Tag Archives: communication

Simple tips for giving an effective ‘pep’ talk


By Elisabeth Goodman, 12th July 2017

HBR The Science of Pep Talks.JPG

The Science of Pep Talks, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2017

I wrote in a recent RiverRhee newsletter about Inspirational Leadership, and posted a LinkedIn article about Achieving Resonance in our Communications, so it was fascinating to read an HBR article that somehow combines the two!

David McGinn is the author of “Psyched Up: How the science of mental preparation can help you succeed”.  His article in the July-August 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, “The Science of Pep Talks” (pp. 133-137), is based on that.

Like all good HBR articles, this one comes with a check-list of elements that will help anyone seeking to inspire and motivate their audience towards action.  There are three pointers:

  1. Direction giving. Include a very clear message on what you expect people to do and, if appropriate, how they should do this.  This will also reduce any uncertainty or confusion.
  2. Empathy.  Connect with your audience by acknowledging what they are experiencing and feeling.  Give individuals and teams appropriate praise for their achievements, and express gratitude for their contributions.
  3. Meaning making.  Link the overall purpose of what you are seeking to achieve, with the audience’s own.  This connects your organisation’s or team’s purpose with individual motivation whatever it might be. It combines the why with the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

McGinn suggests also that, in an effective pep talk, the speaker will adjust the balance between the three elements depending on what people need.  If they are very clear on what is expected and why, then it may be mainly empathy that’s needed.  If they are already very motivated, then perhaps just a bit of direction giving.  And so on…

The article includes a nice case study to illustrate this too.

Concluding thoughts

These are all familiar messages in terms of effective leadership and effective communication.  They certainly resonate with me.

It will be interesting now to listen to people giving motivational talks with these three elements in mind.  To what extent do “pep” talks actually combine all three?

These will be interesting points for me to consider as we deliver a couple of RiverRhee’s newer courses in the autumn on Transition to Leadership, and Presentation Skills.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

What to do when the difficult person is your boss


By Elisabeth Goodman, 19th December 2016

untitled-design

My Associates and I at RiverRhee have a module that we explore with managers on dealing with difficult situations.  It is also something that can crop up in our one-to-one coaching.  Our delegates often have examples of situations that they have encountered with colleagues that they would like help with how to address.  Those colleagues are often peers or direct reports, occasionally they are their own bosses.

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Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams

So it was with interest that I read Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries’ article in December’s Harvard Business Review, “Do you hate your boss?” (pp.98-100).  The article is based on his work as a researcher, management coach and psychoanalyst, and includes some illustrative case studies.

People leave their boss rather than their job

Kets de Vries started by quoting some statistics that confirm the common maxim that people leave their boss rather than their job.  He stated that 77% of people in a Gallup survey said that they were engaged with their work and had positive interactions with their manager. Only 23% of those who were not engaged with their work had the same degree of positivity.

“Is it me”? Consider your own behaviour first

It was good to read Kets de Vries echo some of our guidelines: to consider whether it might be your own behaviour, rather than your boss’s, that is contributing to the difficult situation. He suggested that you reflect on the feedback that your boss has given you about your work to see if addressing that might make a difference.  Asking colleagues about and observing positive ways in which they interact with your boss, and asking them for feedback on your own behaviour could also help.  Asking your boss directly for ways that you could be even more effective in your work is an additional option.

Empathy is a great aid for achieving mutual understanding and rapport

I liked Ket de Vries’s suggestion that you should use empathy to put yourself in your boss’s shoes.  This could help you to understand what pressures your boss might be under, and how this in turn may be affecting their behaviour towards you.  After all we are all subject to stresses and strains, and we can’t always put them to one side.  An open question during an informal occasion: travelling together, over dinner, etc. may provide just the opportunity to show interest in what your boss is currently dealing with and so pave the way for a more positive relationship.

Of course you could seek a more direct way to open the discussion about how the two of you are or are not getting on, but the situation may have become too difficult to do so.

Waiting for an opportune moment to have a non-confrontational ‘debrief’

So, if neither of the above non-confrontational routes work, then Ket de Vries suggests waiting for an opportunity where you have worked with your boss on a project, or with a client, and perhaps things have not gone to plan, may lend itself to an ‘after action review’ style discussion.  You could suggest that the two of you take some time together to reflect on what happened, and on what you could both have done differently.  Again, this can be handled in a non-confrontational way.

Last resorts..

Ket de Vries’s final two options are to either organise a formal protest to HR, with the support of your colleagues.  Be careful to have facts and data to support you! Or you could start looking for your next job.  The author suggests that waiting for things to get better is only recommended if you give yourself a timeframe for that, rather than waiting indefinitely.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Engage with your stakeholders more effectively – stop talking about communication!


Guest blog by Fran Bodley-Scott, 25th August 2016

Editorial note: I came across Fran in my work for the APM Enabling Change SIG. She has developed an ‘ABCDE’ model for communication, which she offered to coach me on in support of a publication that we are preparing.

ABCDE logo for shaping communications, from Fran Bodley-Scott

ABCDE model for shaping communications, from Fran Bodley-Scott

I was very impressed by the effectiveness of this model at taking us through a structured process for thinking about our stakeholders and how we would engage with them. It’s a model that I think would help any line or project manager plan their communication activities. I asked Fran to write something about her approach. This is what she wrote…

Communication plays a big part in the ability of managers and teams to influence others.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on

RiverRhee’s training

for managing change

Managers and their teams don’t operate in an isolated world. They operate in and are influenced by their environment, and the ability of the team to deliver services and benefits depends on their ability to influence other people (their stakeholders). Partners, suppliers, sponsors, clients, experts and operators need to be engaged, persuaded, informed and supported. So, communication plays a big part in enabling a team to perform effectively. Unfortunately, poor communication can throw all sorts of spanners in the works:

  • Information can be misunderstood or interpreted in different ways depending on an individual’s expectations, assumptions, bias, prior experience or what’s going on around them. Making assumptions or not asking what people understand can result in confusion and mistakes.
  • Too much, too little or complex information can create a barrier to productivity: people become disinterested in working with you leading to delays, duplication of effort or poor quality.
  • A report can go unread, or a business case be rejected simply due to the way information is presented. The subsequent rework, delay and loss of confidence add cost and risk to the project.

Poor communication continues to be an issue

Poor communication costs money and impacts the team’s ability to be effective. This is not new: people have been saying it for years and yet it continues to be an issue: why? I believe there are three fundamental reasons:

‘SOS’ – sending out stuff: We’ve become accustomed to thinking of ‘communication’ in terms of output not outcome. Communication is defined as a two-way process of reaching a mutual understanding, yet discussions about communication frequently centre on what’s going to be produced: a website, a brochure, an email, a newsletter. People leap straight into writing content before considering who it is they need to reach and why.

Complexity: Communication is actually quite complicated. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account even for something as seemingly simple as getting a yes/no answer from the client. Without enough information about who you’re trying to engage with, it can be easy to overlook key issues that may help or hinder.

Difficulty: Communication also involves a number of different skills. An individual’s ability or confidence can affect whether they perceive ‘communication’ as an opportunity or a problem. The challenge of using social media, creating a video or emailing a senior executive can be a barrier if they feel they don’t have the skills, lack the time to work it out, or don’t want the risk of making a faux pas. If it’s not a priority for them, communication will just not happen.

Focus on attitudes and behaviours rather than communication.

So, if you want to improve the effectiveness of your team, my recommendation is that you stop talking about ‘communication’! It puts people in the wrong frame of mind and introduces all sorts of problems. Be confident about this: the raison d’être of your team is not to do communication. Focus instead on what attitudes and behaviours you need people to have and exhibit in order for your team to be successful.

Here are three simple steps to get you started:

  1. Measure outcome not output: Output is a measure of the team’s activity, what ‘stuff’ has been sent out. Outcome considers how effective the activity has been, whether the intended objective has been achieved. Choose criteria that help you understand how your activity has performed. For example, instead of a tick-box that checks whether a brochure has been received, evaluate how well the information provided has been understood, the level of confidence about using a new process, or motivation to change behaviour.
  2. Create solutions not challenges: Make it easy for the right messages to reach the right people at the right time. For example, provide team members with ready-to-use messages and guidelines for different platforms; format data to integrate automatically with another team’s process so that cascaded information is accurate and consistent; facilitate client feedback by being visible, accessible and flexible.
  3. Be audience-led not technology-driven: Instead of simply doing what’s convenient (eg. sending an email) or what everyone else does (eg. social media), take time to consider who it is that you need to reach and the most effective way to impact their behaviour or attitude. For example, seeing the finished product can influence confidence and commitment much more effectively than receiving a picture via email.
    “If the best way of reaching and influencing your audience is to stand on a box with a loud hailer, do that.” Stephen Hale, Head of Digital at the Department of Health

About the Author:

Fran Bodley-Scott is passionate about helping individuals and teams use communications effectively to achieve business goals. As a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Marketer Fran’s approach is both customer-focused and systematic, applying core marketing principles and the ABCDE communications process in order to drive business performance.

Her company, Marketing In Control Ltd, provides training and coaching in communications effectiveness and stakeholder engagement, as well as consultancy and marketing services. If you are interested in talking with Fran about your project, email scottf@marketingincontrol.com.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Communicating change – some practical procedural guidance


I’ve been on the look out for a good book on how to help teams develop their key messages for introducing change.  Whilst ‘Perfect Phrases for Communicating Change’ by Lawrence Polsky and Antoine Gershel1, does indeed have a rich array of phrases to use in different situations, it still did not quite help me with the ‘how’ for developing them.  However what the book does have is some very useful perspectives on how to go about communicating change.  This is what I will summarise in this blog.

Different phases of change require different kinds of intervention

The authors describe 3 phases: launch, execution, sustain.  There is of course also ‘prepare’, but this is something that we change management practitioners already know a lot about!

  1. Launch. This is the point at which it is essential that leaders communicate what is changing, and also what is not changing (this can give some sense of reassurance in an otherwise changing landscape.  Leader also need to consistently communicate the ‘why’ – something that sometimes gets left out of key messages.  I particularly like the authors’ suggestion that leaders practice being able to communicate the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ in 60 seconds to help people absorb and retain the information.  They also stress the importance of leaders being readily available to help answer the inevitable questions that those affected by the change will have.
  2. Execution. Polsky and Gershel’s suggestions here come under 2 broad categories: performance management and teamwork.  Performance management involves the focus on desired new behaviours, what people need to learn to achieve them, having clear definitions of associated roles and responsibilities, defining and monitoring measures to know that the new ways of working are being achieved, and celebrating success!  Teamwork is about leaders working with their teams in multiple ways to secure their engagement and involvement. It includes 2-way dialogues for input and decision making, defining and sharing common goals and rewards, surfacing concerns and resistance, and above all cultivating trust through role modeling and acknowledging contributions.
  3. Sustaining also involves continued acknowledgement of people’s efforts, positive attitudes and results.  It includes reviewing learnings about how the change was handled for the next time, and thinking about and articulating what the next change will be!

Different types of communication require different types of intervention

Polsky and Gershel distinguish between 1-way communications i.e.  broadcast communications with limited or no opportunities for dialogue e.g. town-hall presentations, voicemail messages, postings on the company intranet; and 2-way or multi-dimensional communications which allow for more dialogue.

They list a number of different communication objectives and suggest which method of communication would be best for each:

Type of communication 1-way communication 2-way or multi-dimensional
Announcing change To get the facts out With line managers, to get buy-in
Responding to questions For more technical changes e.g. using FAQs Where personal emotions are likely to be involved
Creating urgency To communicate deadlines, to ensure line managers are informed When wanting to make a personal impact
Clarifying roles and responsibilities For initial information, and for final confirmation When discussing personal implications
Communicating individual objectives As above To reach mutual agreement on what is involved
Empowering employees Once what is involved has been understood To set expectations and gain understanding
Keeping people motivated To send reminders and for more routine congratulations To acknowledge special achievements, and to address issues

They also cite the characteristics of communication that would be suited to 1-way vs. 2-way approaches:

1-way communication 2-way or multi-dimensional
Transactional Relationship
Fact-based Emotional
Sharing information Collaborating on a piece of work
Repetitive (especially if previously successful) Innovative
Maintaining a good relationship Dealing with relationship issues
Structured information (roles, responsibilities, milestones) Untructured
Simple Complex (requiring thinking and discussion
Audience fairly uniform* Audience very diverse*

(*I would not tend to use this particularly distinction as the individuals within an audience will invariably have their own ‘take’ on the communication and how it affects them personally.)

Best practices for communicating change (and for handling resistance)

The authors’ list of “do’s and don’t’s” really resonated with my own experience of managing change.  It included:

  • Build trust before you actually need to introduce change
  • Be direct (this is especially important when anticipating or managing resistance – see more on this below)
  • Talk to people early!  Get news out fast to  minimise rumours and raising false expectations
  • Adjust your communication style and messages to your audience (recognizing when 2-way communication is needed)
  • Watch your body language: it can affect the credibility of what you are saying
  • Find your own personal style (again, it will not only make you more comfortable in delivering your message, but aid in your credibility)
  • Choose the right person to deliver the message (it may not be you)
  • Don’t expect to have all the answers (and be prepared to acknowledge that you don’t)
  • Don’t expect to have the ‘perfect phrase’ (but see the earlier comments about the launch phase of change)

Handling resistance. It is not only inevitable that people will demonstrate resistance during change, but something to be welcomed as an indication that people are paying attention to the change, and thinking about the implications for them.

Polsky and Gershel suggest 4 steps in handling resistance that may be heading in the wrong direction.

  1. “Empathise” i.e. ensure you have rapport with the individuals concerned and that you understand, or at least acknowledge what they are going through emotionally
  2. “Level” i.e. make it clear to them how you perceive their behaviour and what impact it may be having
  3. “Listen” to their reactions to, and views about what you are saying
  4. “Take a stand” to explain what they need to do in order to comply with the change, and what the consequences will be if they do not (making sure that you have checked with HR first).

In my, and RiverRhee Consulting’s2 work with teams, we not only aim to surface resistance so at to take corrective action if needed, but also to help us review the communication and change management approach.  Insights gained from those affected by change could be an indication that we have not addressed everything we need to, but that we may need to do, or communicate things differently.

Notes

1. “Perfect Phrases for Communicating Change” by Lawrence Polsky and Antoine Gershel,

2. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.