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In Tough Times-Silence Is NOT Golden

In Tough Times-Silence Is NOT Golden

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In the face of this severe, take-no-prisoners economic downturn, far too many organizations are responding in knee-jerk reaction to the thought of holding all but the smallest of meetings. Training budgets are slashed. Employees hunker behind their desk, hoping that no one from HR can find them or else they’re huddled around a PDA, text messaging about possible layoff scenarios, pending mergers, or hiring freezes. Performance? Productivity? I think not.

Now more than ever, managers at all levels of the organization need to do that which separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom: TALK!
In the face of this severe, take-no-prisoners economic downturn, far too many organizations are responding in knee-jerk reaction to the thought of holding all but the smallest of meetings. Training budgets are slashed. Employees hunker behind their desk, hoping that no one from HR can find them or else they’re huddled around a PDA, text messaging about possible layoff scenarios, pending mergers, or hiring freezes. Performance? Productivity? I think not.

Now more than ever, managers at all levels of the organization need to do that which separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom: TALK!

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Published by: Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE on May 19, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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05/11/2014

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In Tough Times-Silence Is NOT Golden
In the face of this severe, take-no-prisoners economic downturn, far too many organizations areresponding in knee-jerk reaction to the thought of holding all but the smallest of meetings.Training budgets are slashed. Employees hunker behind their desk, hoping that no one from HR can find them or else they’re huddled around a PDA, text messaging about possible layoff scenarios, pending mergers, or hiring freezes. Performance? Productivity? I think not. Now more than ever, managers at all levels of the organization need to do that which separatesus from the rest of the animal kingdom: TALK!
Here’s why:
 (1) In the absence of information, we connect the dots in the most pathological way possible.(2) E-mail works fine for data but when emotions are involved, only face-to-face really carriesthe day(3) There’s a huge benefit when people gather to share ideas, brainstorm new procedures, learnmore about team members, have questions answered, or explore ways to streamline work loads.(4) Smart companies will use this downtime to cross train, to coach for performance and career development, and involve employees in corporate decisions.(5) Diverse perspectives are critical for innovation and these are best gleaned throughconversation.
Bottom Line:
The organization will have a solid, committed employee base, poised to moveinto front position when the turnaround comes.But this will only happen if TALK becomes the preferred vehicle of communication.
Four Communication strategies to increase your Talk Quotient (TQ).
 
STRATEGY # 1: CONDUCT A TALKING STICK MEETING
A talking stick meeting allows everyone to hear a wide variety of ideas and inputs because each person who “holds the stick” is assured free speech, no reprisals, no humiliations, and nointerruptions. Many native American tribes used the stick as a way of allowing all voices to beheard.
 
 
Talking Stick Meeting Checklist:
 (1) Create a focus question to present to the group, assuring them that all are invited to speak,without interruption or humiliation.(2) Form a real circle with everyone in the circle. This brings equality(3) When everyone who wishes to has spoken, summarize the conversation and what you will dowith the information.
STRATEGY #2: SEEK OUT THE “ORANGE BATONS”
If you happen to get a window seat on a plane that is coming into the terminal, look out and findthe man or woman who is guiding a 737 aircraft (weighing over 90,710 pounds) into position.Those small orange batons wield plenty of authority in the moment. And well they should.You see, there’s a line painted on the tarmac to show exactly where the front wheel of the 737MUST stop. Otherwise, passengers at the gate literally would have a pilot in their laps. The problem: the pilot sits too high to see that line. The pilot depends upon the “orange Batons” – those closest to the situation—to move the craft into position.Everyone has orange batons in the workplace. The higher up an organization a manager sits, themore crucial is the conversation. As customers, we’ve all been privy to disgruntled customer service reps who can’t help us because senior managers have created practices that tie their hands. Recently, I asked to speak to the support service personnel on a Delta Sky Miles Account.The agent informed me that even THEY can’t TALK to support personnel. “We can only useFAX and Courier service,” was the response. I was angry and so was the agent. “They” hadmade decisions without asking the Orange Batons what the ramifications might be.
STRATEGY #3 PAY ATTENTION TO LITTLE DAVIDS
 When Patrick Harker, now the former Dean of Wharton School, was asked what made thecritical difference in the school’s most successful fund-raising campaign ($425 million in sixyears), he replied that he made it a priority to engage the next generation of alumni leadership.Listening to the voice of David is a tradition from the Middle Ages and the Benedictines. Theabbot of a monastery made decisions after getting the input from all the monks, beginning withthe youngest monk. Had the elders in the Old Testament listened to the young kid with theslingshot, the giant Goliath would have been dispatched quickly. Little David was right, but ittook time for the tribe to understand that young (or new) did not mean “unskilled.”
 
 Who are the newest and/or youngest on the team—your David's? It is often the newest memberswho ask the most discerning questions. They are not jaded by politics, the past, or protocol. Ask them for their opinions. Tell them that you expect them to teach you something at the end of three months. I guarantee that those employees will search high and wide to bring you innovationor, at the very least, an insight into some of your procedures, products, or services.“Words of wisdom are spoken by children at least as often as scientists.” —James Newman,American Astronaut
STRATEGY #4 LAUGHTER LIFTS THE LOAD
 In tough times, humor is an essential survival skill. Talk can also be funny. Not the sarcastic biting humor of put-downs and inside jokes, but rather the humor that can lighten a difficultsituation or put something in perspective.A travel agency was known for helping its agents get through difficult customers by awardingthe Order of the SALMON. At the end of the week, agents would know which agent had themost challenging week with customers yet still managed to keep a positive interaction going.With much fanfare, the agent explained the challenge and was urged to exaggerate and use asmuch humor as possible. She was then awarded a plastic salmon for her ability to SWIM UPSTREAM. Being able to talk about the week, laugh at the difficulties, and be rewarded for staying calm helped generate both fun and connection within the office.Laughter can put people at ease if it is used to acknowledge what everyone is thinking. I wasasked to speak at a convention in which the main session room temperature hovered around 50degrees. People were wrapped in tablecloths. By the end of the second day, it still had notwarmed up. When it was my turn to talk, I welcomed them by saying, “Welcome to the land of the frozen chosen.”Gales of laughter and applause burst out. It made a point. The attendees were CHOSEN to bethere. It was a privilege.Humor also lets us divide the serious from the mundane. Yes—the room was way too cold. Butin the scheme of things, it was not as important as gathering to work out a new marketingstrategy. Humor can also point out the trite and the silly things we all do in work, relievetension, and probably improve a process. When one group acted out a very funny skit around thevarious voice mail doom loops a customer had to go through in order to get to a human being,everyone laughed…and the system changed in short order.

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