First, I was reminded by a friend how differently two people can recall a verbal exchange that simply did not quite rise to the necessary level for communicating. Ugh. Here we both were after some time: one still wondering what was meant by the words he heard and the other not wondering at all about the exchange, because he knew what he meant when he spoke.
Next there was an episode of two friends tackling a small household project: one person ready to jump in and get started and the other unwilling to dive in until there was a mutually understood plan for the work. These two people know about this difference in approach, but that doesn’t make the necessary conversation easy. Communication does not occur and frustration sets in.
Last, consider this quote, “If your people aren’t informed by you, there’s a good chance they’ll be misinformed by others,” fromPatty McCord’s book, Powerful – Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility. I have not read this book. For purposes of this writing, I would hope the author raises the possibility that misinforming may in fact come from self.
This idea is not new, but it surely is important. That is, communication typically requires conversation: all parties willing to get out of their own heads (i.e., what we “know” we mean) and invite other participants to join in understanding. It’s in fact why great authors need great editors. Editors help question and clarify what an author means.
For example, as a leader of a project team, give the essential elements of a new project and then stop telling (i.e., talking). Ask your team:
- What have I not shared that would be helpful for you to know before we begin this work?
- How might this work plan be improved from your perspectives?
- What suggestions do you have to break the project into meaningful parts?
- When does it make sense to bring the whole team together for status reporting?
- If you have questions or need tools or information, do you know what resources are available?
In other words, remind yourself that telling people what you know, even as the leader of a team, is likely not sufficient verbal activity. If communication is indeed the experience of all participants getting all of the information they need for understanding and engagement, we must work to achieve it. Our teams, as well as our families and friends, will be better for that work.
Recently while looking at some papers I’d been keeping, a couple of lines caught my eye:
- (You) should never work in a place where you want to keep your head down.
- Unrestrained venting just transfers your stress to everyone around you and (a favorite)
- How (you) do anything is how you do everything.
What can these reminders do for each of us as we face a new day? How can they help us make our own day – and that of our colleagues and families – better?
Start the day with positive intent.
Whatever it takes (looking at pictures of baby animals, meditating, walking, journaling, praying) put your mind in a positive place before you get on with your day. No excuses. Do it. Practice it. Go on from that point.
Start every conversation by smiling and saying something positive.
You have the opportunity to set the tone and to help the other person match your positive mood and approach. What better way to get any conversation started in a good direction and encourage honest dialogue?
Be aware. Negativity will influence each of us unless we practice, practice, practice positive habits.
Send a praising or thankful email to someone in your support network; it will remind you of the care and support you receive from others and let you acknowledge it.
Start meetings or work conversations not with the challenges to address but by sharing something positive: about life in general, about your team in general or someone specific on the team. It sets a better tone and still lets the work get done.
Take a positive personal risk. When someone asks how you’re doing, respond positively: “It’s a beautiful morning and I’m glad to be a part of the day.”
None of us goes to work and suddenly has no personal life. We don’t go home from work and suddenly not have experienced that annoying situation at work. Using these ideas just may help make each whole day as good as it can be. Spread throughout a workplace, it’s a sure way to improve and maintain a positive Culture.
I am struck by the frequency of seeing Innovation among business goals in a variety of organizations and industries. Makes sense. Innovation leads to acceptance and management of change; adoption of tools and practices; development of new services and products.
In at least a few organizations, however, active development of creativity (i.e., innovation) fails to occur. Perhaps it is useful to consider that creativity, as many competencies, needs attention to develop. It does not “just happen.” How might creativity be actively developed?
According to experts, creativity is first largely based on knowledge: increasing one’s knowledge of a subject (e.g., management) is a way to expand one’s ability to be creative.
Another aspect of creativity may be developed through actively associating previously unrelated concepts or ideas: learning to think differently. This step in building creativity can be achieved if one can break from some common social/cultural barriers as well as ingrained individual/ emotional barriers. Examples of social/cultural barriers:
- Fantasy and reflection are a sign of laziness, a waste of time.
- Problem solving is serious stuff, and humor has no place in it.
A third dimension of creativity seems well within most managers’ influence: creating an environment in which employees feel encouraged to offer their creative thinking and ideas. Enlightened managers may need to address barriers in this dimension as well. For example:
- Awareness of an organization’s highly structured rules, procedures and communication channels
- Recognition of – and overcoming – personal behaviors such as reacting to negative parts of a proposed idea rather than the positive ones; acting as a boss and controller rather than as a facilitator or resource.
Working to develop your own creativity is personally rewarding and sets a positive example for your team. Working to develop your team’s creativity builds a resource: new ideas and improved problem solving. Perhaps more important, developing your team’s creativity is motivational.
What better reason to offer one’s creativity than to work in an environment in which new ideas are heard, valued and encouraged?