Thursday, June 29, 2017

Learn How to be a Better Boundary Setter


When I explain EQ, I tell people that it’s about using situational awareness and empathy to read your audience to know how to make temporary adjustments in yourself that meet the needs of the other person over your own. Note that I said over your own, not instead of your own. Many people ask if using emotional intelligence means you have to be a pushover (the answer is no and if you want to learn more about that, see my article here). If you are looking for ways to balance your own boundaries with the needs of others, read on.

In order to gain more influence and be more effective with others, you should be a selfless communicator. That means putting aside your own agenda or sole perspective to better understand the viewpoint of others. It does not mean you have to agree with that perspective to understand it, but you do need to be a generous listener. The goal is to make small adjustments to others while still maintaining your own needs, by being firm but appropriate. 

Here are some ways to set communication boundaries with others:

1. Instead of having open door / on demand availability to others, set a time limit for an interaction, for example: “Can you talk tomorrow? I have a 30-minute window open at 2pm” or “I don’t want to cut you off, but I have a commitment in ten minutes." Even if you don’t, end the meeting as if you do.

2. Ask the person to give you the bottom line. Some people like to add a lot of unnecessary detail so don’t be afraid to say, “Can you first give me a high level overview of the problem? That allows me to ask for the specifics I need that will help me clarify my understanding without wasting your time.” 

3. If the person is a chronic complainer, say “I have heard you complain of this before, what have you done to change the situation since we last spoke?” This puts some ownership back on them and allows you to then say, “Let me know how it goes after you try…” to send the message that I am done listening to this until you have tried something new.

4. Make empathy statements that validate their frustration but don’t allow them to take advantage of your listening nature if you are not the person who can help them. “I understand it is a frustrating situation but I don’t think I am the one who needs to hear this, why don’t you talk to…?” “I wish I could help you with this, but it is out of my ability to do so."

5. Misery seeks company. If they think you will join them in their negativity/complaining or even if you stay quiet while they do it, it will continue. If you start being very positive with statements like, “I’ve learned that things are never really as bad as they seem.” “Don’t worry, things always work out for the best!” “Isn’t life great how it teaches us via setbacks?” “There are always two sides to every story.” They will stop. They don’t want to be around someone who is too cheery, optimistic or refuses to perpetuate their drama.

It’s not always easy or comfortable to set boundaries with others, but the more EQ you demonstrate every day the more others will respect you and your needs. Healthy relationships have an equal balance of candor and support, don’t be afraid to tip the scales as needed.   

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Culture


This week's blog explores the concept of culture in the workplace, and what all the buzz is about.


The definition of Corporate Culture includes a common understanding of definitions and traditions, including the appropriate ways to behave. In short, it is the way things get done at your company.
 

 A strong culture gives a business an edge in two major ways: 

1) it empowers people to think of themselves on behalf of the company and it allows them to do it with confidence.  

2) it builds the brand image as the customer experience is shaped consistently and reinforced with every interaction.
Spend a few moments considering your corporate culture and how you can be more intentional about shaping it into the one you desire.
 
Questions to Consider

What five words describe your corporate culture today? Are you satisfied with those descriptors? 

By limiting your description you can hone in on succinct thoughts about your culture. Ask the same question of your team and compare answers. You may find their perceptions extremely insightful. 

There are several factors that influence a corporate culture: 
  •    Atmosphere - how the office or retail location looks, smells, and sounds. This includes how employees dress and are titled
  •   Policies  - what is formally allowed and isn't allowed
  •   Performance Measures - the behaviors and results that people are measured by both formally and informally
  •   Reward - what actions are noticed and incentivized
  •   Training / Onboarding Experience - how you welcome your new employees to your company 
  •   Folklore - stories that get told about your company by your customers and employees
  •   Tone of Leader - leadership will always have the most influence over your organization's culture  

 How does your atmosphere support your stated business goals and values? 

Are your policies directly supporting the behaviors you expect from your employees?
Take a look at your performance reviews; do they measure behaviors proportional to results?

Do employees receive rewards not just for the results they get but how they get them?

When new employees start with the company does the Onboarding experience consist of a review of paperwork and benefits with Human Resources in a conference room? 

Does the company encourage folklore as a way to keep traditions alive? 

Does every member of senior management set the right tone to support the culture? Duplicity is toxic to credibility. When you say one thing and then have hidden rules, you force employees to behave in self-preserving ways; they learn the loopholes, workarounds, and can go underground. Most employees will follow the path of least resistance to meeting their goals.

One way to know if your actual corporate culture is aligned to your desired one is to read about your company in the news, on its website, or in internal publications and ask if you (and your employees) feel like the picture painted is an accurate representation of the way things really are? If you are a business that draws the general public to your location, there will be a wealth of chatter online about the real customer experience. Check out what people are saying.

As a manager, you cannot control every aspect of your corporate culture, but you do wield a great influence over it. By understanding and intentionally shaping your company's culture, you can work and interact more effectively.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Interview with Jen Shirkani...Wait, What?

Hello everyone!  In September of last year I had the great pleasure of interviewing my close colleague and friend Greg Hawks of Hawks Agency.  This week he decided to turn the tables and put me in the hot seat!  It was a fun interview with an incredibly enthusiastic, thoughtful, and gracious host!  Together we, "open the kimono," a bit about my own personal story, and inspiration for my new book Choose Resilience.  I hope you enjoy it! Thanks Greg!



Jen Shirkani Interview from Hawks Agency on Vimeo.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Month in a Minute

If you are a regular reader of my blog, I am going to assume you know that the focus this month has been the publication of my new book, Choose Resilience. For my first book, Ego vs EQ, I used a traditional publisher and this time I self-published, so my experience with the process has been very different. Although maneuvering the world of self-publishing has been challenging, it has been a good exercise in adaptability for me. And unlike my first book, this one tells so much of my personal story, it has also been an exercise in vulnerability.
 
Bright and early on the laundry truck
We did manage to also accomplish a few others things this month. Steve made several trips to New England to facilitate programs, I spoke at the Central Massachusetts HR association year-end meeting, I spoke at a global leadership meeting for a new client, and I had one very interesting day working in the field with another client to better understand a day-in-the-life of a front line employee.
 
The company is a very large uniform laundry service provider and I rode in the truck with one of their route salesmen. Our day started at 5am and ended around 1pm (we took no breaks) with stops to a grocery store, mechanic shops, chemical plants, a couple of restaurants, and even a butcher. We dropped off clean uniforms, towels and rugs but also had to pick up the dirty ones which were quite stinky, covered in rotting food, gasoline, and blood. And I had it lucky, I went in May. I couldn’t imagine doing that job while trudging through 2 feet of snow, or the odors that must permeate the whole truck by the end of a hot August day. The experience left me feeling quite grateful for the people who are dedicated to the service industry, and for the work I am lucky enough to do (which doesn’t involve anything smelly).