their jobs. Rather, by simply maintaining an active awareness of what is going on in their organization, leaders can anticipate problems and opportunities, and respond accordingly. Furthermore, when leaders communicate and maintain a presence with their employees, they establish great rapport. As a result, employee trust and loyalty deepens and organizational cohesiveness broadens.

Leaders can encourage open communication with their employees by practicing the following techniques.

Related: Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

Encourage Questions

Leaders work with employees who have various levels of self-confidence and self-esteem. They must encourage everyone to regularly ask questions. This kind of interaction makes employees more comfortable with the concept of speaking up, and it also gives them confidence to approach the leader without hesitation or procrastination when the need arises.

Besides vocally encouraging employees, leaders must also support their people with actions. Specifically, leaders should be open and receptive when approached with a question, no matter how trivial the subject. Leaders who simply brush-off the questioner openly convey that questions are not welcome or there is no time to discuss them. Consequently, they undermine the process of open communication.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Look for Opportunities to Ask Questions

Leaders must not passively wait for their employees to come to them with questions. The nature of leadership demands being out among employees, asking questions and soliciting input. In this fashion, leaders can communicate their interests to each employee while keeping tabs on the activities and direction of the organization. Thus, they can anticipate and handle an issue before it explodes into a major problem.

Moreover, when leaders actively solicit questions and answers, they communicate care and concern for their employees and the entire organization.

Ask ‘Personally’

In the age of instant electronic communication, it is important for leaders to ask questions in person. Email doesn’t communicate the tone and nonverbal cues that people often require to fully understand a question. Additionally, face-to-face questions give leaders the opportunity to clearly explain their intentions and get a more comprehensive answer.

While email may be efficient, leaders should understand that not all employees are good writers and, therefore, some may not have the ability to communicate adequately in this medium. Many employees who are uncomfortable with email might not even attempt to reply unless forced to; in which case, responses will tend to be short and/or incomplete.

Related: Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Respect the Questioner

In the daily workplace routine, it is not uncommon for a leader to hear a range of questions, from trivial to extremely important. In an open communication environment, leaders know they must treat every question and questioner with respect, even if the topic is trivial or lacks urgency. Rather than embarrass or alienate the questioner, good leaders validate the specific question and thank the employee for bringing it to their attention.

Listen Actively

When approached with a question, leaders know that it is important to give the employee their undivided attention. However, if the leader’s attention is necessitated elsewhere, they should ask the employee if the question could be discussed later, at a specific time convenient for both. The time selected must be sufficient for a full discussion, without any urgency to hurry the process along. Once the appointment is set, leaders make a point to keep it.

Again, effective leaders strive to always encourage open communication through their actions and receptivity to questions. However, circumstances and the workplace environment may not always make this practical. In such cases, rather than be short and appear to disregard the employee’s question, leaders need to explain that the timing is simply not right and that they would like to talk when they can provide the needed time and attention both the employee and the question deserves.

When finally discussing a question in-depth, leaders should paraphrase parts of the question or the entire question back to the employee to help clarify and understand the concerns being raised.

Related: Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

Be Cooperative

In most workplace environments, leaders are dealing with daily problems and issues that produce varying degrees of stress. Under these circumstances, it is easy for any individual to appear defensive or adversarial when asked a question, especially an unexpected one.

Effective leaders, however, will maintain a consistent attitude and posture that fosters a cooperative spirit within their organizational unit. They keep a friendly and open demeanor with their employees by paying attention to their own moods, habits, attitudes, body language and tone of voice.

Take Responsibility, But Don’t Solve Every Problem

All people in every organization have limits and responsibilities. When approached with questions, a leader should not respond by doing the employee’s work for him or her. But there are times when the leader is responsible for developing a solution. The key is to understand the appropriate response for the particular question.

Leaders need to set firm and fair limits on what they are willing and able to do so that employees don’t place unreasonable demands on their time and energy. At the same time, it is unrealistic for leaders to expect their employees to solve every problem without guidance. Generally, the appropriate course of action is somewhere in the middle, where the employee and the leader brainstorm to arrive at an acceptable solution.

Related: Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Follow Up

Open communication demands that leaders follow up on their responses to employee questions by making sure the solution is understood, acceptable and implemented. Obviously, the degree of follow-up needs to be proportionate to the question’s impact and importance. That is, small problems probably only need a simple follow-up question to make sure that things are going alright, while bigger problems could necessitate a series of subsequent meetings.

Follow-up keeps communication with employees open because it often triggers additional questions, input and feedback. In this way, the communication process becomes a continuous, effective loop.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on improving communications within the workplace to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

July 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

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