Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘problem solving

The Stronger the Personal Feelings, the Less Likely Any Agreement Will Occur

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conflict

The primary barrier to mutual communication is a person’s natural tendency to judge and approve or disapprove of what is being said by another person. Judging takes place because people tend to evaluate what they hear from their own personal point of view and reference. These evaluations short-circuit their ability to objectively think through, reframe and analyze responses.

Leaders not only have to communicate their own thoughts, ideas, and messages clearly, but are often responsible for facilitating better communication between groups and individuals with divergent points of view. Leaders must understand that communication is heightened when personal feelings and emotions are deeply involved. One rule of thumb always applies: the stronger the personal feelings of the involved parties, the less likely any mutual agreement between the two.

This is because two ideas, two sets of personal feelings and two sets of judgments exist completely disconnected from each other. When these are not laid aside, nothing remotely resembling communication occurs.

This is a serious consideration for leaders, as they are often placed in situations where a complete lack of communication exists. They can find themselves in an environment where communication has completely broken down due to the highly-charged emotional content of both parties’ arguments. Without an understanding of the factors directly affecting communications, leaders will find themselves unable to facilitate useful exchanges and discussions; the communication that does take place will produce aggravation, conflict and frustration for all parties.

Healthy communication occurs, and personal evaluations are avoided, when leaders are able to listen with a genuine sense of interest and understanding. This is a direct result of seeing an expressed idea or attitude from the other party’s point of view and developing a sense of how the other person feels. This allows leaders to achieve a personal frame of reference linked directly to an individual’s thoughts, perceptions and interpretations. When a leader is able to develop this understanding, he or she is able to facilitate better communication, assuage the other person’s fears, and establish more realistic and harmonious relationships.

Leaders can effectively apply this technique in a difficult environment by requiring each party to clearly restate the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately to the speaker’s satisfaction. Only after this is accomplished does the second party state his or her viewpoint in response.

This should be done before anyone states their viewpoint or makes a response in a heated discussion, because it forces each party to pause and consider the other’s point of reference, helping the individual to identify what lies beneath the communicator’s thought process. This technique works because it immediately gives each party time to pause, think, analyze, evaluate, and remove the emotion from their statements.

This method requires an individual to achieve the other party’s frame of reference, so he or she can understand their thoughts and feelings well enough to summarize them accurately. This establishes real communication guaranteeing amicable solutions can be reached for two reasons. First, when understanding is achieved, it forces the other party to revise his or her own statements and thinking, to filter out emotions and subjectivity. Second, it reduces the differences between conflicting parties to reasonable disagreements that are both rational and understandable.

Leaders should know that complete understanding is often difficult to achieve because of the risks associated with challenging and altering one’s own thinking and views. Most are averse to this perceived threat.

Additionally, when emotions are at their peak, it is extremely difficult to achieve another’s frame of reference at the exact point when it is needed most to accurately interpret what is being said.

Leaders can easily overcome these barriers by assuming the role of neutral third party. In this capacity, they restate both individuals’ positions and points of reference to build clarity, introspection and understanding. This is an effective method for neutralizing potential miscommunication problems through active personal interaction. When individuals realize they are being understood clearly and accurately, and feel comfortable because their views are being mirrored, their statements grow less exaggerated and defensive.

Taking the position of a neutral third party allows leaders to handle any insincerities, exaggerations, lies and “false-fronts” that typically characterize communication breakdowns. This method leads to discovery of the truth and a realistic, objective appraisal of the barriers inhibiting two-way, interactive communication. The aim is to achieve “mutual” communication, focused on solving problems rather than attacking individual or group ideas, reasoning or appraisals.

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

Related:

Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

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

Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?

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fearfulman

Every organization must adapt to change whether they like it or not. Customers, competition and technology compel organizations to adjust. The success and speed of change is dependent upon several key factors that are closely associated with leadership.

However, institutionalized management practices and structures can create formidable obstacles to internal change and can prevent organizations from taking advantage of short windows of opportunity. These obstacles present a challenge to all managers.

In most organizations individuals are taught to manage not by leading but by controlling and directing. Within these organizational cultures, this style of management is often equated with leadership. This key fallacy often prevents organizations from effecting change and taking advantage of afforded opportunities.

Management is a precise set of processes that keeps a complicated system of people, resources and technology running smoothly and, hopefully, without problems. These processes include functions such as planning, budgeting, organizing and controlling. Yet management as leadership goes well beyond these activities to include the set of processes that initially creates an organization and allows it to adapt to a variety of changing circumstances.

It is important for managers to understand the difference between the two processes. Leadership is what defines the future for the organization, aligns people with a vision and motivates them to carry on despite the obstacles. Transforming an organization in the face of change requires a majority of leadership skills and a minority of controlling and directing skills. While management in the traditional sense was required to build and staff the large corporate organizations of the past, leadership is what is required to transform them in the face of change for the future.

The key factors of change within any organization are all leadership-based. In the past, management was essential to internally build and maintain large organizations and bureaucracies. While such management is still important, organizations faced with rapidly changing technologies, markets and competition must focus their efforts externally to effectively handle change and take advantage of the subsequent opportunities. This external focus is part of leadership.

The reasons behind this strategy are self-evident. Internally-focused managers and employees tend to be myopic in their thinking, which makes it difficult for them to identify the external forces presenting both threats and opportunities to the organization. Insular thinking is designed to protect internal bureaucracies and political power bases; thus, it denies the existence of the forces of change that are buffeting the organization.

Since they disregard the forces of change, these managers are highly resistant to alterations and build walls within the organization. These barriers are difficult for managers as leaders to overcome. Before they can emerge to challenge these internal barriers, they must understand how the key factors of leadership compare with the traditional management structure, and how the two vary in style and approach to change. While controlling and directing management can support leadership in the accomplishment of goals and objectives, most organizational cultures have traditional managers dictating what managers as leaders should and can do; this is the opposite of what should be happening. The following comparisons are where many of the directing/leading conflicts occur with traditional management imposing its principles and constraints upon leadership.

Planning and Budgeting vs. Establishing Direction

The role of management in the traditional sense is to establish detailed steps and schedules that direct the organization toward the accomplishment of its goals and objectives. Individuals and organizational resources are allotted according to need and assigned to specific tasks.

The role of management as leadership is to develop and define an organizational vision for the future. Managers initiate strategies to produce the necessary changes required to achieve their vision.

The conflict in traditional manager-run organizations is that they wish to have managers who lead work within the constraints of the established plans and budgets, which limits their ability to act and effect overall change. Rather, planning and budgeting should be used to support the manager’s goals and vision to implement necessary organizational change. This presents a challenge for managers as leaders: they must effect internal change before they can achieve external change.

Organizing and Staffing vs. Aligning People

The conflict between organizing and staffing on the one hand, and aligning people on the other, is an argument of form over function. Many entrenched managers have institutionalized a number of management functions, which creates highly structured programs that help the organization to achieve its institutionalized goals and objectives. Employees and resources of the organization are controlled and directed through these goals related to policies, procedures, methods and systems.

While managers as leaders understand the validity of a management structure and a need for it to support a leader’s vision, goals and objectives, they are primarily guided by the principles of aligning people to their vision. Managers who lead accomplish their goals by communicating direction, via words and deeds, to everyone whose cooperation is needed for the creation of teams and coalitions that understand the vision and accept its validity.

Once teams and coalitions are internally established, managers understand the need for the functions of organizing and staffing that support these efforts, but are not constrained by them.

Controlling and Problem Solving vs. Motivating and Inspiring

The use of control methods and techniques is management’s way to monitor results and identify deviations from the plan. Problem solving techniques are instituted to use the organizational resources that resolve the problem.

The manager who leads will use these methods and techniques only after motivating and inspiring people to overcome the major internal and external barriers to change. A key difference is that controllers and directors use methods to implement solutions while leaders motivate people to change.

Predictability and Order vs. Change and Opportunity

The fundamental difference between controlling and leading management is in the final results.

Controlling management focuses on the short-term results that are expected by various stakeholders in the organization, such as meeting budgets and quotas and producing an adequate return on investment. Their focus is on predictability and order, which inhibits organizational adaptation and transformation to meet the forces of change.

Management as leadership aims to drive the organization through change vis-à-vis their vision. While this focus may alter the organization’s short-term goals, it has the potential to produce extremely useful change by taking advantage of emerging opportunities and transforming the organization in a positive manner. The results of this endeavor can produce new products, services, approaches and methods that positively impact the organization in the long-term.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Well Do You Set the Tone?

What Does Luck Have to Do With It?

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

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

Conflict is Inevitable With Persistent Resistance to Change

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headinhands

Resistance is experienced in most teams as they struggle with the concept of change. The purpose of creating teams is to tackle difficult issues and tough organizational problems. Invariably, the resulting solutions teams develop result in active transformations that disrupt the status quo and personal agendas, which also tends to remove personal positions of power. Consequently, there is a natural tendency for individual team members to resist pending changes.

The main challenge in leading teams is to allow the full complexity of individual personalities, talents, qualities and insights to emerge. These must be actively harnessed in order to achieve major team objectives.

While it is easy to set limits on verbal expressions and behaviors, doing so severely diminishes overall team potential and performance. Since various personality traits of individual members actively shape their general and immediate focus and perspectives, leaders who understand them are able to estimate their direct responses to change. Ultimately, with this related knowledge and understanding, they should be able to anticipate and minimize overall team member resistance. And they should be able to demonstrate that resistance results from differing perspectives that can be reconciled with the objectives of the entire team.

Resistance is an instinctive and energetic opposition to new ideas or someone’s expressed wishes to do something differently. If individual team members persist in their resistance, conflict becomes inevitable. Often resistance is framed as a struggle for control or as a problem that has been eliminated. The lines of conflict are often quickly drawn. Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand the concepts of resistance and conflict within their team environments and to learn how to harness and control them.

Avoidance of Conflict

Conflict should not be seen as something to be resolved, but as an experience to be explored. Opposing views in regard to team direction and change are never totally unrelated and can have great value when considered “different parts of the same story.” Leaders will often find that resistance and conflict are consistently initiated by many of the same individuals on their teams as a result of their inherent personality traits.

Avoidance of conflict either drains interest, enthusiasm and trust or results in concealed tension, internal fighting and impaired team performance. While some leaders meet resistance head on, others often do everything possible to avoid the attached conflicts. Rather than keep conflicts from erupting, avoidance causes increasing internal team resistance. It is extremely important to keep in mind that appeasement in order to diminish conflict is not effective, and instead creates a host of additional challenges to overcome.

Denial of Conflict

When leaders propose change and team members feign agreement, the actual degree of resistance can be immense. This often occurs when teams have strong norms, where dissention and negative views are rarely tolerated and expressed. The core of resistance lies with a particular side of the team or with individual leaders that no one is fully prepared to address or discuss.

While the denial of conflict might be considered a normal process within many team environments, it more often than not builds to the point of erupting into a far more serious problem. Therefore, when active resistance is initially encountered, leaders must ensure that conflicts within their team environments are not denied, but adequately addressed and worked through.

Anxiety

Avoidance and denial of conflict are rooted in personal anxiety. Oftentimes, members can be intimidated by their team environments, their lack of seniority and/or experience, or their own inherent personalities. The concept of change also frightens many people due to associated fears of the unknown and feelings about how change will personally and directly affect them.

It is important for leaders to recognize these factors and the subsequent anxieties that may be created within their team environments. These factors need to be identified and openly and fully discussed. Leaders must address the consequences of allowing anxieties to take root in order to diminish individual fear factors that tend to create undue apprehension, nervousness or panic. Once these issues are addressed and individuals fully understand the root causes and the impact these factors have on their team, personal anxieties will dissolve. When this is accomplished, individual stress levels are reduced.

Addressing the Concept of Change

In team environments there will always be members who desire change and members who wish to keep the status quo. Both of these positions give insight into what members perceive to be the true needs of their team. To ensure that insights are not lost, leaders need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is currently happening to and within the team?
  • What force for change is directly impacting the team?
  • Within the team, what counterbalancing forces seek to minimize change?

When leaders are able to identify these factors, both positions are respected, and those who resist change can be viewed as the guardians of the team’s traditional norms and beliefs.

Viewing Resistance as a Strength

Rather than something that must be actively overcome, leaders should be aware that resistance deserves respect for its ability to help teams discover how to change. Since resistance is characterized as a mobilization of energy, leaders must learn how to channel it in positive ways. Resistance should be viewed as a healthy and creative force that can be applied to effectively meet individual challenges. It can be used to frame problems and issues in new ways that all individual team members can appreciate and respect. The team process can be used to work through complex issues, tackle difficult problems and their attached implications and ramifications, and arrive at a consensus in regard to the most workable, practical and effective solutions.

Related:

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

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

Eight Strategies for Handling Disruptive Situations

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groupconflict

Within many workplace environments, leaders will find themselves in the role of team facilitator. In this capacity, leaders must direct and control team meetings and discussions in order to allow for the free-flow of ideas by all members of the team.

Within the team environment, leaders are dealing with a group of individuals who each has a personal agenda, bias and perspective. In many circumstances, leaders can effectively mold these individuals into a working team. In others, one or more members can stoutly resist the work of the team. These members may not agree with the purpose of the team or feel it threatens their personal position. Unfortunately, these individuals can be disruptive enough to prevent the team from functioning, frustrating leaders and members alike.

Leaders should understand that when individuals are given the opportunity to openly participate and make their views known, some will actively work against the leader and the progress of the team. As these individuals can be devious or openly hostile, it is essential that leaders recognize their behaviors for what they are. Once done there are specific actions leaders can take to handle these individuals or motivate the team to police themselves.

Due to the nature of group dynamics, leaders should anticipate and be prepared for the fact that an individual’s behavior might occasionally disrupt team discussions.

Anticipate and Prevent

When individuals organize into effective teams, most problems can be anticipated and prevented. This happens as members spend time getting to know each other, establishing ground rules and agreeing to norms of group behavior.

Group Problem

Many problems arise because individual team members allow or even encourage them in some manner. Leaders should examine each problem in light of what the team allows and encourages, and what it can do to facilitate more constructive behavior.

Control Reactions

Teams can exhibit a variety of behaviors: some minor occurrences that don’t inhibit team discussion and progress, others highly disruptive and even chronic.

Leaders must respond appropriately to the seriousness of the problem, ignoring fleeting disruptions while directly confronting chronic or seriously disruptive behaviors. Experienced leaders as facilitators develop a range of responses to typical problems.

Non-Intervention

There are times when leaders need not intervene, as individual team members will handle the offending behavior themselves. In this case leaders should be available to guide and direct discussions provoked when one member confronts another.

Minimal Intervention

Leaders can discuss the problem or situation outside of the group environment with disruptive team members. Constructive feedback should be given and solutions agreed to.

Impersonal Group Time

Leaders can discuss the problem with the entire team prior to their meeting in order to focus their attention on how they encourage the problem and what they can do differently to discourage it. The problem should be treated as a team issue, with discussions of personalities and personality issues avoided

Personal Confrontation

When other attempts have failed to rectify the offending behaviors in the team setting, leaders must become more assertive with the responsible parties. Direct action can be taken by the leader to remedy the situation.

Group Intervention

As a last resort and when all other approaches have failed, leaders may need to deal with offending behaviors in the presence of the team. In such an instance they expose the member(s) responsible for the offending behaviors to the open critique of the team.

This technique must be used sparingly, with leaders anticipating reactions and responses in order to minimize the hostility and defensiveness of offending team members.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

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 © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong and Productive

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smallgroup9

Leaders cannot assume that teams will automatically police and monitor themselves. Rather, leaders need to regularly audit a team’s performance to ensure that the mechanisms that build overall strength are firmly in place.

The fact that leaders are dealing with human nature makes team behaviors unpredictable and impacted by a number of variables that may or may not be within their control.

A single individual has the ability to undermine and ultimately destroy team strength. Consequently, leaders must continually audit the team’s overall performance. Such an audit requires both time and attention to detail when observing the behaviors, attitudes and levels of participation reflected within the team.

Leaders should audit the following areas on an ongoing basis in order to maintain overall team strength.

Participation

Leaders must ensure both balanced and equal levels of participation exist throughout the team. They must ensure that all individual members participate in the team process and are given equal opportunities to offer their insights and feedback. In this regard, leaders must make sure that no individual team member dominates the environment or is allowed to cow any other participants into silence.

Interaction

Leaders must actively observe the levels of interaction between individual team members. An active team will have open and energetic levels of communication, where members are openly and freely working with one another. Leaders must be aware of whether specific team members seem to be left out of the process, and identify those who may be reluctant to participate, have been intimidated into silence or had their behaviors minimized by more demanding and dominant members of the team.

Level of Development

Leaders must actively monitor the team’s overall level of development and maturity. A healthy team will grow, mature and become seasoned in their actions and decisions. While such development might occur in incremental steps that are difficult to monitor, leaders should take the time to evaluate the progress and growth of the team over prolonged periods of time.

Mutual Levels of Respect

Leaders should be observant for the mutual levels of respect demonstrated by team members. As teams develop, mature, and become more seasoned, the overall respect demonstrated by individual team members should be increasing and readily evident. Leaders must audit for both minimizing and destructive behaviors that reflect a lack of respect and undermine the entire team’s performance.

Depth and Scope

Leaders should also be auditing their team for the depth and scope of their brainstorming and decision making. Initially, teams will be dealing superficially with their projects or topics. As they mature and grow within the process, the breadth and scope of their brainstorming, analysis and decision making should increase and reflect the maturity of the team. If leaders conclude that these levels have not increased, they must take the appropriate action to challenge their team to grow.

Synergy

A sure sign that a team has developed and evolved is the synergy reflected in its actions and decisions. As team members learn to work with one another toward mutual goals and objectives, the overall synergy of the group should expand to the point where the whole becomes greater that the sum of the parts. Leaders who have determined that sufficient cooperation has not been developed should review the five aforementioned areas, as each will impact the overall level of synergy.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

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

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

Do These Four Common Pitfalls Undermine Your Meeting’s Effectiveness?

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smallgroup9

There is something about face-to-face meetings. They continue to perform much better and provide a greater usefulness than any other means. Today’s modern web casts, video conferences, online discussions and chats etc. have continually tried to replace or surpass them in terms of generating better outcomes, but have never succeeded. If no meetings existed, work related satisfaction as well as task attachment, and certainly, company loyalty, would be extremely limited or in some cases, non-existent. That is why it becomes imperative to avoid problems that can easily ruin potentially productive meetings, and spiral them into dismal, time-wasting ones.

Designated meeting times may be the only time you, the leader, will be viewed as a guiding force, rather than a task master that is associated with “simply doing your job”. That is why it is so important to plan for smoothness of operation and flow in order to take advantage of the opportunity a meeting provides.

Selection is Key

To remedy meeting concerns before becoming real problems, it is crucial to identify potential pitfalls upfront. One key issue to consider is who should be selected to attend the meeting and addressing why the person’s attendance is essential for what the meeting is designed to achieve. To accomplish this purpose, the first step should include a careful scrutiny of potential participants. Keep in mind that any meeting tends to define a specific team, group of individuals or unit. Those who participate will belong to it. Those not invited or involved in its interaction never will become a component of its pool of shared knowledge, insight, experience, judgment and experience.

Consider the Meeting’s Collective Aim

A meeting needs to be the place where every participant learns the collective aim of the group. Its members must be able to define the way in which personal and collective work is able to contribute to outcomes that will characterize its overall success. The process needs to be used as a ‘commitment vehicle’ for the decisions being made through the group of its participants. It must also become a reinforcement tool for the objectives being pursued through it.

Newly Established Meetings Are More Challenging

An initial meeting gathering needs to be recognized and viewed as an “automatic status forum”. Initial encounters tend to evolve into an opportunity for its individual members to find out their relative standing within the group. Always expect some struggle for dominance and competition for top positioning, as well as some forceful attempts at intimidation to establish importance. Established meetings do not typically exhibit these same issues.

Focus on Maintaining Positive Discussions and Outcomes

One important function of a meeting is to become an interactive place where revisions, updates or additions take place to enhance and move forward its agenda or project etc., as well as what it knows as a group. It is necessary to allow this to take place within safe borders, well-defined standards and adhered to guidelines. Also remember that a meeting tends to establish its very own culture. This is why it is so important to give great consideration to what it is supposed to accomplish and how you want it accomplished.

Common Pitfalls:

Not Planning For the Total Process

Committee and subcommittee types of meetings including work groups, project teams and/or boards tend to constitute the greatest number of meetings taking place in today’s business environment. Distinctions other than those of size will directly affect their nature, so make it a point to include a meeting’s frequency, composition, motivation and problem solving process into your thinking and meeting development.

Not Establishing the Proper Size of a Meeting

Most meetings tend to become ineffective due to sizing problems. Positive outcomes tend to become seriously threatened when too many individuals are present at any one meeting. It is found to be best if four to seven people are assigned to attend an individual meeting. Some meetings can tolerate up to ten individuals, but then expect the number to slow the agenda and discussions down. Never expect to have a truly effective meeting with twelve or more attendees.

If numbers become a concern, there are several things you can try to get them down effectively.

Analyze Your Agenda

See if there is some way to segment the meeting time into various sections or segments. Perhaps you can arrange the agenda so that not everybody needs to be present for every item being listed on it. This may allow some individuals to leave at various points throughout the meeting, or provide a window for new ones to arrive for inclusion into certain points and topics of discussion, especially ones that are crucial for them to offer input or take away critical information.

Not Determining the Proper Number of Meetings

Determine if two or more separate but smaller meetings may be more effective in the long run than one larger span of time. Think through the agenda to notice where breaks in objectives occur. Perhaps multiple meetings may be the solution for enhancing outcomes and timetables. Most times these smaller ones tend to get more intense and as a result, get more done in a faster, meaningful way.

Not Carefully Examining Meeting Program Points

Scrutinize your meeting points and program. See if it can be arranged and broken into several meeting components, rather than simply following one continuous meeting flow? Is it possible to give various members selective informational or decision-making points or items of importance that directly affect their particular area(s) of responsibility or work areas at least one week in advance in order to discuss and thrash out the predetermined topics or items? Follow this by perhaps allowing them to select one representative to join the actual meeting. This person becomes the total group representative, spokesperson and liaison.

Related:

7 Ways to Use Change to Increase Performance

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

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

Employing an Effective Feedback Process

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smallgroup12

For feedback to be useful and productive, coaching managers need to pay close attention to possible consequences that can occur once it has been provided. Constructive feedback tends to enhance employee relationships by generating higher levels of trust, honesty, and genuine concern for another person’s welfare, professional development and growth.

Feedback continually needs to be checked in order to determine its degree of agreement, which is referred to as “consensual validation.” This consensual validation is what tends to define feedback’s value to both the sender and receiver.

If the receiver of feedback is uncertain as to the giver’s motives or intent, the uncertainty itself constitutes feedback. This is why detailing the need for feedback should be revealed before multiple problems begin to occur. It is always important to check one’s feedback for message content, sequencing, structure, and factual data to ensure that clear communication is taking place. One way of doing this is to ask the receiver to rephrase the feedback. Remember, regardless of feedback intent, it still remains potentially threatening and is subject to a great deal of distortion or misinterpretation.

Predicting How the Feedback Receiver Will React Is Part of the Process

As a coaching manager it is important to be aware of various types of negative responses to feedback in order to react to them appropriately when they surface. Following specific guidelines for offering effective feedback can go a long way to limit many kinds of negative reactions to it, especially critical or necessary intervention types of criticism.

Managers as coaches can expect numerous employees (as well as themselves) to automatically react in a negative manner to what they feel is intimidating, hostile or threatening feedback. This reaction can take various forms, such as:

  • Doubting the giver’s intentions or motives
  • Selectively receiving or perceiving the feedback message in a biased manner according to how the person feels it is intended
  • Rejecting or contradicting the facts or validity of the data that is applied or used within the feedback
  • Reducing, lessening or diminishing the feedback’s impact
  • Arguing, criticizing or verbally attacking the individual that is offering the feedback

Steps for Receiving Feedback in a Positive Manner

The first step to receiving usable, reliable feedback is to solicit it. As part of the process make certain to:

  • Maintain your self-confidence and self-esteem when listening to feedback
  • Maintain good rapport with the individual giving the feedback
  • Apply active listening during the feedback discussion, such as paraphrasing and stating your understanding of what you are hearing
  • Make sure to summarize the information and data
  • Give a good example of how to effectively receive and accept feedback

Key Strategies to Help Give and Get Effective, Reliable Feedback

There are several key strategies that tend to enhance the productive feedback process:

Focus the discussion on the information needed. For example, when bringing a situation to the attention of an employee, begin the coaching process by saying something like: “Samantha, I’ve noticed in the past several weeks that you’ve fallen behind on keeping the project assignment schedule up-to-date. Let’s figure out what we both can do to get the scheduling process back on track.”

Always remember to apply open-ended questions as they work best to continually expand the discussion. Ask something like: “You have always done an exceptional job of maintaining the schedule correctly and up to the minute—until about two weeks ago. Why has there been such a change?”

Use closed-ended questions to prompt for specific responses, such as, “What other projects are you currently working on that are taking away valuable time from working on this project?” When taking this approach remember that closed-ended can end up disguised as open-ended inquiries, like: “Are you going to struggle or have a problem when it comes to the completion of this project?”

Promote ongoing dialogue through eye contact and positive facial expressions. The process involves nodding in agreement, raising the eyes, smiling, leaning forward more closely toward the other person, and making verbal statements in order to acknowledge that what is being said or stated, is heard.

State your understanding of what you are hearing by briefly paraphrasing what the other person is saying. After the key points have been summarized, try to get some agreement on the next steps. In addition, make certain to show appreciation for the effort made so far.

Best Practices for Offering Feedback

The following suggestions should be employed when offering feedback:

  • Make it a point to reveal and describe your own reactions or feelings as the feedback process progresses
  • Make certain to describe objective consequences that have or will occur
  • Stay clear of accusations
  • Focus on specific behavior the feedback is intended for, not the person
  • Make certain to present data to support your input
  • Be prepared to discuss additional alternatives
  • Rephrase comments to sound less intense, critical or insensitive
  • Take into account the needs of both the receiver and giver of feedback
  • Make certain that feedback is directed toward a behavior or action that the receiver can do something about or has control over

Avoid These Feedback Pitfalls

When you find yourself receiving feedback, especially critical feedback, it is important to avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Becoming defensive and closed-minded.
  • Not checking for possible misunderstanding. Instead always use a paraphrasing technique that begins with something like, “Let me repeat what I am hearing you say…”
  • Failing to gather information from other sources. It is far more advantageous to get as much input as possible from others to weigh and analyze the initial feedback received.
  • Overreacting, since it closes down constructive discussion, and hinders trust building and fact verification.
  • Not asking for feedback message clarification. It is essential to ask the person what the intent is behind the feedback in the first place, as well as making certain that there is total understanding on your part.

Related:

Supporting Employees’ Need to Achieve Maximum Results

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

Assessing Employee Growth and Development

Nine Rules for Coaching Your Employees

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

Feedback is the Foundation of Effective Coaching

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A manager that wishes to communicate effectively must receive and impart reliable and honest input by observing, questioning and opening up productive two-way dialogue. Feedback is a major part of the total communication process that requires presenting ideas, thoughts and messages clearly and distinctly.

Within the workplace, opportunities generally surface that make it easier and faster to obtain and gather information through an informal feedback process. Informal feedback consists of the information that is provided to one another during normal workplace communications. It can be as simple as a supervisor or coworker commenting on a procedural flaw or an incorrectly completed procedure. Employees often dispense positive informal feedback by telling other coworkers when they did something well. Through daily interactions and informal feedback, leaders and managers are able to effectively establish key interpersonal-relationship connections.

The Purpose of Feedback

Before offering feedback it is essential to know just why you need it and what you intend to do with it. Below are some questions you should answer before offering one of your employees or anyone else specific feedback.

  • What is my reason or purpose for giving this feedback, and how do I intend to use it?
  • What specific actions or behaviors do I need to reinforce, alter, modify or correct?
  • What do I want to accomplish through this feedback and discussion session?
  • What specific information do I need to find out or learn more about?
  • What specific questions do I require answers to?
  • What issues of timing, location, advance preparation, or other logistics do I need to consider?

The Problem with Feedback

For some individuals just the thought of receiving feedback from another person, especially a manager or supervisor, becomes a terrifying experience. This is because they typically expect the worst, not the best, when hearing something about themselves. In fact, some employees will automatically define feedback (especially “critical feedback”) as negatively opinionated. However the actual definition of critical feedback is “the art of evaluating or analyzing with knowledge and propriety with the intent of providing useful information for future decisions.” As such, it is generally far better to focus on the positive aspects of the feedback, and interject as little of the negative as possible, especially if changing another person’s attitude or behavior is at stake.

Another reason some individuals tend to resist critical feedback has to do with personal self-image. When individuals sense, feel or believe that someone sees them in a less-than-positive light, they may feel anywhere from uncomfortable to devastated.

People like to hear what is consistent with their own views and tend to ignore ideas that run counter to their belief structures and comfort levels. It takes an open mind to listen to an opposing view, which may include hearing that they may be doing something ineffectively or possess a skill deficiency.

The Qualities of Effective Feedback

Good, reliable and usable feedback tends to have several characteristics that make it highly beneficial and valuable. For any feedback to be effective, it should be:

  • Descriptive rather than evaluative, which typically avoids generating levels of defensiveness
  • Focused on describing and detailing one’s own reactions, which leaves the individual receiving it free to use it or not to use it as he or she chooses
  • Quite specific rather than general
  • Focused on behavior rather than the individual
  • Focused on the needs of not only the receiver, but also the giver of the feedback, which is to help, not chastise or hurt
  • Directed toward a specific behavior or something the receiver can do something about
  • Asked for and not imposed on a person

The Use and Abuse of Feedback

Feedback is most useful when it is timely or immediate. This implies that it is wisest to offer it soon after a specific action or behavior warrants eliciting it. It is important to keep in mind that even effective feedback, if it is presented at an inappropriate time, may do more harm than good.

Feedback should be used for sharing of information, rather than for simply providing directions, opinions and advice. The main idea behind giving feedback is that it is intended to allow the receiver to personally decide its validity or usefulness, which is inherently based on whether or not it is in agreement or harmony with the person’s own goals and needs. Keep in mind that when anyone provides advice by informing another person what to do, that individual to some degree or another ends up taking away the other person’s freedom.

Effective feedback usage involves structuring the amount of information the receiver can use, rather than the amount the imparter would like to give. Overloading an individual with feedback works to reduce the possibility that he or she may be able to effectively use what is received. When givers of feedback continually impart more informative feedback than can be effectively used, they are more often than not satisfying some need of their own, rather than giving it in order to help the other person.

Effective feedback usage tends to be concerned with what is said and done, or how—not why. The “why” involves assumptions regarding motive or intent and this tends to alienate the person getting the feedback, while generating elements of resentment, suspicion, and distrust.

Excerpt: Coaching: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Supporting Employees’ Need to Achieve Maximum Results

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

Assessing Employee Growth and Development

Nine Rules for Coaching Your Employees

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

Building Critical Thinking Skills to Enhance Employee Comprehension and Decision Making

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In employee led groups or in an individual context, individuals can begin to take over the responsibility of using questions to help foster a deeper understanding of material, information, key concepts or issues.

Through the use of questioning, employees engage in a social process that is fundamental to learning. Individual learning and self-development begin on the social plane, through interactions where employees think and respond with others who possess varied levels of knowledge. Employees should take an active role in exploring, finding and researching answers to their own questions.

Through self-inquiry based questioning, individuals develop questions that need to be answered and then research the answers to support their thinking and responses. Inquiry is not always a specific question, but can be simply a contemplation about something that needs to be investigated further. There is usually not one correct answer to meaningful questions of inquiry, but through the process, employees actually gain understanding, generate more questions to ponder, and find further issues to research. This technique helps provide a structure for looking through information and sorting out relevant from irrelevant facts, sources and data.

Within the process, it is important to eliminate incorrect information, confirm reliable information, and ask further questions about the meanings and implications of certain words and phrases. After the discussion, they review and confirm the accuracy of summarizations and understandings.

Questions have the ability to buttress comprehension. Their intended use is to make the sharing of new information a collaborative process, with shared responsibilities for ongoing discussions and conversations as well as problem solving outcomes.

Within the questioning process, it is essential for employees to invite questions that effectively probe for understanding. One effective method is to apply “why” types of questions that tend to redirect an individual’s attention. An example is, “Why are you sure that when you say ____ will happen, it will?” It is also important for employees to ask questions that model comprehension monitoring, “Does (this) or (that) make any sense to you?”

POSSE Questioning

POSSE questioning is an effective framework to guide employees to facilitate better comprehension, particularly when solving problems. POSSE stands for:

  • Predict (predict what will happen as a result of the problem);
  • Organize (organize knowledge and ideas into categories and details);
  • Search (read to identify key ideas and details of problem-related parts);
  • Summarize (identifying the main problem rather than its symptoms);
  • Evaluate (ask a question, compare, clarify and predict).

Within the POSSE framework, questioning tends to be embedded in the Predicting, Searching, and Evaluating stages of problem solving and is structured in a “Shared Inquiry Discussion” format that is designed to promote creative, thoughtful and critical thinking. As such, the leader continues to play a key role in the inquiry process. Within this framework, however, he or she avoids asking employees’ questions that tend to cause them to speculate about something that is outside immediate, contextual boundaries. He or she also avoids questions that tend to require making predictions about something.

Applying the POSSE Framework to Make Questioning Visible

How can employees become proficient in using questions effectively in their own problem solving/work-related situations? There are two major challenges associated with this question. First, while widely existing in any workplace, questions are so common that employees tend to simply take the process for granted, rather than analyzing how the process of questioning works. Which is, how questions are formed, the purposes they serve and the information sources they probe. Second, even when the questioning process is discussed and detailed to make it “visible,” employees still need opportunities to engage in active questioning practices themselves. The goal of the questioning process should be to increase and enhance proficiency in seeking out information and to generate higher levels of insight and understanding.

There are specific ways in which to practice the skill of questioning for reaching this goal:

Think Aloud Sessions

A “Think Aloud Session” is one way to make a relatively common or invisible process like questioning to identify important information more visible by allowing employees to share insights, reasoning and perceptions through the art of inquiry and the language of questioning to generate positive results. When a leader applies Think Aloud Sessions, they should model or demonstrate “Questioning Use Strategies,” and the vocabulary of “Question-Answer Relationships” (see below).

Creating Question-Answer Relationships (QAR)

A Question-Answer Relationship is an effective questioning strategy, which emphasizes that a relationship exists between certain questions asked, the material presented, and the background of the responders. In this strategy, employees need to rely on four question/answer relationships or descriptors to find the information they need in order to effectively answer the question(s) being asked.

Question-Answer Relationships help employees and the leader develop a shared, common language for discussing and understanding how particular questions are designed to function. The leader may need to introduce QAR and to explain the four types of question/answer relationships that it encompasses:

Consider and Explore – The answer exists, but employees need to put together different pieces of information to obtain it. This is the most common QAR.

Right Here – The answer resides within the question and is usually easy to comprehend. The information is found without much effort.

Question Asker and Me – The answer is not explicitly stated. Employees need to think about what they already know, what the leader tells them, and how both pieces of information fit together in a meaningful way.

On Your Own – The answer is not physically given or implied. Employees should be able to answer the question without reading or researching information, simply by using their own experiences and background knowledge.

QAR Brings Together Knowledge and Information

This is information and knowledge that employees need to draw upon in order to answer particular questions, through various inquiry strategies. For example, a question asked could require a response that is part of the respondent’s background knowledge, or an “In My Head” response. In contrast, another particular question may require a response that needs to be obtained from past readings about something in particular.

Asking a question such as, “Have you ever been surprised when our production line shuts down?” cannot simply be addressed with information from reading something, even if what was read about tends to describe a situation like the one being asked. Further, a question like, “What might we do if and when the production line breaks down?” requires both an understanding of the dilemma and the ability to draw on one’s own background to solve the problem in a new way. To gain a better understanding for how the QAR relationship works, and why it is important, the process should be focused on question asking and answering within workplace contexts and their activities.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

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

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

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Critical thinking and working effectively with others relies on applying appropriate frames. Frames are cognitive shortcuts that individuals use to help make sense out of complex information and to interpret that information in a way that can be meaningfully represented to others. Frames help to organize complex experiences, occurrences and facts into logical and rational as well as understandable groupings and categories. By labeling these complex experiences, occurrences and facts it becomes possible to give meaning to some aspects of what is observed through them, while at the same time discounting other aspects because they appear to be irrelevant or counterintuitive. Frames provide meaning through selective simplification, by filtering people’s perceptions and providing them with a field of vision for a problem.

Frames significantly impact the critical thinking process. This is because they tend to be built upon personal beliefs, values, and experiences, where individuals often construct unique frames that tend to considerably vary. Frames normally exist prior to the processing of information and they highly affect identifying, assessing, analyzing, and evaluating information, upon which critical thinking is based.

Individuals tend to be separated not only by differences in personal interests, beliefs, and values, but also in how they perceive and understand things, both at a conscious as well as sub-conscious level. Within critical thinking, individuals generally apply framing not only as an aid to interpreting issues and information, but also at times, to generate or promote some form of a strategic advantage.

Framing is often the impetus for rationalizing self-interest, convincing others, building unity, or promoting a preference for a specific outcome. Numerous factors tend to affect how people frame experiences, situations and circumstances, which in turn, influences the path and direction that critical thinking takes.

The Importance of Framing When Thinking Critically

An essential element in critical thinking is understanding how and why frames affect decision making or problem solving development. In the context of critical thinking situations, disagreements often erupt. As a result, individuals tend to create frames to help understand why the disagreement exists, what actions are important to alter or negate it, why different individuals act as they do, and how individuals should act in response to what is occurring.

Within group situations and activities, frames serve as a type of strainer for information that is being gathered, assembled and analyzed. Personal framing tends to determine the development of priorities and ways to address and achieve them, which typically includes generating alternative solutions as well particular action plans for their implementation. Depending on the issue, problem or context of the task or goal at hand, framing may be used to conceptualize and interpret, or to manipulate and convince.

Framing tends to be tied to information processing, message patterns, linguistic cues, and socially constructed meanings. Knowing what the various types of frames are, and how they are constructed, allows individuals to draw conclusions about how they affect the development of critical thinking and its outcomes, as well as how they can be used to influence both. It is important to analyze existing frames from a personal perspective, as well as ones others use. Doing this offers fresh insight into the dynamics and development of group interaction, problem solving, conflict resolution as well as decision making.

The Sources and Forms of Frames

Many factors work to influence frames as well as their formation. Disagreements and opposite viewpoints are usually associated with a complex and reinforcing set of frames in oneself, and others, as well as associated elements of risk, what types of information should be applied to a given situation, and how decisions should be made. The frames that most highly influence disagreements and opposing viewpoints among individuals include ones of: identity, characterization, power, risk/information, and loss versus gain.

Identity Frames

Individuals tend to view themselves as having particular identities in the context of specific circumstances and situations. These identities spring from an individual’s self-conception and group affiliation. The more central the challenge to one’s sense of self, the more oppositional one is likely to act. Typical responses to threats to identity include ignoring information and perspectives that tend to threaten one’s core identity, reinforcing connections with like-minded individuals or groups, and negatively characterizing problems, issues or situations.

Characterization Frames

Closely related to stereotyping, characterization frames may be either positive or negative. Individuals view others as having particular characteristics and when they find themselves in disagreement or at odds with others often tend to construct characterization frames for them that significantly differ from how the other parties view themselves. Such characterizations often undermine others’ legitimacy, and cast doubt on their motivations, or exploit their sensitivity.

Characterization frames often tend to be linked to identity frames, which serve to strengthen one’s personal identity while justifying individual actions toward another, thinking for example, “I am a free thinker, but my opponent is closed-minded and because of it needs to be subdued or chastised.”

Power Frames

Because disagreement is often imbedded into critical thinking activities like decision making, individual conceptions of power and group control tend to play a significant role in them. Power frames help a disagreer determine which forms of power are justifiable, such as in the form of existing organizational structure. At the same time, power frames also help to determine certain forms of power that are likely to advance one’s own agenda or positioning, like authority, resources, expertise, or unity-building.

Risk and Information Frames

Disagreements that often erupt during critical thinking projects or activities often involve personal expectations about future events, where these events may either be risky, or where the likelihood of them occurring is quite uncertain. Within these types of situations, certain group members will often begin to construct risk and information frames that produce highly variable assessments about the level and extent of a particular risk.

From a positive viewpoint, risk and information frames work to indicate which sources of information tend to be reliable, and which ones are not. Risk and information frames depend not just on an individual’s points of interest, but also on the person’s level of training, expertise, personal exposure to the risk, familiarity with the risk, and the potential for disastrous or negative impacts due to it. Because of the ability to deeply analyze various risk factors and their potential consequences these critical thinkers tend to act and think in terms of the degree in which the risk is dreaded or feared.

Loss Versus Gain Frames

It is common for most individuals who work as a collective group in problem solving or decision making to focus on “threats of potential loss,” rather than on “opportunities for gain.” People tend to react differently to a proposed course of action when its expected consequences are framed in terms of “losses” as opposed to “gains.” Most times there will be individuals who hold firm to believing that preventing a perceived loss is much more relevant, significant, and high in value than securing an equal gain. This works to reinforce a psychological barrier in regard to taking a particular course of action or accepting a specific problem’s solution.

Reframing

Reframing is the process of purposefully managing one’s personal frames. With the help of reframing, individuals are more likely to find new ways to reach an agreement. Within critical thinking activities such as decision making or problem solving, the ability to effectively manage frames and the framing process can lead to important shifts not only in the frames themselves, but also in the impact that they have on group dynamics.

Reframing is intended to:

  • Clarify various viewpoints in order to bring about a more productive exchange of information by listening to ideas that were not previously considered. This includes expanding discussions to explore different courses of action or solutions that had not been previously addressed.
  • Enhance individuals’ understanding of their interests and how the forms of action they take are used to serve these interests, which is accomplished by examining potential processes for managing frames more productively and to reconsider patterns of interaction among other group members.
  • Identify concepts, issues, or informational areas that individuals tend to view differently, which is used to determine opportunities for compromise, negotiation or trade-offs, which can be based on these specific differences.
  • Identify differences to determine which ones cannot be bridged. As an essential part of reframing it becomes important to identify ways to reduce or eliminate areas of disagreement in a manner that does not violate these types of differences, which includes determining the degree of importance that is awarded to them.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

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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