When explaining change, begin by listing the facts behind your decision, such as a shrinking market share or shifting demographics. Then lay out the options you’re evaluating. Invite your staff to weigh the pros and cons of each option and give their input. Finally, acknowledge that change can be disruptive. Showing empathy will increase your team’s resilience.
The best way to probe
When you’re interviewing a job candidate or weighing whether to promote someone, encourage them to analyze the past. Get them to open up by starting your questions with “Tell me about ... ,” “What is your experience with ... ?” and “What was it like to ... ?” Phrase your questions neutrally. Example: Replace “Was that job as much fun as it sounds?” with “How did you like that job?”
Choose buzzwords with care
Consider your audience before you resort to trendy terms. If you’re talking with consultants or executives who prefer corporate-speak to plain English, then by all means use “stakeholder” rather than “employee” and “paradigm shift” instead of “change.” But if you’re trying to gain credibility with front-line workers or no-nonsense execs, then choose the clearest, simplest possible words to express yourself.
Replace passive punishment with active engagement
You observe an employee loafing or overhear two workers making snide comments about the company. Beware of retaliating by ignoring them in meetings or dismissing their work. As management expert Harry E. Chambers writes in The Bad Attitude Survival Guide (Addison-Wesley, $15), “Bad attitudes flourish when employees are punished passively.” Confront these people firmly and fairly, so they have a chance to improve.
Sop up knowledge, save a bundle
If your company’s training and development budget is tight, don’t assume you must miss conferences and seminars. Sure, these events are costly. But if you’re eager to attend without forking over a registration fee, try bartering for a reduced rate or even a free pass. Example: A training coordinator at a state university in Georgia volunteered as a conference “session monitor” for a day to help speakers, collect evaluation forms and make sure audiovisual equipment worked. In return, the organizers let her attend the last three days for free.
Looking for a fun team-building exercise?
Try “Guess My Lie,” an ideal game when you want people to get to know each other better and lower their defenses. Here’s how it works: Ask each participant to make three statements about himself—but only two of them should be true. After each speaker’s turn, invite the audience to guess which of the three statements is a lie. This can trigger a humorous and eyeopening discussion, and serve as a bonding experience to boot.
Evaluate a problem by viewing it from three different angles
When you’re struggling with a nagging problem—from a personnel dispute to a troubling trend in your financial reports—assess the situation wearing three hats. First, the easy part: Ask yourself, “What are the best solutions?” Second, examine the problem from the viewpoint of one of your colleagues who’s immersed in it. Pretend you’re this person and ask yourself the same “best solutions” question. Finally, imagine that you’re a neutral third party who can rise above organizational biases to dissect the issue. From these three vantage points, you can see and tackle the problem more thoroughly.
Enforce the rules that count
You don’t want to overwhelm your staff with lots of silly rules. But that doesn’t mean you should let them ignore company rules. If you laugh off such directives, you’ll set a bad example. Example: You and your team sometimes receive e-mail warnings to stay off the Web for two hours while the computer folks install higher-speed connections. Your staff asks you whether to honor this request and you tell them to “do whatever you want.” This sets a dangerous precedent: The next time you want to impose a rule, they may not treat you seriously.
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