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  Helping you improve the communication skills of the leaders and teams in your organization.  

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5 items from January 2014


5 Things TO Say in a Conflict

Stick_comm_medI recently reviewed 5 Things NOT To Say In A Conflict.  Here are five things that you CAN say in a conflict in order to boost your communication skills.

1.  "Yes, And..."

This is a technique from Improv Theatre that validates you heard what the person just said, and gives you the opportunity to add to the dialogue.  Use this instead of "But."

2.  "This is how I see things...., how do you see them?"

This is a question that will help you discover how the other person is perceiving the situation.  What is the issue?  The entire conflict could be a matter of different perceptions.

3.  "I" / "We"

Use a lot of statements with "I" and "We" in them instead of "You."  This helps to acknowledge your role in the conflict and makes it more collaborative.  Although be careful of "we" - make sure it's not condescending resulting in a "what do you mean we?" response.

4.  "I heard what you said, I'd like to go back, process it, and come back to you in a couple of hours to discuss further."

This is a segway to take a step back and get out of the emotion of the moment before you say anything that will only escalate the tension.

5.  "You're a jerk and I'm tired of trying to collaborate with you.  This is simply how we are going to do it."

OK, just kidding.  Don't say this.  But we know this may be what you really WANT to say!  So...just maybe...you should give yourself time to vent this privately before engaging the other person with alternative healthy dialogue.

Let me know how those work for you!





Communication Quote of the Day

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.

--Ambrose Bierce




5 Things NOT to Say in a Conflict

IStock_000017265087_webThe title says it all - here are five things NOT to say when you are communicating in a conflict situation.  And if you find that the tension seems to rise in a conflict instead of cool off, cross-check how you are communicating with these 5 "don'ts":

1.  "But"

"I understand that you feel that way, but..."

"I agree that we need to ....., but..."

You're just completely negated whatever you just said, and put up a barrier that will cause the other person to immediately feel defensive.

2.  "You"

"You really need to calm down."

"You need to talk to John and get a different perspective."

I'm not saying NEVER use "You" - but be very careful about "you statements."  Saying "you" in a conflict often feels to the other person feels like you are pointing your finger at them.

3.  "Calm down"

Does this really ever work?  Ever?  It really just enflames the emotions of the other person and irritates them.

4.  "You shouldn't feel that way" OR "Don't be so emotional"

What I really mean is"I want you to act and be the way that I want you to be."

5.  "Don't take it personally"

Uh-huh.  Conflict is always personal.  That's why it's called conflict - it reaches in and makes us feel something.

Check to see if you are using one of these - most of us do without realizing it!

If you are wondering what to say instead hang on!  I'll give you what TO say in my next post.





What it Takes to be a Great NFL Head Coach (or Business Leader)

IStock_000011199130_webSince I grew up in Wisconsin, I have been an avid Green Bay Packers fan my whole life.  So naturally I am excited to watch the Packers vs. 49ers playoff game on Sunday, especially after the roller coaster ride with the Aaron Rodgers story over the last 2 months.

I often think about the tremendous communication skills needed to be an NFL head coach.  You have to deal with players, assistant coaches, the media, a general manager, your owner, etc.  It's a tall order.  I recently read an interesting article by Joe Bussell on what it takes to be a great NFL coach and why many coaches fail.  He referred to the Peter principle: people are promoted based on how they performed at their current position, without regard to whether their skills are appropriate for the higher position (I'm sure you've never seen that played out in your career ;) ).

Joe goes on to list the skills that he believes are required of a head coach.  Interestingly, they closely align with skills that we believe business leaders need (and everyone is a leader):

  • Respected by coaches and players
  • High IQ in managing the high-level (as opposed to the details)
  • Process information intuitively and correctly
  • Communicate directions closely
  • A "mover of men"
  • Understand how personalities and egos come into play
  • Motivate everyone around him to make sure to get the best out of every person
  • Adapt his scheme to the personnel and roster.

These are great skills for you to proactively develop in yourself.  Not only will they help you immensely in your current position, but you will be ready when that leadership position is available.




Tips from Netflix

Have you seen the Slideshare on the HR practices that Netflix put in place a while back (you may have since it received 6 million views!)?  If you have not, or have forgotten, here is the link and a summary of the key points below.  We are especially interested in the importance of managers and colleagues communicating clear expectations while being honest, candid, and communicating with both their words and behaviors.  Enjoy!



  • A great workplace = stunning colleagues.
  • High performers would rather work by themselves than with subpar performers.  So spend your energy on surrounding them with high performers.
  • Focus on increasing the % of high performing employees rather than increasing complex processes (process does have its place, but limits long-term).
  • The “Keeper Test”: which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep?
  • Give people more freedom and responsibility, not control, but responsible people thrive on freedom and are worthy of it.
  • For example, an informal vacation policy – let people take whatever time they feel is appropriate (the focus and accountability is on high performance).
  • Managers own the job of creating great teams.  Imagine what you want your team to accomplish six months from now.  What specific results?  How is the work different from today?  What skills are needed to make that image a reality?  Then, what skills are currently on the team?  Do you need to shift people to better suited positions / what skills do you need to hire for?
  • Leaders own the job of creating the company culture – match talk with behavior, make sure everyone knows how the company makes money, etc.
  • Conduct conversations about performance as an organic part of work (far more effective than formal performance reviews) – for example, ask people to identify things that colleagues should stop, start, or continue.
  • Groups should be highly aligned with the corporate goals, but loosely coupled to allow for speed and flexibility.
  • Great colleagues and managers trump everything else.
  • Hire people that put the company’s interests first (instead of spending great effort on managing those that don’t).
  • Hire and expect adult like behavior (honesty, communicating with candor, communicating openly and professionally, etc.).
  • HR should focus on what’s good for the company, how that is communicated to employees, and how every worker can understand what is meant by high performance.