Communicate Directly…Not Rudely

Telling it like it is” can be a big asset, especially for people leading teams. It’s best not to camouflage critical feedback, provide people with vague guidance, or set unclear expectations. Clearly communicating what you want and need from your people, and why, makes everything more efficient.

The issue arises when leaders toe the line between being direct and being abrasive. This can be incredibly difficult for new managers, who are trying to show authority while also forming a trusting relationship with their team. How do you find a healthy balance?

When giving feedback, focus on facts — not emotions. Facts are objective, while emotions are subjective. When you refer to facts, you remove your personal emotions from the conversation. Provide them with points of improvement and enter the conversation with the positive intention of helping them learn. Ensure that your comments address the work, process, or results—not that specific person.

When expressing an opinion, use “I” statements — not “you” statements. Nobody likes to be accused or told they’re wrong. When you speak in accusatory language or start every sentence with “you did this” or “you did that,” the conversation either shuts down or escalates because the receiver gets defensive. Instead of pointing fingers, use “I” statements when discussing your subjective opinions, or if you want to remain objective, refer to the work you’re discussing (as opposed to the person doing the work).

When turning someone down, turn a hard “no” into a soft “maybe.” When you’re neck deep in work and someone asks you for something, as a direct person, your instinct may be to clearly say “no” to the least important of these requests. But, if you’re too blunt, you will likely be perceived as someone who refuses to collaborate or provide others with much-needed guidance. Turn your hard no’s into soft maybe’s. Find the compassion to thoughtfully offer the requester an alternative that works better for you and your schedule.

When making a request, be considerate — not commanding. Many people plan out their day and know exactly what they’re going to do and how they’re going to tick things off of their to-do list. When you come in with a request, know that someone is going to have to make time for it. It’s okay to tell them exactly what you want but be considerate. Instead of coming across bossy, let them know you appreciate their time and help, while being clear about what you need help with.

Oftentimes, the idea of being direct becomes synonymous with being an aggressive office bully. That doesn’t need to be the case! You can be direct and honest without hurting other people’s feeling and maintaining a culture of kindness.

 

References:
Harvard Business Review (2023, July 31) Yasmina Khelifi and Irina Cozma: How to Be Direct Without Being Rude
The Muse (2020, June 19) Kat Boogaard: 5 Keys to Be Blunt at Work – Without Sounding Like a Total Jerk

Build Trust in the Workplace by Practicing Empathy

Lifting up both individuals and teams and recognizing emotions builds stronger communities, more trust, and helps people feel cared for. With the environment continuing to feel uncertain, engaging employees in this way is more important than ever. While calls to reduce burnout, implement systemic fixes, and increase retention mount, managers in any industry can implement these strategies immediately to listen deeply for emotions, reflect that understanding, and provide appreciation, connection, and community. These tactics can be used in both in-person and virtual environments, on a regular basis or as needed, in whichever order works for your team.

Appreciation round. One person completes the following sentence about a colleague and then tags the next person: “What I appreciate about you, John, is…”

The more specific and detailed you can be about the behavior or attribute, the better.

Complete-me exercise. Have people complete one of these sentences, either verbally or written:

  • “Compassion is hardest when…”
  • “I made a difference yesterday when I…”
  • “I show up every day because…”

Step-in circles. Get everyone together in a circle and ask them to step in when they agree with a statement. After each statement, ask people to step back to the original circle. Like a funnel, you start superficial, then increase vulnerability. Examples might include:

  • Step in if you prefer the beach to the mountains.
  • Step in if you have not had a chance to exercise in a week … a month … a year.
  • Step in if you feel like you are not enough some days … most days.
  • Step in if you worry that you are a failure.

When doing this exercise in a remote environment, ask people to use the hand-raise feature instead of stepping into the circle.

Personal notes. Provide note cards for employees and leaders to recognize someone, express gratitude, or acknowledge an emotional event. There is magic in the feel of a card in your hands and the thoughtfulness of a penned note. Remote employees can mail their cards or use e-cards.

Check-ins. Try this one-word heart check: “Give me one word that describes how you’re showing up today emotionally.”
Then simply acknowledge the range of emotions people are experiencing.

 

References:
Harvard Business Review (2023, February 10) Christine Porath and Adrienne Boissy: Practice Empathy as a Team

Srini’s Tech Tip: Opening Links in a New Tab or Browser Window

Many people love weblinks to navigate to various items of interest. It is the single most utilized function on a webpage and is the epitome of user friendliness. Consequently, when a link is broken or does not work or behave properly, it can also be a source of inconvenience or even an unfriendly experience.

Many browsers have links that open the target in the same browser tab and, unless the user is aware of this behavior, many will click on the close button (X, top right corner of the window), which will close the whole browser window.  This is not what the user intended to do and now they will have to reopen the webpage manually all over again.  The user has to be aware enough to click on the back button (Left Arrow, top left of browser window), to go back to the previous window.

The following steps and screenshots describe and provide the solution to such behavior using the CTRL and SHIFT keys.

STEPS:
  1. Clicking on a weblink opens the new webpage in the same browser tab (figures 1 – 3)
  2. Hold down the CTRL key while clicking on a weblink, to open the new webpage in a NEW browser TAB (figures 4 –5)
  3. Hold down the SHIFT key while clicking on a weblink, to open the new webpage in a NEW browser WINDOW (figure 6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mouse Tip: Instead of using the CTRL and SHIFT keys, you can also Right-click and choose to open in a new Tab or a new Window.

 

Boost Brain Power and Increase Learning Capacity

Does everyone have the ability to learn? Of course. Learning is what our brains do. As we interact with the environment, the neurons in our brains make connections. Those connections are strengthened with practice and may be pruned away if they are not used.

While everyone has the ability to learn, we don’t all have the same capacity to learn. Some things are easy for a particular person to learn; other things are difficult. Things that are easy for one person to learn may be hard for another. And we may find learning something easier or more difficult at different ages. For example, learning language is trivially easy for most young children, but becomes much more difficult as we age.

While it may seem that we have little control over these differences, our learning capacity is something that can be built to a far greater degree than most of us understand. Knowing the most effective strategies for how to learn can help you maximize your efforts when you are trying to acquire new ideas, concepts, and skills. If you are like many people, your time is limited, so it is important to get the most educational value out of the time you have.

Knowing how to learn well is not something that happens overnight but putting a few of these learning techniques into daily practice can help you get more out of your study time.

1.  Find ways to boost your memory. Strategies that can help improve your memory include:

  • Get regular physical exercise, which is linked to improvements in memory and brain health.
  • Spend time socializing with other people.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eliminate distractions so you can focus.
  • Organize the information to make it easier to remember.
  • When you learn something new, spend a few moments describing it to yourself in your own words.
  • Use visual aids like photographs, graphs, and charts.
  • Read the information you are learning out loud.

2.  Always keep learning new things. One sure-fire way to become a more effective learner is to simply keep learning. Research has found that the brain is capable of producing new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis.

3.  Use a variety of learning techniques. Another one of the best ways to learn is to focus on learning in more than one way. One helpful tip is to try writing out your notes on paper rather than typing on a laptop, tablet, or computer. Research has found that longhand notes can help cement information in memory more effectively than digital note-taking.

4.  Try teaching it to someone else. Educators have long noted that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else. Start by translating the information into your own words. This process alone helps solidify new knowledge in your brain. Next, find some way to share what you’ve learned.

5.  Connect new information to things you already know. Another great way to become a more effective learner is to use relational learning, which involves relating new information to things that you already know.

6.  Look for opportunities to have hands-on experiences. While seeing information and then writing it down is important, actually putting new knowledge and skills into practice can be one of the best ways to improve learning.

7.  Remember that mistakes are part of the process. Research suggests that making mistakes when learning can improve learning outcomes. One study found that mistakes followed by corrective feedback can be beneficial to learning. If you make a mistake when learning something new, spend some time correcting the mistake and examining how you arrived at the incorrect answer.

8.  Study a little bit every day. One research study suggests that this type of distributed learning is one of the most effective learning techniques.  Focus on spending a little time studying each topic every day.

9.  Test yourself. While it may seem that spending more time studying is the best ways to maximize learning, research has demonstrated that testing yourself actually helps you better remember what you’ve learned. Spending time retrieving information from memory improves the long-term memory of that information.

10.  Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking involves trying to do more than one thing at the same time, but it can also involve quickly switching back and forth between tasks or trying to rapidly perform tasks one after the other. According to research, doing this not only makes people less productive when they work but also impairs attention and reduces comprehension.

 

References:
Very Well Mind (2023, March 10) Kendra Cherry, MSEd: How to Learn More Effectively
Ed Circuit (2020, December 9) Betsy Hill: 3 Keys to Building Individual Learning Capacity

« Older posts