The #1 Secret to Communicating Effectively

Posted on Jan 14, 2014 | 0 comments

January is my favorite time of the year. It is the time of lofty promises, visionary ideas, and sweeping changes. The new year teems with a unique energy that promises to change all of our lives for the better. Add to that, the fact that Open Enrollment season has come to a close and we can all collapse and drink a bottle of wine (or something stronger if necessary) and it’s practically the perfect time of year (minus the occasional polar vortex, of course). This year, when all went quiet on the client-front over the holidays, I took advantage of the brief respite to reconnect with our vision here at Lab Monkey. At first, I got all hopped up on mandates and new initiatives… We will tell them, “you MUST enter your time into your timesheets by close of business Friday—no exceptions will be made.”  Beginning in March we will have mandatory company-wide strategy meetings! It got really unfun (yes, unfun), REALLY fast. So boom! I wiped the slate clean and said, “What if I just listened?” As communicators and managers we get so caught up in accomplishing our departmental objectives and shaping behaviors that it’s easy to forget that our employees will often tell us exactly how to do those things with ease if we just open up and listen to them. This revelation reminded me of an encounter I once had with a homeless person who asked me, “Tell me son, do you have fifteen seconds?” I replied “No,” hoping to end the discussion and go about my way without being hassled for change or a meal. As I hurried on my way to who knows where, she said, “Of course you do. We all have fifteen seconds.” I didn’t turn around. I didn’t engage. But her words were nearly prophetic. Of course we do. We all have fifteen seconds. We all have time for the things that matter to us. So if communicating with your team really matters to you, take the proverbial fifteen seconds and just listen to them. You’ll be amazed at what they have to say. Share...

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How Falling Into the Gap Taught Me to Be a Better Boss

Posted on Apr 25, 2013 | 4 comments

“Tell me about your best boss and your worst boss. What was so great or horrible about working for them?” It’s one of my go-to interview questions. It tells me a lot about a person’s general outlook, whether they are able to distinguish between a good and a bad boss, and what it is they’re looking for in a leader. On a recent interview, as a candidate went on and on about a bad boss in way too much detail, my mind began to drift to my own answer. (Note to future candidates: I can only listen to a whiney bullshit victim story for so long.) I wondered, who WAS my best boss? What WAS the best company I ever worked for? I had to stifle a smile when the answer came to me—my management team at the Gap. I was a little shocked that my answer took me all the way back to a part-time college job. It was kind of disheartening that I couldn’t think of one boss in my corporate career who stood out as “the best.” It just seemed like that should be the “right” answer. I started worrying what my answer said about me. And here’s what I realized… My bosses at Gap had “drunk the Kool-Aid,” as they say. They BELIEVED in the mission of the company. Our shifts started off with one-minute-meetings to bring us up to speed on the company’s focus for the day, often with additional explanation of how our daily goals tied into the week’s, month’s and even the year’s goals. Every Gap employee started his or her day with a clear intention that tied their contributions back to the company’s vision. So when I was “perfect-folding” (that’s Gap-speak, by the way), re-sizing and replenishing a wall of 1,500+ pairs of jeans, I was crystal clear on how that tedious task tied into the company’s vision. I wasn’t just folding a bajillion pairs of jeans, I was creating an optimal shopping experience for my customers. Yes, I too drank the Kool-Aid at Gap, Inc. And it was good. But why DID I love working at the Gap so much? What made that management team rise to the surface as my “best” bosses of all time? The answer is simple. They were crystal clear in how my efforts contributed to the Company’s vision. They told me in very precise terms at the beginning of EVERY freaking shift! I’ve rarely seen such clarity, leadership or teamwork since. The Gap really got it. Their vision leapt off the pages of their internal communications and became a living, breathing force within the company. If your Company’s vision is just some statement you trot out once a year for new hires or annual meetings, consider the making the following changes to breath new life into your people: Connect the dots – tell employees how routine (even unpleasant) tasks, changes in procedure, or new corporate initiatives relate to the Company’s vision. Pour it on thick – your vision should permeate your internal communications. Consistently bring your peoples’ attention back to the Company’s reason for being. Shake things up – don’t have time to meet regularly with employees? BULLSHIT! I just told you about a one-minute meeting that shaped the best work experience I ever had. Stop thinking of meetings as hour-long death sentences. Check in more frequently with your people (and yourself too for that matter). Share...

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