All Posts By

Ellen Decker

People Matter – On Defensiveness

By | Business Ethics, Culture, Interpersonal Communications, Leadership, Talent Development, Talent Retention | No Comments

D-Fence Blog ImageA lot of emphasis is placed on defensive activities in the sporting world from a positive standpoint. Commentators proclaim excitedly, “He played a great defensive game; the defense won that game for the team; what a great defensive play.” However, defensive stances don’t play that well in the workplace. In fact, defensive attitudes impede learning, contradict collaboration, create destructive conflict, stifle professional and personal growth, and in general negatively impact working relationships. We most often think the other person is getting defensive needlessly, but I would challenge you to evaluate your role in the scenarios. Do you find yourself asking, “wow, what got into her…all I did was ask a question.” If this is the case, take a look at your approach. What about your encounter did you contribute to creating a defensive stance in the other person? Rather than always seeking to blame others for situations, your first question should be to yourself – “what role did I play in creating a defensive posture?” “Was my tone accusatory?” “Did I make inaccurate assumptions about the other person?” Did I use antagonistic word choices?”
Now for the other side of the coin. Take a hard look at yourself. Do you have a tendency to get defensive when others are only attempting to offer observations or suggestions? If so, how do you change your stance? There are several things you can do. Maintain an open posture, i.e., be approachable. Closed body language portrays defensiveness before any words are even spoken. If you feel the heat rise in your neck and are poised to defend yourself from a perceived attack, practice stress management techniques that work for you…things such as deep breaths, self-talk, counting, etc. Ask questions to clarify what is meant; this gives you time to calm down, think, and provides an opportunity for more open communication.

What is at the Heart of Your Relationships?

By | Business Ethics | No Comments

Communicating verbally is key to successful and healthy relationships. If this is true, why don’t people pay more attention to it?

I had an interesting discussion with another business owner recently about the importance (but lack) of verbal communication in a professional relationship. He shared that, from his perspective, communication is the foundation for a successful working relationship. (One could argue the same point for personal relationships as well, whether they be between spouses, parents and children, friends…you get the picture). I wonder how many people would agree with this but are locked into a cycle of busyness which prohibits them from exhibiting even the basic common courtesies that they themselves would expect from someone else. What is protocol in today’s world? How many times do you call; how many times do you call and leave a message; how many times do you call and not leave a message? How many e-mails do you send and how long do you wait between them for an answer?

Follow this by another comment shared with me by a colleague. She indicated that I should not send her an e-mail because she receives 400 e-mails a day. How can that be possible? Well, I suppose receiving that volume is possible, but how can a person effectively manage such an onslaught? Should you pick up the phone instead only to get thrown into voicemail? Even now we are moving to a point where e-mail is becoming obsolete—it’s simply not fast enough! Texting is quickly replacing instant messaging and e-mail because it is quicker, more concise, and immediate and only requires a cell phone, which, by the way, most 6th graders now have.

All of this shows signs that we continue to move in the direction of non-personal, non-verbal communication with nothing to provide clues regarding intent. No voice inflection, no body language, no facial expressions…all leaving much to interpretation, which many times is costly to the relationship. Do yourself and your relationships a favor…TALK to the other party involved.

The Rewards of Serving Others

By | Leadership | No Comments

I don’t know about you, but sometimes an entire week goes by, and I wonder what I really accomplished. The to-do list is always there with tasks waiting to be checked off so I can say, “Look at everything I did this week!” But how much of that is meaningful? Yesterday I spent time on the phone with a candidate just talking…or rather listening to her tell me about her experience and her career objectives. I don’t presently have a concrete job opportunity for her, but she was a referral from another candidate and called me based on her friend’s suggestion. It strikes me every time I speak with someone how interconnected we all are…many times just a phone call away from encountering someone who can change your life. Make no mistake—I didn’t change hers, she changed mine. It wasn’t what she said on the phone that impacted me; it was the exchange that occurred afterward. I e-mailed her thanking her for her time and told her that even if we don’t get a chance to work together that I would be interested in hearing about the progress of her search. Her response to me was all-telling. She thanked me for my note and said, “I don’t feel so invisible anymore.” That comment hit me and made me wonder how many people in today’s environment have had similar feelings. I also realized how much courage it takes to admit to a practical stranger such a vulnerable position. I wonder what all is behind that simple stark statement. This experience reinforced to me the importance of taking time to serve others merely by listening and offering support in a difficult time. For all of the tasks that I checked off my list this week, this was not on the “to-do’s” but yet turned out to be the greatest reward of my week.

Does Self-Awareness Improve Leadership?

By | Interpersonal Communications, Leadership | No Comments

Dog in MirrorHow self-aware are you?

If that catches you flat-footed, you may have some work to do. Self-awareness is key to developing stronger communication skills, fostering higher quality relationships, and increasing your effectiveness as a leader.

Self-awareness results from being honest about who you are, your likes and dislikes, what you do well, what you don’t do well. The process is introspective and requires complete transparency – understanding how you think about things, how you engage with others (verbally and non-verbally), and how others react to you.

Knowing yourself is critical – relationships are not unilateral. YouMUST know how your contribution affects the relationship. And if you want to be an effective leader, the responsibility is yours.

Where to start?  Try answering these questions:

  • During a conversation with a subordinate, how much time do you spend espousing your perspective vs. understanding the employee’s thoughts by engaging him/her with questions?
  • Do you actively listen to what the other person is saying?
  • Do you interrupt the other person because you can’t wait to get your point across?
  • Do you exhibit interest in an employee’s family?
  • Are you constantly looking at your phone or laptop while supposedly in conversation with someone?
  • What tone of voice do you use when communicating?
  • Are your comments condescending?
  • Are you open and receptive to feedback from others?
  • What kind of body language do you observe in the people with whom you interact:
    • Do they maintain eye contact or look off into space as you are talking?
    • Do you get blank stares while you are speaking?
    • Do they fidget?
    • Do others avoid engaging with you?

Developing your level of self-awareness is an ongoing process. Gaining a better understanding of your contribution to subordinate, manager, and peer relationships will show you where to make adjustments to increase your impact as a leader.

NobleVision can help.

Does Professionalism Impact Business Performance?

By | Business Ethics, Leadership, Talent Development | No Comments

I have had several recent experiences that, when combined, have caused me to believe that we are witnessing a decline in professionalism. These experiences center around people getting back with you or I should say…not getting back with you. The most vivid instance was a series of non-interactions that began with a phone call where I reached a colleague only to have him inform me that he didn’t have time to talk. He was swamped, overwhelmed, in over his head. And I want to know, then why did he pick up the phone? Even more curious was the fact that he indicated I should be happy he picked up since he knew it was me…thanks to caller ID. That was a bit condescending I thought. He asked me to e-mail him to schedule a time that we could talk, which of course I did…three weeks in a row. Yes, this behavior repeated several times, and every time I complied only to experience frustrating silence from the other party. Very unprofessional in my opinion.

The ramification of this person’s silence/lack of follow-up were repeated phone calls to others having to explain that I STILL had not heard anything from my contact. Now this person’s lack of professionalism had carried over and by association had attached itself to me. I will accept my shortfalls and be accountable to them, but please don’t ask me to cover for and have to keep making excuses for someone else.

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