Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Responding to Feedback

Improving communication in the workplace

As we discussed the minute difference between criticism and feedback on improving communication effectiveness in a professional environment, there are other aspects of improving feedback effectiveness.

As a sender, even though you are keen on giving feedback than criticism, the fulfillment comes only when the receiver takes the feedback also in the right perspective.

How one responds to feedback determines the quality of communication between the two.

For example, your boss or colleague is pointing out some gap in your behavior or performance, you may choose any one of the below responses, and that response determines the quality of communication between you and others.

Taking too personally :

 Feeling guilty and becoming sad about the feedback. The consequence may be that your self-esteem may go down, and you may be cribbing about the feedback. No Improvements on the corrective action or forward-thinking and in turn, no progress in performance.

Defending the feedback giver:

Defending your position with justification to the feedback giver. Likely, you may win the argument as well, but you may lose the sight of the truth of feedback. No improvements in the corrective action or forward-thinking and in turn, no progress in performance.

Analyzing the feedback with a rational approach:

Listening and seeking further clarity from the feedback giver. Getting into introspecting. In this process, your mind tends to analyze the fact and accept the need for corrective action for growth.

The point is the choice of response to feedback determines the quality of communication and progress.
Just be aware of your response to feedback in case if you are receiver!

Friday, 27 September 2019

Criticism Vs. Feedback

Improving communication in the workplace

Criticism Vs. Feedback
As discussed the definition and the reason for criticism in a professional environment, let us understand the alternative for criticism.

What is happening during criticism?
When we criticize others even intending to correct others, the receiver immediately does not recognize it as a process correction than the comments target him/ her as personal. Once he/ she feels personal, he/she start defending their action by reciprocating into arguments or going onto inferior complex or developing personal vengeance with others.
However, in professional life, how can we proceed without judging or correcting others when they make a mistake? As a leader, we cannot be blindfolded with other’s behavior. There is an alternative to criticism, that is FEEDBACK.
Criticism vs. Feedback
There is a  minute difference between criticism and feedback.

Criticism is more about judgement or conclusion, more about targeting the person or harsh in the expression, inclined more on the past.
Whereas Feedback is more about evaluating the process, more about targeting the process and firm in expression and also provide solutions to correct the behavior and future-oriented
For example,
When  your team member makes a mistake in preparing presentations with more grammatical and typo error, as a leader, you have two choices to respond
If you are criticizing, the typical expression would be "You always make a mistake in the presentation. you do not know the basic texting process."
If you are giving feedback, the typical expression would be " I find more mistakes in your presentation and i suggest that you can use the “ spell check” option before you send it to others. Learn about it".
Both statements are pointing out the mistakes to correct the person, but there is a difference in expression, value addition to another person.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Criticism - a barrier for effective communication

Improving communication in the workplace

Criticism - a barrier for effective communication

One of the barriers to effective communication is “ criticism.” The moment we get into criticism mode, either the sender or receiver stop the communication flow.
What is meant by criticism?
Criticism is our judgement about someone or somebody’s activities and expressing more aggressively.

For example,

In one organization, senior design manager found a mistake of his subordinate's design work, called the person and shouted as follows, “you are useless designer, you do not know the design fundamentals, you are simply wasting my time” ... that is criticism ( Actually the manager only recruited junior designer 😁!!)

In another organization, the business head rolled out a new initiative to his team and said, “ you people are never going to take it to forward as I know you failed in the past in similar initiatives.“ That is criticism.

 In both examples, the words are harsh, mainly hitting the person and not giving any improvement direction. That is the characteristics of criticism.

Why are we criticizing others?

We are making a judgement on others may be with good intention only like
  1. We want others to improve
  2. We like/care them to grow 
  3. We may not like the way things are  being done
  4. Our inherent nature of finding PERFECTION in everything or only seeing a black dot in entire white space.
Either we are criticizing others knowingly or unknowingly, but in reality, our words and expression hurt😢 others. Criticism is affecting others by lowering the self-image or confidence in their process.

Let us discuss the following next week.

What is happening to the sender and receiver during criticism?
What is the alternative to criticism as our intention is still to make others improve?
The difference between criticism and feedback?
The more delicate aspect of giving feedback

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Setting the Context for effective communication

Improving communication in the workplace

Setting the Context for effective communication.
One of the common pitfalls for ineffective communication is lack of clarity on the context or background. Assumptions play a significant role in distorting the intention of communication. As a leader, we need to spend more time on setting the context clearly when we communicate any critical instructions or task to others.
For example,
some years back, my manager asked me to prepare a plant layout design to accommodate some more facilities. I also got into data collection and micro designing of alternative options. One week later, he called me and asked me to show the proposal, and I replied that still, I was collecting the data. He got annoyed with my response. Then, he clarified that he wanted first the quick conceptual layout for feasibility purpose to get the approval from management, whereas I was working on the detailed, micro-level plan which supposed to be done once conceptually approved. We lost time.

Here the learning is “mismatch of assumptions” by both. Effective communication should be the manager must have communicated the purpose behind his request for layout options, in what phases he wanted to go for and timeline specific. That is the context setting.
When we are not setting the context clearly, people will assume based on their level of knowledge and background, and the communication intent may get lost. We may argue that the receiver also should clarify the assumptions, but in reality, the giver knows more, and he/ she has to set the context.
Hence, if you want to improve the effectiveness of communication, the context has to be articulated clearly without giving room for assumptions. Setting the context as part of the conversation becomes a habit once you consciously practice.  

Giving undivided attention

Improving communication in the workplace

Giving undivided attention
Having discussed the importance of making other people feel good in your presence and impact of body language on active listening, let us consider other factors on emotional aspects of communication like giving undivided attention during conversation.
 Undivided attention:
Either you speak to someone, or somebody talk to you, how much care you are giving to the conversation without any other distraction is all about undivided attention.

You might have come across a situation when you are conveying something to your colleagues or someone, and they might be looking at their mobile, laptop or looking around someone or waving hands to someone than listening to your message. That is the example of divided attention. When you undergo a similar experience, either you may lose energy or the other person receives half information. In either way, the effectiveness is lost.
Undivided attention can be demonstrated through your eye contact with the other person or prompting the other person or nodding your head when you listen to another person. Even though it looks like good manners, it is difficult for all to follow. Hence this is art or skill to be mastered with awareness and practice.
This skill is required, especially when you interact 1-1 basis with others.
I have given below the video link indicating the importance of undivided attention during 1-1 conversation. ( as found in youtube source)
Giving undivided attention is a conscious effort and can be developed with awareness and practice.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Awareness of body language

Improving communication in the workplace

Awareness of body language and state of mind

As discussed last week on the importance of making others feels good in your presence to improve communication, let us consider the importance of body language on the quality of communication.

Whether in face to face or telephonic conversation, before the actual discussion, we are communicating through our posture, quality of tone, eye contact, and facial expression. That is body language. Body language is something others are seeing from you. Your body language is the outcome of your state of mind at any point in time.

If you are happy, energetic, and with enthusiasm, your posture, tone quality, and facial expression would be pleasing to others. Alternatively, when you are angry, fear, sadness, anxiety, your posture, tone, and facial expression would be terrible to others. That sets the quality of communication.

State of mind and body language are interrelated and good news is that you can change your state of mind by changing your body language and vice versa.

For example, when you feel dull, you use to sit with bending posture and your voice may be low. When you stand up, stretch and take a long breath, you feel relaxed and your voice, the expression will be positive.

The point is that you can change your state of mind by changing your posture and vice versa, and this needs to be aware when you are communicating with others as a conscious effort.

Other aspects of effective communication let us discuss next week!

How to display respect to others?

Improving Communication in the workplace
Displaying Respect 

As discussed last week, preparing others for listening is the first step towards effective communication, and one of the processes is    " displaying respect to others".

How you can display respect to others?:

There are many ways you can show respect to another person; one of the powerful methods is “ Make another person feel good in your presence” through your gestures.

How you are treating another person will make him feel good about himself, and his listening ability improves when you interact with him.

My experience on the other person’s gesture and my self-esteem as happened some years back.

My colleague and I went to our HR manager to discuss some people-related issues. Before the meeting, we checked his availability. When we enter his room, he was busy on his laptop, and he did not ask us to sit. Despite that we sat for more than 10 minutes, he did not have the courtesy to ask us to wait by stating his urgent work. In between his typing, he instructed something to us regarding the people issues, and we were not in a position to listen, and after a while, we left. In this entire process, he never looked at us, and we felt bad about it.

As we understood his urgency, we expected that he could have requested us to wait for a few minutes, and once he finished the task in the laptop, he could have closed his laptop and had given undivided attention. Those small gestures might have made us feel good.

It is natural to neglect others due to urgent work, but it does not matter for the other person. It is essential how another person is feeling in your presence. It looks like common sense and soft aspect, but that makes much difference in other people’s mind. If you do not make another person “feeling good,” you are not preparing him/her ready for your subsequent communication.

If you are rude, always reacting and unappreciative, then people may not feel self-esteemed in your presence. When people are not feeling good enough in your presence, their listening ability also reduces.

Hence, first, make other person feeling good with you by giving respect through your gestures.

Just be aware of your gestures as we need to evolve as a good human being.

Other aspects of effective communication let us discuss next week!

Monday, 19 August 2019

Emotionally connecting with others.

As discussed, to make effective communication in a professional environment, three factors are essential viz, your subject expertise, emotionally connecting with a person, and logically connecting with facts.

Having discussed the need for developing your expertise, let us understand“emotionally connecting with the person.”
What is meant by emotionally connecting with the person?

It is preparing yourself and another person
 to be in a comfortable zone before and during an interaction.

Unless both are in the same level of comfortable zone, there is a chance for misinterpretation of communication.
Some of the factors help to be in a comfortable zone.
Displaying respect / making others feeling good
Your friendly body postures
Your undivided attention to others
Listening and prompting
Addressing the lingering question of what is in it for me

Naturally, not all people are capable of deep listening while interacting since many emotions are being processed inside the minds like fear, curious, the anxiety of what next, etc.

When different emotions are being processed internally, listening capability is reduced, and misinterpretation happens. So, it is essential to make others prepared to be in a comfortable zone during interaction by using the above factors.

Even if you are expert in a subject and excellent in logic and not equally good in connecting with others, your communication will get failed. It would help if you learned the art of connecting with others with simple, robust processes in all factors.
Let us discuss the techniques with simple examples in next week!

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

when will people listen to you?

Often I use to hear from people says,” My team is not doing what I am asking them to do."

This apprehension has a lot to do with our communication process than the other people's attitude and capability to execute.

Let us understand the process of effective communication.

People will listen to us only when our communication contains ALL  the below elements.
  • Expertise in the subject or creditability proof 
  • Connecting emotionally with the person
  • Logically connecting with facts
 Let us discuss in detail each element.
Expertise in the subject or creditability proof :
Naturally, we give more importance to the person who is saying than what is being said. If others believe that you have expertise in the subject, then there is likely a chance for active listening and in turn, execution as per communication.
We need to make others believe that we are the right person to talk about the subject. 
For example, as an accounts manager, if you instruct your team about using accounting software, people are internally checking your expertise on the software. If they feel you do not have sufficient knowledge about software, their active listening will come down.
In most of the organization, it is a challenge for the newcomers to get the confidence of their team since the team has suspicions about the newcomer’s expertise. It is the prime responsibility of the newcomer to prove his /her technical/managerial expertise to win the confidence of the people.
People may respect you for your age or position. However, their mind is working on to gauge your expertise, and accordingly, the intend of communication is received.
Hence, you need to invest your time and effort in developing competence in your core area to improve communication effectiveness
Let us discuss other success factors next week!

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Improving communication in the workplace ---Owning responsibility for EFFECTIVE communication

Effective communication is not what and how much you are communicating to others; it is how well your purpose of communication is met.
For example, you are instructing your colleague to complete a task in a specific manner. The communication would be referred to as effective communication only when your colleague also understands the intention of your communication and completes the task as per that instruction.
Owning responsibility for  EFFECTIVE communication

Our general tendency is that when the task is not completed as per our intended communication, we use to blame others for their misunderstanding or incapability.
The first step in improving your communication skill is to accept the responsibility for your communication process. It is not others misunderstand your communication. Still, you have not yet mastered the communication skill to modify your communication process depends upon the others. Since each one is different due to background and exposure, there is always a chance for misinterpretation.
How you are customizing your communication style to suit different people, and the environment is all about mastering the communication process.
For example, as business head, if you can communicate your organization goal to your second level management team and the operating team such a way that they understand in the same way and emotionally connect with the organization, then you are an effective communicator. It requires effort in mastering the communication process. That responsibility lies with you.
The point is that each one of us has more potential to improve the communication process, and first, we need to own the responsibility of effective communication than pointing others. When you own, you are open to learning and experiment on the communication process and techniques.
Let us discuss further on the communication process and techniques!

Friday, 26 July 2019

Improving communication at workplace

Most of the interpersonal problems in both personal and professional life are due to the lack of effective communication only. If you analyze any people-related issues in the workplace, one of the causes could be poor communication, either lack of expression or information or wrong interpretation by someone.
When you look at effective people, they possess excellent communication skill, and they are striving to improve the communication skill continuously. Communication skill development is a life long exercise, and no one claim that he/ she is the best communicator.
Irrespective of your level of communication effectiveness, with awareness and effort, communication skill can be improved over some time.
As most people think that communication skill is all about language proficiency.In my opinion, effective communication is the outcome of Effective emotional management + Clarity in thoughts + Mastering language
It is all about managing the emotions well and thinking and articulating well.
In coming weeks, let us discuss some of the insights in improving communication at the workplace on the following aspects
1.Owning responsibility for your communication
2.Managing your emotions and body language
3.Preparing others to your style of communication
4.Managing conflict and maintain the relationship
5.Moving from commanding to influence in the workplace
6. Setting the environment for better communication

Welcome your views, concerns, queries regarding communication in the workplace!

Monday, 22 July 2019

Finding Balance

Both in personal and professional life, one of the causes of stress or losing peace is due to taking an extreme stand or bias in a given context. When we fail to be in balance state, we invite all the troubles. Being in a balanced state is the outcome of self-awareness. Effective people will always find a balance in their approach.
For example,

Being too much aggressive or too much passive in communication only leads to stress or ineffective. A balanced state is being in an assertive, firm and friendly tone which improves harmony as well as the effectiveness of communication as end result.
Being too much lenient with new employees and being too much harsh with on old employees only leads to instability in the organization. Balanced state is respecting both with compassion.
 Being too much on planning or too much busy on execution without calibration leads to either no result or poor result only. Balanced state starts with planning and get into execution and do the course correction.
 Being too much on micromanaging other’s work or fully leaving it to others also leads to stress only. Balanced state is to allow others to do the work with feedback for improvement.

The point is finding balance in your approach leads to harmony and peace than being extremism.It requires awareness on the state of mind which is possible with practice.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Pursuing interest beyond work

As we are spending almost half of our life for work, obviously we expect a sense of fulfillment through our work. There are a few people gifted enough as they get all the status, benefits, and above all, sense of accomplishment due to the contribution or impact they make through the work. In reality, not all people get satisfaction through the job for various reasons, but due to personal commitments, they need to continue to work. Eventually, this non-fulfillment state affects self-identity and confidence.

To overcome that situation, as a proactive, it is essential to find and do something beyond your daywork that fulfills your inner feeling. For example, some of my known contacts and friends are engaged in the activities which are not related to their current profession. When interacting with them, I realized they are  feeling more fulfillment in their extra activities beyond work like

One person engages himself in reading books after his office hours and weekends
One medical practitioner engage himself in conducting free medical camps / educating people on health on every Wednesday
One person is preparing himself for marathon participation
One person opens up his library after office hour for public and for mentoring the needy people  

The point is that you need to find a way to get a sense of fulfillment when the work circumstance does not provide.The only thing you should ensure is that the path must be more meaningful to you, and it should not affect your regular work, family, the community at large. The choice of feeling fulfillment is with you only!

Friday, 5 July 2019

Cultivating Calmness in tough times

Recently met a CEO after a long time with whom I worked earlier. He was happily sharing his recent accomplishment in his business, and I was listening to him. Inside my mind, I was lingering with a question which I wanted to get the answer from him that moment itself.i was waiting for him to complete.
The reason for the internal disturbance in me was some years back, he was undergoing tremendous trouble in personal life, financial aspects, and his business as well. I worried about his state then. During those tough times, I never had seen him losing his coolness, smiling face, or showing his frustration to anyone and also noticed that he never gave up his efforts both in business and personal life.
After he completed his expression, I asked him how he managed through the tough times and his mindset during those times. His reply was inspirational and taught the spiritualism in life.
“When everything goes against me at the same time, it means something is working beyond my control. Then why should work against it? Let me accept reality and do my part.

I believe that good and bad times will never last forever. I had enjoyed good times and let me go through this tough time as well.

God is testing my resilence, and if pass, I will get a reward more than now.”

In my opinion, this mindset is the highest level of maturity in dealing with life challenges, and cultivating calmness will take us to the next level of evolution.!!

Hope you agree on this learning......

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

One Habit for a Lifetime

Habit is what you are doing consistently.

For all behind success story, there must be consistency in some of the actions. That is a habit. Even for our own sake of fulfillment, we need to have consistency in some of the practices what we do. The frequency is what you set depending on the action.
For example, I know some of my friends have the following “consistent practices or habits” as their life long practices.
  • Walking for an hour daily for the last 30 years
  • Being punctual to any event by being  present 10 min before the event
  • Giving Blood donation once in 3 months for the last 20 years
  • Calling the people on the birthday and wishes for more than 15 years
  • Conducting weekly discourses for more than 20 years
  • Waking up before 6 am and doing yoga for more than 40 years
When you observe your network, you may also come across many people with good lifetime habits.
When you have some good habits, as an individual, more than external monetary success, you feel proud of yourself, and also it enhances your confidence.

One habit for a lifetime, whatever it may be in terms of frequency, easiness, significant to others. However, sticking to one pattern for a lifetime is very much meaningful to you and make a difference to you.

The action is irrespective of your age, profession, choose some habit now, and practice it consistently.


if you are practicing some habits, please share as this will be an inspiration for others !!!

Risk of Generalisation

Sometimes, we make a conclusion based on one or two experiences, coin the generalized statements and use them frequently. Eventually, we start believing in those statements as true and approach life as per the generalized statement. In reality, when we question those statements, our perception change.

For example, some of us heard about the following statements in day to day life
I always have stage fear
My team never misses the target
Everyone is selfish in politics
Running a business always risky
All are busy on Monday morning.

When you look at those statements, all are generalized by us based on one or two experiences, and we start believing as such. In reality, those are not true.

For example, when you say, “ I always have stage fear,” you generalize  based on one or two times fear experience factor as “ ALWAYS.” In reality, many times you might have managed. However, when you communicate the statements frequently, you reinforce yourself as real, and you may not take an attempt to overcome.

Similarly, when you say “ EVERYONE is selfish in politics ” based on one or two experiences, but in reality, there are people with service intentions. However, when you generalize, you start to approach everyone as if they are selfish.

The point is there is no generalization in the world and everything subject to change with reference to time, place and people. Flexibility is required the way we approach the things for improving quality of life!

Friday, 14 June 2019

Focus on Process than People

In the workplace or even in a family environment, when the things are not happening as expected, or any problem occurs, the most immediate tendency of us is “fixing who is responsible?”. For any issues, finding the cause is a good thing, but the moment we focus our the cause on “People” factor, it likely turns out as blaming, complaining, justification, arguments and eventually into personal vengeance only.

As I observed with effective leaders, they focus more on fixing the “process factor” than the people. Once the problem occurred, they immediately recognize it, and their thought process moves towards fixing process as they believe that is a proactive approach. They believe that when the process is robust, ignorance, attitude related to people can be solved quickly. Sometimes fixing process may prevent the issue permanently as well as take care of human errors.

For example, some of the mistakes in organizing an event can be minimized when you have a checklist rather than depending solely on people. That is a proactive approach with process focussed.

Shifting the focus on fixing “process” than  “people” is possible with a little bit of awareness on our intention and behavior. For any problem solution lies in process, in turn, the process will take care of people factor also.

Just it needs awareness when we face the problem.