Some verbs and phrasings we use when we communicate in business, in leadership roles and generally in our lives can have a subconscious (and maybe even conscious) affect on how people perceive what we say but perhaps even our overall character.
One such verb or phrase is “think” or “I think.” This is an easy one to get rid of as it is a throw away phrase anyway. When speaking or writing it is somewhat redundant to make the statement; if it were anyone else’s thinking 99% of us would describe who the thinking belonged to. So, there is no need to say it in the first place. But why skip the “I think?” It is because it can come off as the speaker being uncertain or still going over things in their head. Plainly speaking your opinion and why others should consider it sounds stronger both in person and on the page.
“Need” is another word one might consider dropping in their phrasing. It may sound silly but when used by a leader when requesting something from subordinate it makes the leader or the one asking sound like they are dependent on that other person entirely. If you are scoffing, consider that these are subtle, subconscious cues that don’t work on our active thinking. “Want” works in a similar way. “I want you to improve the quality of your work” versus “Please, improve the quality of your work” or even “Improve the quality of your work.” Notice the subtle difference in tone that shades the meaning of the statement in all three cases.
“Guess” is another one to watch out for—we all want to be heard as confident and sure. Using “guess” in your language does not accomplish that tonal goal. Likewise, “hope” can add a touch of uncertainty. Don’t hope for things, know that they will happen; make things a will to power over your goals, don’t hope.
Consider making some of these changes to your speech pattern and note if it changes the way people see you and your ideas.
Most people would consider themselves good listeners. As with many things people’s self-assessments of themselves is much higher than the reality. And being a good listener is an essential part of being a good leader. Take a moment to set ego aside and assess whether are not you are listening as well as you could be.
Many people believe that good listening comes down to three simple items: not talking when others are speaking; letting others know you’re listening through facial expression and verbal confirmations (“mmmhmm”); being able to repeat what others have said, maybe even word for word.
A lot of managing advice given about being a good listener specifically instructs that managers do these things. Remain mostly quiet, nod with the obligatory “mmmhmm” and repeat back what the speaker has said. However, many believe this falls short or is at best just the beginning of good listening.
Consider the following as well.
Good listening isn’t just about polite silence while the other person talks. In fact, many believe the opposite is true. Many think that those who periodically ask questions that encourage exploration of the topic to be good listeners. These listeners ask questions that challenge the status quo in a constructive way. Sitting, nodding and making little sounds is no assurance that someone is really listening but when someone hears that their listener is critically analyzing what they say and asking critical thinking questions they know that person is really listening.
Good listening should include some kind of interaction that helps build the speaker’s self-esteem. A good listener makes the conversation a positive experience and this can’t happen through silence or negative criticism. Good listeners make people feel supported and that the listener has confidence in them.
The best listening is seen as a just a part of cooperative conversation. Feedback should be a back and forth with neither party becoming defensive about what the other has said. Looking only for errors in what another is saying might make you good at academic argumentation but not a good listener. The speaker should feel you are trying to help.
Just listening isn’t enough.
Good listeners do make suggestions. If a listener says nothing the speaker might as well journal their problems as the blank page is as responsive as a listener who says nothing, suggests nothing and doesn’t actively support the speaker.
Here are some additional questions a leader can use to help a mentee evaluate themselves or a problem they are having.
What can you control is another great question leaders can ask their mentees. The best part about this question is that it shifts the focus away from what is out of the control of the mentee clearing the mind to think about what one could actually do about the situation.
What solutions have you come up with is a good question because when struggling, stagnating is the worst thing someone can do. Knowing that your mentee has at least some ideas and won’t be relying strictly on their leader for ideas and answers.
While strictly not a question, tell me more, is a request that can help bring to the surface biases or blind spots that might be stopping up the mentee or additional details the leader can use to help the mentee.
Finally, one might ask, what are you reading? Asking about hobbies, interests, reading habits and similar questions help a leader to get to know their mentee on a personal level. This can give the leader a more complete view of the mentee.
Leaders and mentors should not feel obligated to use all these questions all the time when mentoring team members. Like much else they are a toolbox and one should always select the correct tool for the job.
The last article ended on concerns about your kids using up all the WiFi—unless you have unusually self-sufficient kids or older children who understand that you are at work even though you are at home keeping them occupied could be an issue.
Believe it or not most kids like having a schedule and find comfort in that familiarity—so make a schedule and stick to it. Books, puzzles and other quiet games are good. Also, some screen time is OK. Some television is fine. If you let your kids play video games those are OK as well.
If you have the right mix of ages among your children asking the older ones to help.
Now that you’ve got your family and technology sorted, what next?
Make sure you and your boss are on the same page about what the expectations are for your new work from home position. Do you need to be 100% available during business hours or can you work asynchronously to a degree? Will you be handling all the same work or has your position changed slightly since you are moving home?
If this transition is absolutely new to everyone (you, the company, your boss) keeping an open dialog and noting what is going well and not so well will be key.
You’ll also have to consider yourself—can you jump out of bed, sit down and get to it cup of coffee in hand? Are you easily distractible?
Many work from home guru’s have long made the suggestion that people maintain their typical morning routine. This includes the clothes you wear. For some, this will be necessary to switch their brain over to “work mode.” This will take some trial and error.
Likewise, you need to establish clear boundaries with you job. Working from should not mean you are available day and night, weekdays and weekends. If you have web phone setting it to DND or unplugging it after work hours as well as shutting down your work computer complete is a signal to both your job and your brain that the work-day is done.
Leadership is a process. A complex one. It is a relationship built between leader and follower. This group also has the element of a goal everyone desires.
There are five moving parts that interact to create the entity of relationship of exchanges—the leader, the followers, the situation, the process itself and the results. On a timeline each of these parts influences the others and the outcomes of these interactions set precedents for the future.
Leaders are typically viewed as one who orchestrates or guides. The set the tone for the group in the hopes of moving forward with a goal in mind. Followers are not to be viewed as passive, however. In fact, many now view the followers as the most critical aspect of the relationship. It is the follower who sees the situation and defines the needs of the group to accomplish the goal.
The personality of the follower is what determines what kind of leadership style will be most effective. Leadership is not one philosophy the leader foists onto any group of followers.
The situation surrounds the followers and the leader and helps define what the followers need from the leader. Will the groups current skill set be able to solve the problem of the situation or do they need new guidance from the leader? Are the goals of the group clear? What are the emotions of the group concerning the problem to solve or the goals? Excited? Frustrated? Defeated?
Finally, there is the process itself which is distinct from the leader (the orchestrator). This process is never finished and evolves even as the situation, the goals, the followers and even the orchestrator change or move on.
In a sense the leader must be the most malleable and open to adaptation and change. The situation is defined, the leader’s team is defined, the goal is defined, the process of leadership is an always moving target. The leader must see this picture and adapt to be successful.
Many of us go through periods of low energy or periods of feeling “blue” when the days dark, short and cold. This energy very easily comes with us to our work. Whether a leader or a team member this wintertime energy drop can make it very tough for us to be our best. However, there are some easy things you can try at the office to help energize people.
It is well established that the lack of sunlight during winter months affects people’s moods and health. An easy way to combat this is a light therapy box, many of which fit neatly on an average desk. Specifically, the correct kind of light helps the body release the “feel good” chemical in our brains Serotonin. These light boxes need to emit at least 2,500 lux to be effective. It is recommended, typically, that people use these in the morning—many find it helps them wake up. Additionally, some people will use the light boxes during their mid-day slump to energize them instead of more coffee or caffeine.
Introducing real plants into the office can help everyone. Researchers have found the benefits range from increased productivity, stress reduction and they can even affect positively the amount of sick days taken by employees. They also help increase or oxygen intake. Living walls are now popular, however average house plants in regular planters will work as well if not as fashionable.
Many offices are aesthetically dull, especially in the color department. While a total make-over might be out of the question adding some bright yellow, pink, red or blue to your surroundings can help us feel alert and more cheerful. Add some colorful pieces of décor to your desk or spruce up the office with some new artwork—combine this with the previous suggestion, get some plants with colorful pots.
You may want to consider taking extra time to keep things tidy in our workspace as this will unclutter your mind. Also, people get quite dried out in the winter, pay close attention to your hydration levels.