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Family Wealth Alliance Webinar – Sept 14

15 Aug

webinar

Criticism–used well, this powerful leadership tool can promote positive change and strengthen relationships in business and life. Is it possible to use criticism at work without breeding resentment?

Dr. Deborah Bright, best-selling author and business coach, joins Family Wealth Alliance CEO Tom Livergood for a free webinar and fireside chat about the highly misunderstood topic of using criticism positively in the workplace.

Dr. Bright offers valuable techniques from her most recent book, rated by getAbstract as one of this year’s top 5 business books! She pulls tips from her book The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change to help us:

  • Understand the essential role of criticism in the workplace
  • Overcome common mistakes made when giving criticism
  • Gain insights on handling difficult work-related situations

Register now for this free 1-hour webinar on September 14th, 2:00PM EDT. Turbocharge your workplace and career by learning to strengthen relationships and enhance performance with criticism!

Note: Dr. Bright’s 30-minute fireside chat will follow Bob Legan, of Whitnell & Company, discussing unique issues and planning opportunities with family owned or closely held businesses.

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Are the People You Work with Truly Your Friends?

6 May

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Are your co-workers genuine friends?  This is a much easier question to raise than it is to answer. Depending on who you ask, you would probably get a different response. Most of us think of a “friend” as someone  we can trust and who we think trusts us.. We might even think a friend might be someone we can depend on to help us when times are tough. While we may categorize friends on a sort of scale that runs from “occasional” to “good” to “best” to “very best”, in all cases they are persons we respect and feel comfortable around and with whom we  share some degree of intimacy.  Very importantly, we expect a friend to be truly happy for our successes and is uplifting and fun to be around.

But when it comes to the workplace, we may want to take a slightly different perspective. Friends that form in the workplace are joined together  because of the mutuality of the work and the workplace itself.  That commonality leads to a lot of conversations.  What is oftentimes overlooked or dangerously underestimated is that underlying a friendship at work is the fact that the workplace is competitive. Because of the competitive nature in the workplace, when push comes to shove if someone needs to or has the opportunity to enhance their position in an organization, workplace friendships may oftentimes take a backseat or, to put it mildly, not be at the forefront of individuals’ priorities.

This ambition factor can manifest itself especially as it regards people of lower ranks in the workplace who are friends of those in upper ranks. As a result, it’s important to think about whether or not to differentiate workplace friends from just friends.

The idea that today we are friends and tomorrow we are forgotten often times depicts workplace friendships.  Think about what happens when  a co-worker leaves. The common bonds that once  held the friendship together wither rapidly or they simply are  no longer there. That’s because mutual interests really never went much farther than workplace matters.   Over time, the relationships that were once vibrant and full of chatter tend to fade away as the parties realize that they have very little in common outside of the workplace. Reflect on your own workplace experience when co-workers retired or found a new position in another company;   how many of your fellow colleges have you stayed in touch with once they have left?

Co-workers do need to embrace those elements that friends share such as respect and trust. These are factors that are very necessary among those who work together. … and they may be even more necessary in a working relationship than they need to be with just friends.. If you are a manager, it’s imperative that you address this issue with your people who work with you and with one another. People don’t have to be friends to get along and work with one another, In fact they don’t even have to like each other! But, they do have to respect and trust one another or the working relationship will never work.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Whatever Happened to Executives “Following Up” with Direct Reports? (…and vice versa, for that matter)

18 Aug

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Not too many years ago it seemed like most supervisors and managers, as a matter of routine, regularly followed up with their direct reports on a one-on-one or one-on-group basis. As a common practice, weekly meetings were scheduled where the boss inquired about what was going on in their direct reports’ worlds – be it generally or on a task-specific basis. But lately, I’ve been noticing that in many organizations following up with reports or “checking in” is no longer the matter of routine that it was at one time. Nor, does it seem that it is even an expectation, let alone the rule, for that matter. Now, maybe this is a result of the increasing popularity of texting, instant messaging, or e-mailing. Or, it could be the evolving unspoken manners and business rules that are changing – like a new implied trust in employees to keep their bosses abreast regarding what is going on. Well, that’s what my clients are finding – especially at senior levels.

While you still can’t beat the regularly occurring “one-on-ones”, they seem to be erratic and never long enough. So, my clients have found it valuable to communicate from afar – like e-mail. However it’s done, besides passing along top deliverables for the upcoming week, my clients and I have found that it’s extremely valuable to note key interactions they have had throughout the previous week. The reports can be brief and informal or tedious and formal. It all depends on the most acceptable style preferred by those who are involved. Typically, these reports are no more than a page. Once made aware of the obviousness of the need to keep abreast regularly, I have found that most bosses at the executive level prefer brief weekly updates, in addition to the typical monthly reports. Interestingly, executives rarely say anything. However, quit sending the weekly report and the senior manager typically gets a note from the boss asking where the weekly update is!

It just so happens that my clients are very creative. For instance, some have developed their own one-page briefing report that summarizes their past week while providing a sneak preview of top deliverables for the coming week. Some have a color coding system to note progress made on the deliverables and they use the same color coding to rate the qualities of the interactions. A few have also incorporated an “ideas” and/or “potential barriers” section.

As I tell my clients, try this approach for 60 to 90 days and then be sure to ask the boss if he/she finds the weekly update to be of help and a good use of their time. During the discussion, you will pick up very valuable insights that will help you in your efforts to stay aligned, which is of utmost importance. Guaranteed! As a final tip, you should be aware that what bosses really like about these brief updates is that it helps to make sure that they are not caught by surprise! That, by the way, is an old rule that hasn’t changed – and most likely never will.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt

10 Oct

Truth Doesn't Have to HurtTake a moment to think about and answer the following questions regarding the people you manage and/or interact with on a daily basis at work:

  • Do you find that managing other people can be very stressful, especially when you are trying to offer suggestions for improvement?
  • Are you desirous of establishing open communications with your staff or peers but are having difficulty making that happen?
  • Are you hesitant to point out anything that staff or peers can do better because you are concerned about causing tension in the relationship?
  • Are you interested in learning how to better influence others?

If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions then I recommend that you give some thought to the role criticism plays in relationships and bringing about change.

Interestingly, not everyone associates the questions above with the subject of criticism. Yet you will find that criticism is an underlying element in each of these questions. In my newest book, The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt, How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change, you will learn that helpful criticism is directly linked to strengthening relationships – the kind of relationships rooted in trust and respect, improving performance, and promoting positive change.

What’s so exciting is that after investing over a year to write, I’m pleased to announce that The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt is now available in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. To learn more about Deb Bright, visit her website at www.drbright.com.

Reassurance Seekers and Criticism

10 Oct

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Criticism is an inevitable fact of life, and we can use it as a valuable learning opportunity to help us as we pursue our goals. However, while the ability to receive criticism and benefit from it can become an important asset in our “toolkit,” there’s no need for anyone to invite criticism unnecessarily into their life. After all, there’s certainly enough criticism out there circulating around as it is.

Believe it or not, there are those who actually invite criticism into their lives – I call these types of individuals “critiholics.”

One type of “critiholic” that I have identified is the Reassurance Seeker. These individuals invite criticism by coming right out and asking for it! One way they set themselves up for criticism is by discussing their vulnerabilities to others all in hopes of reassurance. It’s the individual who turns to his co-worker and says, “Well, I wasn’t prepared yesterday in the meeting when I had to give that presentation. I really put that information together at the last minute. I hope it didn’t show.” When this individual doesn’t get the reassurance they are seeking, they think to themselves, “How dare he criticize my presentation!”

Another way they invite criticism is by asking others if they have a problem, as in, “Do you think I should go on a diet? Tell the truth – I’d be honest with you.” They expect a polite “no, of course not!” from the other person – and when they don’t get it, they become upset and put out.

When others catch on, Reassurance Seekers are criticized for their disingenuous attempts at receiving criticism because, in essence, they really don’t want it. They fail to remember that if you solicit an honest opinion, you best be prepared to receive one.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books). To learn more about Deb Bright, visit her website at www.drbright.com.

Common Mistakes Made by Receivers of Criticism – Part I

4 Aug

Just as giving helpful criticism is a skill, being an effective receiver also requires skill. All of this takes patience, practice, and the ability to think practically.

Becoming a skilled receiver starts with understanding that in a criticism exchange the real control of the outcome belongs with the receiver. After all, it is the receiver who decides whether a criticism is valid or not, and whether they are going to act on the information. It’s also the receiver who decides if what’s being communicated is a criticism!

However, benefiting as the receiver of criticism goes beyond simply knowing that you are in control. It also requires knowing how to put that control to use even if you are interacting with an unskilled giver – and there are plenty of them out there.

Let’s explore where many receivers go wrong by looking at some typical receivers:

  • I’m Being Attacked Receivers: These receivers instantly become defensive, fire off questions, and challenge givers in order to protect themselves. They overlook the fact that most givers have been poorly trained in giving criticism. They also fail to realize that making givers uncomfortable is likely to bring out the worst in them. More importantly, these receivers fail to recognize that in the end, they run the risk of not obtaining what could be very valuable information.
  • Argumentative Receivers: These receivers fail to listen and view what’s being said as information. Rather, they tend to listen in an argumentative or judgmental way, which automatically creates a right/wrong, agree/disagree, or win/lose condition. Putting a lot of emphasis on weighing whether you agree or disagree with the criticism before taking the time to fully hear and consider what is being said can spark a defensive response – which is not a good way to promote a productive exchange.
  • Quick Responder Receivers: These receivers fail to stop, think, and investigate what’s being said before they react. Like Argumentative Receivers, they can listen to argue and judge and are ready with a quick response to defend themselves. As the receiver, it’s vital to use the control that is inherently yours by considering the intent behind the criticism and inspecting whether the criticism is accurate.
  • Instant FixIt Receivers: These receivers make the frequent mistake of trying to remedy the criticism right away by jumping to conclusions and doing what they believe needs to be done. They take matters into their own hands without first finding out what the desired action is – from the giver’s perspective. When these receivers are unsuccessful after making several attempts, frustration and disappointment follow, while the original issue remains unresolved.

We’ll continue to look at some common receiver mistakes in my next blog.

Promoting Open Communications in a Team Setting

3 Feb

In any team environment, people need to feel appreciated. One meaningful way to let team members know they are valued is to create a setting where people feel that what they have to say is listened to. So, whether as the leader of a for-profit work team or a volunteer team, if you are desirous of promoting open communications within your team, the following ideas are worth implementing or following:

  •  A team leader’s role needs to be clear, understood and accepted by the team. Team leaders have a choice as to how they approach leading the team. They can take the lead and utilize a “team-driver” approach where they take an active lead or they can function more in a “team coach” role where team members are accountable to one another. Regardless of the approach, the leader’s role must be clearly understood.
  • As the leader, determine when to criticize the team as a whole, or individual team members separately. A good rule of thumb followed by many team leaders is if the issue involves three or more team members, then it’s acceptable to bring up the issue to the entire team. If the issue involves only one or two team members it’s best to address the issue(s) one-on-one.
  • Create a team atmosphere for the acceptance of criticism by establishing team run rules or guidelines for criticism. Such rules should include:
    • Avoid public name-calling.
    • Throwing someone under the bus is not acceptable.
    • Openly admit mistakes.
    • Assume positive intent of the giver of criticism.
    • Don’t criticize by email.
    • Do not shoot the bearer of bad news.
    • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Team leaders cannot assume that merely stating the goals of the team equates to acceptance by all team members. To ensure that team members are committed to the stated goals of the team, it’s best to ask. Start off by meeting individually to promote an open and candid conversation. Leaders can’t afford a “go along to get along” mentality.
  • Establish a process whereby team members assess how well the team is functioning.
  • Show leadership by admitting mistakes.

Today’s teams are complex.  For teams to be successful, leaders need to go beyond the superficial. Instead of just talking about “open communications” leaders need to work to bring this dynamic to life for the team.

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