Archive for the ‘stress managment’ Category

Employee Engagement and Communication

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Employee disengagement is expensive!!!!  According to a recent Gallop survey, disengaged employees cost employers 1 out of every 3 payroll dollars.  A burned-out, stressed-out, and over-worked workforce is becoming more and more the rule rather than the exception.  According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics latest numbers, the average number of hours an employee works is on the rise (3.6%),  but output is not keeping pace – only a 2.6% rise during the same period.

Why do these numbers matter?  If you are leading a team or a member of a team, many of your colleagues are contributing less and less and feeling more and more over-worked.  Performance is suffering, customer service in impacted, and tempers are at the breaking point (recall the flight attendant who recently “escaped” his work environment by launching himself down the evacuation slide – beer in hand and luggage in tow.)

What can we as individual leaders or team members do about this challenging state of the workforce?  Here are 3 simple things anyone, anywhere can do to improve employee engagement and morale.

1.  Express Appreciation – It is a simple thing that can make a big difference.  Say “thank you” regularly, communicate your gratitude when someone goes above and beyond, and take the time to brag about others in front of the boss or other power players.

2.  Keep People Informed – Communicating to employees or colleagues the “whys” and the big picture can help them stay connected.  When people feel like they are “in the loop” they are more committed.  Be careful of having a “on a need to know basis” mindset.  In this day and age when keeping everyone engaged is key, everyone “needs to know.”

3.  Catch People in the Act of Doing Something Right – It can be very easy in tough times to stay focused on the negative: production goals that go unmet, errors rates that are too high, delays, and mistakes.  Constant focus on the negative is demoralizing and unmotivating.  Take time every day to praise a colleague or an employee for something they have done right – whether it is a big or a little thing.  Making a conscious effort to see the positive will actually increase the number of positive things you see.  It’s all about what we choose to focus on.

None of us can take a disengaged workforce and completely turn it around by ourselves.  However, if we each make it a habit to practice the above 3 simple things, we will begin to make a positive impact in our own circle of influence.

Do you find this useful or thought provoking?  If so, post your comments, tweet about it, and share it with your friends.  For more information about me, Pamela Jett, and the communication tools I provide, please visit www.JettCT.com

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Conflict, Communication, and Your Emotional Vocabulary

by Pamela Jett, CSP

The deepest need of the human soul is to be understood.

I believe this to be true and it is especially true during conflict and confrontation or emotionally charged situations.  We are looking for others to “get it” or to understand what we are feeling.  And, when we don’t feel understood it can lead to genuine frustration, damaged relationships, and increased conflict.

While we can’t make people better listeners and we can’t improve the empathy skills of others, we can do one simple thing that will increase the likelihood that we will be more fully understood during emotional conversation.  We can build our emotional vocabularies.

I believe that many of us are walking around with fairly limited emotional vocabularies.  We feel rich, complex, and diverse emotions, but we tend to rely on the same limited number of words to express those feelings.  For example, when we are feeling confused and frustrated by another’s behavior we often simply say we are “angry.”  Or, when we are feeling lonely and under-appreciated we might simply say we are feeling “sad.”  Or, when we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control we might resort to labeling that complex state as simply being “stressed.”

Is it any wonder that we don’t feel understood when we are oversimplifying our emotional states?  If you are looking for others to better understand what you are feeling, get better at accurately expressing those feelings.  Build your emotional vocabulary.

When you more accurately describe your internal state, you will likely receive a more on target or “understanding” response from others.  While this doesn’t solve all the challenges during emotional conversations, it can help us each feel more understood and that is a great place to start!


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The Bully in the Next Cube

by Pamela Jett

Difficult people are everywhere. There are exploders, snipers, steamrollers, and chronic complainers in our personal lives and in our professional lives. While it might be possible in our personal lives to avoid difficult people to a degree, it is virtually impossible to do so at work. To make things even more challenging, we cannot make a difficult person not be difficult. Difficult people are difficult because it is working for them. What we can do is train the difficult person that while their difficult behavior might be working with others, it does not work with us. Training a difficult person how to treat you requires some remarkable communication techniques.

One of the most effective techniques is to do the unexpected. Difficult people are used to others responding to them in a predictable fashion. For example, when an exploder explodes or yells he or she is accustomed to having others yell back. They are also used to having others cry, become defensive, or cave in. What they are not expecting is for you to stay calm and to agree with them. The savvy communicator will look for something to agree with in the exploder™s tirade. The vast majority of exploders are what we would call œreasonable or œrational exploders which mean they are exploding about something that it is reasonable or rational to become upset over. The challenge for the exploder is how they choose to express their upset. They might scream or yell that a mistake has been made on their account. The savvy communicator would stay calm and say something such as œyou are right – this is a serious error and we need to talk about it. This can catch them off guard and often causes them to settle down and behave in a more emotionally mature fashion.

Another remarkable technique is to use boundary statements. Boundary statements let the difficult person know that you are not going to engage with them if they continue to communicate in an abusive or bullying fashion. For example, if you are dealing with a hothead you might opt to say œthis is important and I want to talk about it, just not this way. You might need to repeat this statement a few times. However, by doing so you are sending a clear message that you are not going to engage with them until they are more civil.

You can also use boundary statements to deal with a steamroller. The classic example of a steamroller is a two year old in the store who demands a cookie over and over and over again and simply will not take no for an answer. Their goal is to wear the adult out so that they get their way. Some people never outgrow this tendency and they are steamrollers as adults and they push and push and push. The goal with a steamroller is to train them that you don™t change your mind simply because they want to outlast you. A useful boundary statement to master is œI see it differently – tell me more if you like. Of course, a steamroller will tell you more. However, if you consistently tell them you œsee it differently they will eventually understand that while their steamrolling tactics work with others, they don™t work with you.

One of my favorite remarkable techniques is to make the hidden obvious. This technique is most useful when dealing with a sniper. A sniper is the kind of person who likes to take œpot-shots or make snide or clever œdigs. Most of the time they take their pot-shots in public because they assume you will not have the courage to defy social convention and call them on their inappropriate comments in public. A crucial step in dealing with them is to be willing to call them on their behavior (a form of doing the unexpected) by making the hidden obvious. Here are a few examples:

Wow, I thought I heard an insult in what you just said. Did you mean it that way?

Oh, comments like that sound like you are criticizing my idea. Is that what you intended?

It sounds like you are trying to embarrass me in front of our peers. You™re not doing that are you?

Making the hidden obvious is a two-step process. The first step is to take their hidden agenda and bring it right out in the open. So, if you think they are trying to embarrass you that is what you bring out. The second step is to ask a yes or no question so that you put them in the position of confirming or denying your perception. The good news is the vast majority of snipers will back-peddle and deny. And although you™ve not had them admit to their inappropriate behavior, that is fine. Because now they know that you are not afraid to call them on their inappropriate behavior and they will think twice about being a sniper with you again. You will have successfully trained them how to treat you.

Probing questions are also remarkably useful – particularly when dealing with a chronic complainer. Chronic complainers are often simply looking for someone to reward them by commiserating with them. Instead of commiserating, try saying œI can tell this really bothers you. What do you think ought to be done about it? Or, œThat is frustrating. What is your plan for dealing with it? These are often questions they can™t answer. And, if every time they come to you for commiseration you ask them how to solve the problem, they will soon see coming to you as work and they will stop coming to you. Or, and this is even better, they just might come up with a solution and they will have transformed from a chronic complainer to a problem solver.

Difficult people are everywhere, sometimes even in the next cube. It is not possible to make the difficult person not be difficult. What we can do is use remarkable communication techniques to train the difficult person that while their difficult behavior may be rewarded by others, it will not be rewarded by us.

Pamela Jett is a communucation skills expert, speaker, and author. For other great communication tools visit www.Jettct.com.

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Economic Downturn and Professional Development

By Pamela Jett

At first glance, the phrases “economic downturn” and “professional development” likely don’t seem very congruent. However, I see it differently. I believe it is extraordinarily important during an economic downturn for individuals and organizations to be committed to professional development. The challenge is that during an economic downturn, many organizations and individuals may believe that professional development is a luxury they just cannot afford.

Knowledge is power and the more we know the better decisions we typically make, the quicker we are able to solve problems, the more creative we can be in thinking of ways to stimulate the bottom line. I believe there are really only two ways to gain knowledge.

One way to gain knowledge is in the “school of hard knocks”. By that I mean learning things through experimentation, through trial and error, by making things up as we go along (anyone currently enrolled?) While there is nothing wrong with learning from our own mistakes and experiences (in fact, some would argue, and I would agree, that there really is no such thing as failure unless we fail to learn) the “school of hard knocks” does come with a hefty tuition bill. We can make expensive mistakes, engage in career damaging decisions, and pay a hefty price in terms of our professional reputation and opportunity cost. All this is in addition to the actual “cost” (money, customer loyalty, etc…) a mistake or an error might incur. In challenging economic times, regardless of your current job status, can you really afford to learn things the hard way? I doubt it. I know that I can’t.

Which is why I am a HUGE advocate of the second way to learn things – through the knowledge, experience, and advice of others. I want to proactively tap into the resources that are available to me to help me get results without having to experience a steep learning curve. I genuinely believe this approach will help me work smarter. I will gladly part with some of my hard earned resources and my time to attend a workshop, listen to a podcast, or read a book if the end result is that I am able to put into practice tools that will bring more value to my customers or organization. I can’t afford to make a foolish error simply because I was neglecting my professional development and thought that attending a workshop was a luxury I couldn’t afford. I look at professional development as something I can’t afford to neglect at this time.

So, I’ve been attending workshops, meetings, conventions, listening to audios, reading books, and tapping into mentors like at no other time in my professional career. Yes, some of this costs money. Yes, it all takes my valuable time (opportunity cost.) And yes, I am confident I will see a return on my investment.

My question to you is, what are you doing today to make yourself more valuable to your employer or customer tomorrow? Are you actively acquiring new knowledge? Are you proactively seeking new information to help you solve problems and grow the bottom line? Are you focusing on fear or are you focusing on opportunity? Are you spending your valuable time and cognitive processes bemoaning the economy or are you accepting that we live in challenging times and focusing your energy and efforts on improving yourself?

If you could take every second, every minute, every hour of the last 30 days that you’ve spent discussing economic problems, listening to pundits repeat the bad news and point fingers and added them all up, how much time and energy would that be? How much more fruitful would that time be if spent on professional development? In challenging economic times, professional development is one luxury in which we can’t afford not to indulge.

Pamela Jett is a professional speaker who teaches remarkable communication skills for remarkable results to professionals around the world. She can be found at http://www.jettct.com/ . If you are interested in booking Pamela to speak at your organization or event, call Aimee at 866.726.5388. You can also follow Pamela on Twitter or join her on Facebook.

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The Core of Communication Confidence

by Pamela Jett

In my last post I talked about how important balance is for communication success. When we are out of balance in any area of our lives, it can make it very difficult to use the good communication skills most of us do indeed posses. Sometimes, regardless of how well balanced we are, life can throw us a few curves that can threaten to throw us off balance and impact our ability to communicate with confidence. It is at times like these that we must access our “core” in order to have successful communication (and successful relationships) during challenging times.

As many of my regular readers and clients know, I work with a personal trainer several times a week. Her name is Amber and she is terrific! One of the things we do on a regular basis are a series of “balance activities”. For example, I will be holding weights (sometimes very heavy ones from my point of view, but not hers!) and then required to step up on a weight bench, balance on one leg, press the weights over my head, lower them, and return to the floor. Remember, this is all while standing on one leg! The only way I can stay up-right during this off balance activity is to tighten (or access) my core, those muscles located in my abdomen and lower back.

Not long ago I was working with clients and I realized that these “balance activities” where I have to access my core are parallel to what life is like for many of us on a regular basis. There are times that no matter how well we try to stay balanced, something will cause us to be off balance. Additionally, most, if not all, of us carry some heavy weights (burdens, responsibilities) on a regular basis. When we are thrown off balance by circumstances, events, someones behavior, a change in the organizational environment (or any of the other challenges life throws at us), most of us still need to be productive. We still need to effectively manage the weights that we carry.

It is at times like these that we must access our “personal core”. Our “personal cores” are our values, our character, our inner strength that comes from our personal belief system. The challenging thing for many professionals is that we spend so much of our time dealing with our “weights” that we rarely take the time to ask ourselves the important questions such as “what matters most to me?” or “is this activity moving me closer to or further away from the person I want to become” or ” what do I want people to say about me when I am gone – what is the legacy I want leave?” These are the “big questions” of life. How we answer these questions typically reflects our highest priorities – our core.

It can be challenging to stay effective, to communicate effectively, when we are managing a heavy burden (weights). It can be even more challenging when life throws us off balance. It is during those heavily burdened, off balance times that our core matters. What is at your core? When we know who we are from the inside out, it is easier to communicate with confidence. We can say no and not feel guilty because we are engaging in behavior consistent with our values and beliefs. We can have the difficult conversations with others who may be engaged in inappropriate behavior because we value ourselves enough not to be doormats, the examples are endless.

I encourage you to find your core. Access it when times are tough. Ask yourself “is my communication moving me closer to or further away from the person I want to become?”

For more information on communicating with confidence visit me, Pamela, at http://www.jettct.com/. If you have a success story about a time when you accessed your core for communication confidence, I would love for you to drop me a message at Pamela@jettct.com.

We also have exciting news! On July 9th I will be hosting a powerful teleseminar on providing exceptional customer service during tough economic times. This program will focus on the words and phrases front line service providers ought to use (and those “kiss of death” words and phrases to avoid – some will surprise you) to keep customers thrilled. It is not too late to register. Visit https://my.confertel.net/confertel/crsNewRegister.jsp?program=450002 to register.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills expert who believes that words matter. She works with organizations, associations and individuals who want to improve their communication skills for business and personal success. She can be reached toll free at 866.726.5388 or at her website http://www.jettct.com/ .

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Balance for Better Communication

By Pamela Jett

The other day I was working with clients and we were discussing how when we are “out of balance” emotionally (such as being angry), spiritually (such as being burnt out), physically (such as not getting good nutrition, rest and exercise) and mentally (not learning new things regularly to enhance career success), it is very difficult to use the good communication skills that we do indeed possess.

For example, if you are tired and feeling a bit overworked or under appreciated, it might be difficult to say “no” with tact and finesse to a colleague who requests that you help them with their project. (for more on how to say no with tact and finesse, check this blog’s archives and visit www.JettCT.com for resources) Under more “balanced” circumstances, you might be able to easily access the good communication skills you posses. However, when we are “out of balance”, we are more likely to say things we regret. Below are a few quick tips to help you maintain “balance” for better communication.

1. Remember that out of control emotions can make even smart people stupid. We want to be the master of our emotions and not let our emotions be the master of us. How do we do that? By using smart self talk during emotionally charged situations. By that I mean, when you are experiencing intense (and sometimes counter-productive emotions) you can move yourself out of your “emotional processing center” of the brain and into the “logical processing center” of the brain by engaging in smart self-talk such as trying to think of the names of the seven drawfs or doing sophisticated math in your head. By consciously over-riding your emotional processing center and accessing you logical processing center you are far more likely to choose your responses and words wisely in emotionally charged situations.

2. Remember to take time to “feed your soul”. It is very difficult in our current culture of be more, do more, have more to take time to relax and “feed your soul”. However, taking time in our regular schedule to do things that bring us joy can help us be more balanced. For example, many people take time for a hobby, or to read for pleasure, or to spend time with family and friends, listen to music, garden, the list of possibilities is endless. A balanced person takes time for themselves and spends time in joyful pursuits.

3. Value yourself enough to take care of yourself. This means the simple things like getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night, eating your breakfast, finding time for exercise. While we all know how to take care of ourselves, we often put ourselves last, taking care of everyone and everything else before we take care of ourselves. The flight attendants have it right when they say “put your own oxygen mask on before assisting those around you”. An empty well gives no drink. Take the time to take care of yourself and you will find that it is easier to use the good communication skills you do indeed possess.

4. Get new “brain wrinkles” regularly. Did you know that when you learn something new you get a literal “wrinkle” in your brain? The matter in your head creates connections called neuro-pathways and they are like small wrinkles in our brains. The balanced individual takes time to learn new things regularly for their personal and professional development. They know that “knowledge is power”, so they make a commitment to invest in themselves. Benjamin Franklin said “empty your pockets to feed your mind and your mind will feed your pockets.” Powerful. I am convinced that people who are dedicated to learning new skills (even when it means investing thier own resources to do so) in all areas of their lives are better communicators because they simply have more options to choose from. I applaud the readers of this blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide those new skills, the new “brain wrinkles” so that my readers can experience more communication success.

If you would like more ways to “wrinkle your brain”, visit www.JettCT.com. If you have a suggestion or there is a skill set you would like this blog to address, drop a note to Pamela@jettct.com.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills expert who believes that words matter. She works with organizations, associations and individuals who want to improve their communication skills for business and personal success. She can be reached toll free at 866.726.5388 or at her website www.JettCT.com

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