Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quick Tips to Restore Civility to Corporate America

What ever happened to the Golden Rule? Incivility is a plague for any business. It spreads stress, smears reputations, reduces productivity and raises employee turnover.

Try these tips from “The Cost of Bad Behavior” for preventing it in your organization:

1. Set zero-tolerance expectations. They must be driven by senior management or they won’t go anywhere.

2. Teach civility. Make certain everyone in the organization understands what civility is so that they can help to establish and sustain (and when necessary, defend) a culture of civility.

3. Train employees and managers. For example, explain how to recognize and cope with the inappropriate behavior of “cunning offenders.”

4. When incivility occurs, hammer it. Incivility is like cancer. Once detected, it must immediately be treated aggressively.

5. Take complaints seriously. A culture of civility must also be a culture of candor. An open-door policy will encourage people to confide.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Applying “The Pareto Principle” to Your Goals

Vilfredo Pareto was a 19th-century Italian social scientist and critic. He observed that 80% of the wealth in Italy, at the time, was concentrated in 20% of the population – something he felt that was not good for society.

While the genesis of his work is very seldom discussed, his name lives on in what is known as The Pareto Principle, or “the 80/20 rule” – a concept that is a relevant today as it was when it was first developed.

Talk to contemporary entrepreneurs and most will tell you that 80% of their business comes from 20% of their customers. Human resources executives will typically suggest that 80% of the employee relations problems and issues they have to deal with come from just 20% of the employees. And most business managers would agree that it’s a minority of their team members who are responsible for a majority of the innovation, creativity, and superior work their organizations enjoy.

In all of these examples, the Pareto Principle suggests that we should pay attention to, and focus our efforts on, the critical few (the 20%) rather than the trivial or average many (the 80%).So what does all this have to do with you and your goals? A lot!

There’s a myriad of things you can do in pursuit of your professional and personal objectives. A large number of them fall into the 80% – the “trivial many.” A much smaller number fall in the “critical few” category – the important 20%.

Take a look at your goals and the action plans you’ve developed for meeting them. What are you doing? How are you investing your precious time? What do your past experiences – and the experiences of others – tell you? Are you focusing on “need to do,” high payback activities – or on less important, “like to do” tasks? Remember it’s that “critical few” that will propel you furthest and give you the most bang for your time an energy buck.

When in doubt, think W-W-P-D (What Would Pareto Do?).

Today’s solution is from Straight Talk for SuccessBy Bud BilanichFor more information on this resource and other high-impact WALK THE TALK publications, please click here to learn more.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Interpersonal Conflicts … When There’s No Time for Planning

It’s bound to happen. Sooner or later you’ll be caught off guard – finding yourself smack dab in the middle of an unexpected conflict with someone on your team. You’re in it before you know it, and there’s no time for formulating a well-thought-out resolution strategy. You’ve got to respond in some way, and you have to do it NOW! What do you do? How can you keep the situation from escalating and ending up some-where you DON’T want to be? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Stop, breath, and think. Stop whatever you’re doing, take a couple of deep breaths to control your tension, and then immediately (and quickly) think about exactly what you need to do and say next.

2. Acknowledge the conflict by saying something like: Michael, I’m sensing that there are some issues between the two of us that we need to talk through, or, Kim, I’m feeling that I might have done something to upset you. Can we talk about it?

3. Buy some time. Suggest that you meet at a later time that day (or the following day) so that you both have an opportunity to relax a little and gather your thoughts. If the other person agrees, use the time to prepare for the meeting. If the person doesn’t agree on a time delay …

4. Take it somewhere else (if other coworkers are present). That way, you’ll avoid disrupting the rest of the group – and you’ll eliminate any temptations you and the other person might have to “showboat” or maintain some bogus image in front of your teammates. Suggest a different venue with words such as: It’s best for everyone if we keep this just between us. Where else would you feel comfortable talking?

5. Keep it respectful. Do your absolute best to conduct yourself in a calm and respectful manner – regardless of how the other person responds. Will it be easy? Of course not! But that doesn’t change the fact that although you can’t control what others do, you certainly can (and do) control your own behavior.

Today’s solution is from What to Do When CONFLICT HAPPENSBy Eric Harvey & Steve VenturaFor more information on this resource and other high-impact WALK THE TALK publications, please click here to learn more.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Quote for the Day

The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work. ~Richard Bach

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finding Your "One Thing"

In the movie City Slickers, a group of friends take a “vacation” at a dude ranch. Curley, played by Jack Palance, is a crusty yet wise old cowboy who shares the following with Mitch, played by Billy Crystal:

Do you know what the secret of life is?

No, what?

This. (Holds up his index finger.)

Your finger?

One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [anything].

That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

That’s what you’ve got to figure out!

Great scene … great advice. Leaders have to figure out the One Thing that defines a meaningful purpose for their teams. The One Thing should answer the question Why are we here? You may think that finding that focus isn’t critical; but in fact, it’s essential to your success. The most important thing in business (and life) is deciding what is most important.

Your team’s One Thing might be: producing defect-free materials; providing the fastest service available; developing leading-edge products; creating relationships that customers cannot walk away from; or meeting the technology needs of other departments. These are just examples – your One Thing has to be your One Thing. And it should guide all of your decisions and actions.

Even after you find your One Thing, sticking to it can be a challenge while you put out fires and explore new opportunities. Don’t be tempted to think, as some do, that you can keep piling on initiatives and still maintain your team’s focus. You may find yourself in the middle of the “Ship is Adrift” Syndrome. Instead, consider automating, streamlining or outsourcing areas that are not core to your team’s operation.

A laser-sharp focus does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort to refine, reinforce, and communicate your One Thing. But you need to start now. Blurred focus creates confusion – resulting in diffused employee efforts.

Stay focused! Remember Curley!

Today’s solution is from Sticking To It: The Art of Adherence By Lee J. Colan

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Applying a Four-Step Process for Difficult Conversations

By Cheryl Eckl at


For the purposes of this article, please consider the case of Darren and Andy: When Darren was promoted to head up another department, the managers already in place warned him about their colleague Andy’s negative behavior. He was habitually late for meetings, always critical of others’ ideas, unwilling to help solve even the simplest problems and became very hostile when asked to participate. Furthermore, he was always the last to arrive in the morning and took every opportunity to leave early.

The previous manager had tolerated Andy’s behavior because he felt Andy was smart, quick and could be relied upon to complete his assignments. Darren, however, assessed that Andy was probably more capable than his record would indicate, and felt the team’s performance could benefit from getting Andy more engaged in the work. Unfortunately, Darren’s intense dislike of confrontation made it difficult for him to address the issues with Andy personally. Darren’s issues with confrontation aren’t unusual.

Many interpersonal problems stem simply from one’s inability to conduct difficult conversations. Often people are willing—even desperate—to face situations assertively, but they don’t know how. Consequently, they don’t say what they mean, misunderstandings occur and critical information goes unspoken until disclosure is forced out by inevitable disaster. This failure to confront negative behavior also damages group morale, drives out talent and lowers innovation and productivity.

The DESC Process

To address his aversion to confrontation, Darren prepared for the conversation with Andy by
Applying the “DESC” model (Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences). This four-step process helped Darren plan what he would say without becoming emotional, enabling him to practice saying it calmly and allowing for escalation if Andy were to respond negatively.

When first introduced to the DESC (pronounced “desk”) process, Darren was concerned that writing a “script” would make him sound stilted or insincere, but as he used suggestive key words (as detailed below) and he realized that being able to articulate his thoughts and feelings in advance of the conversation created a framework that helped him become effectively assertive.

The Four Steps of DESC Scripting

Step 1: Describe (Key Word: “When”)

The first step in creating a DESC script is describing the problematic behavior while avoiding judgmental or opinionated statements that could make the other person defensive. Begin the “Describe” phase with “When” and state a single behavior in as few words as possible. As Darren discovered, creating a factual statement isn’t easy. His first attempt—“Your hostility and negativity are demoralizing!”—would only trigger an emotional response. Instead, Darren rephrased: “When you’re not engaged…”

Step 2: Express (Key Words: “I feel”)

When stating how you feel about a situation, avoid “you make me feel” statements in favor of “I feel.” Being effectively assertive means you can choose your reactions, even if others are being unreasonable. The goal is to keep the conversation factual and calm by describing feelings rather than acting them out. Be specific: “I’m angry, I’m worried, I’m annoyed.” Darren had to examine his motivation for confronting Andy and reframe his negative emotions into a positive statement: “I feel disappointed because I believe you’re capable of doing more, if you
chose to.”

Step 3: Specify (Key Words: “What would work for me”)

This third step is designed to help articulate the desired new behavior while avoiding blame, judgment or condescension. The key here is to ask for a positive change, not a negative one. For example: “Please try to be more open to the opinions of others” is more powerful than “Stop being so critical!” Darren’s choice was confident and straightforward: “I must insist that you engage more with the team. What would work for me is if you and I explore where and how your strengths can fit better within the team structure.”

Step 4: Consequences (Key Words: “If…then; if not”)

Here, the goal is to demonstrate why it’s in the other person’s best interest to change their behavior. If the behavior doesn’t change or the conversation is disciplinary, then use the negative consequence. If you do introduce the negative, be sure you’re prepared to carry it out or you’ll lose credibility. Darren concluded the script with: “If you will work with me on this, then I am confident that both you and the team will benefit. If not, I will be forced to request your transfer.”

The Results

In his meeting with Andy, Darren delivered his DESC script calmly. Andy was stunned. No manager had ever confronted him with such clear demands coupled with a sincere interest in helping him improve. Andy asked to meet with Darren again after he’d had a chance to consider Darren’s offer. They did so two days later with encouraging results. Andy’s behavior didn’t change overnight, but Darren’s effectively assertive DESC script turned a “difficult conversation” into a more productive partnership.

About the Author
Cheryl Eckl is a facilitator, speaker and personal coach who works with
individuals and teams to achieve creative solutions for both interpersonal
and business problems. She is the author of Learning Tree’s Course 244
“Assertiveness Skills,” and Course 904, “Responding to Conflict.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Live Your Dash

The Dash is a book based on Linda Ellis’ poem, (by the same name).

If you’ve never seen The Dash movie before, you’re in for a treat. If you have, please take a moment to remember how much that little line is worth.

To view the movie, simply click on the following link:

To your success,

W. D. Cravenor

Content provided by