Business Ethics

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?

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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.

Does Professionalism Impact Business Performance?

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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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