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Tag Archives: communication with employees

The Importance of Powerful Positive Phrasing


There are many different things which can get in the way of employees acting on a message.

And if you’re struggling with trying to get your employees to act on a message, you’ve reached the right place.

Today, I’ll be talking about the one, most important thing you should be doing to get your employees to do what you ask of them – the one thing that can really get them acting.

Can you guess what it is? Continue reading

When it comes to managing the rumour mill, partial information is better than no information

rumour millThe ancient philosopher Aristotle said Horror vacui, or “Nature abhors a vacuum.” His point was that if a vacuum exists in the physical world, it is only momentary, as it immediately fills with the material surrounding it, without any regard as to what the substance is.  It doesn’t matter if the neighbouring material is similar, or of the needed quality, or even if it is suitable for the purpose, it immediately moves to fill the vacuum.  The same principle is at work in organizations, specifically to do with communication and more specifically, the organization’s rumour mill.  In fact, I wrote about using the company grapevine to your advantage in one of my regular columns in The Globe and Mail, back in March 2015!

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, people in organizations also abhor vacuums … in information. When there is a lack of knowledge – about people, about processes, about upcoming plans and changes – information, accurate or not, immediately moves in to fill the vacuum.  And ironically, the larger the vacuum, the more incorrect and outlandish is what moves in to fill it.

Managing the rumour mill

Which leads me to the point of this article.  The best way to combat rumours, misinformation, and the general distortions and fabrications that seem to take hold in just about every organization is to continually and deliberately offer correct, quality information to fill the void.  Even if it is incomplete!  Continue reading

Active listening is a critical leadership skill

As regular readers of our blog know, active listening is an essential skill in leadership.  And like most aspects of leadership, it’s a learned skill.  Which is why I’m so pleased that Jackie Edwards is guesting on the blog today with this great piece focusing on the value of active listening.  Jackie is an editor and writer, who previously worked as an HR Manager for a small finance company.  She currently focuses on writing about the world of management and business.

Managers: Are You Really Listening?

When you’re talking to someone, naturally you want to know that they are listening. As in, really listening. This is especially true when it involves your place of work. As a manager, you have a huge part to play in your team’s happiness at work. Being a good listener is key to this. Employees want to know that their manager values their opinions, takes their points on board and responds accordingly. Seeing as we retain half of what we hear (at most), all of us should work on improving our listening skills. To be an effective leader, this is vital.

Be an active listener

The best listeners are active listeners. Active listening means not just hearing what someone says, but focusing on the speaker and showing that you are listening – whether that be through verbal or nonverbal cues, or both. Active listening can be practiced and developed over time by following a few simple steps: Continue reading

Can the latest apology from United Airlines heal the rift?

United AirlinesOn April 12, I blogged about the immediate aftermath of United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’ (lack of) leadership.  This following the upsetting video that surfaced the night of April 9th, showing the violent removal of a passenger from an aircraft.  On April 19, I wrote a further commentary in my regular column for The Globe & MailLessons from the United Airlines debacle (or how not to destroy your brand) – in which laid out five leadership lessons that any CEO should internalize so as not to find themselves in similar shaky situations in the future.

Is it too little, too late?

I still maintain that this unfortunate United Airlines incident is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act in a state of crisis (particularly in the age of the Internet).  But I am pleased to say that on April 27, Munoz also demonstrated how to do it right.  United issued the results of their internal investigation as well as a public apology in major newspapers, individual apologies to the airline’s frequent flyers (I got an email) and a statement on their website.  Granted, it may be the proverbial equivalent of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but in my opinion, late is better than never.  Continue reading

Leadership lessons from the United Airlines debacle (or how not to destroy your brand overnight)

Last week I blogged about the immediate aftermath of United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz’ (lack of) leadership.  This following the upsetting video that surfaced the night of April 9th, showing the violent removal of a passenger from an aircraft.  My column in both the online and print editions of today’s Globe and Mail continues on this very topic.  This unfortunate United Airlines incident is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act in a state of crisis (particularly in the age of the Internet).  In today’s column – Lessons from the United Airlines debacle – published in this morning’s print and online editions, I outline five leadership lessons that any CEO can take to heart.   In the interest of not destroying your brand overnight, these five things that are well worth considering and internalizing so as not to find yourself in a similar shaky scenario at any point in the future.

Five lessons that every leader should internalize

This is a topic that has been fodder for many a water cooler and coffee station conversation for the last 1-½ weeks with opinions that have ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other.  You know my point of view, but I’m interested in yours.  What could Munoz have done differently to manage this situation more effectively?  With the benefit of hindsight, what other lessons would leaders take away from this unfortunate situation?  Your comments welcome.

Essential leadership lessons from the United Airlines public relations debacle

unitedlogoSo you’d have to be under a rock or in a dark cave some place to have missed the firestorm that is United Airlines which ignited sometime this past Sunday night.  After all, it’s not every day that an airline literally beats up its customer!  If you haven’t seen the video that accelerated into cyberspace (where have you been?), just Google it; you should find it within seconds.  There’s a lot of conversation about the circumstances leading up to this event, but one thing is clear.  United Airlines’ CEO, Oscar Munoz didn’t handle things well, and in today’s post, I’d like to focus on his apparent (lack of) leadership.  In this age of the Internet, there is example after example of the public relations nightmare that can fall out of a poorly-managed situation (heck, I remember the Papa John’s incident five years ago!), and unfortunately, United Airlines’ handling of this situation is destined to become a textbook case of how a leader should not act.  Let me give you a quick rundown, at least as of last night.

United Airline’s Mistake #1

When the videos of this regrettable event first hit the worldwide web late on Sunday night, Munoz issued a public statement on Monday, which went wrong from the very beginning.  His choice of words — “re-accommodate”, “inconvenienced” and “upsetting” — came across as tone-deaf in a situation that would have more aptly been described as terrible and horrible and shocking and distressing.


Source: View from the Wing

Blunder #2

Continue reading

Be thoughtful about how you’re communicating information to your team

Most leaders I know are deliberate and thoughtful about ensuring that their employees feel like they are treated equivalently (after all, wanting to be treated fairly is a primal instinct).  But there is one circumstance in which this good intention often goes amiss.  I’m talking communicating information to the team.  I’ll start by saying that this communication failure is usually never intentional.

Business people talking togetherThere are some employees with whom you have more vocal or friendly relationships.  I’m talking about the team members who pop in to your office to chat about their weekends, or those ask you about your kids at the coffee machine.  And because you’re having more frequent conversations with these staff, you tend to talk about stuff.  And some of this “stuff” has to do with new workplace initiatives, or recent discussions at the senior management table, or process changes being considered.  Not surprisingly, these employees repeat this “stuff” to their co-workers, and suddenly, without you even realizing it, the rest of your team thinks you’re playing favourites when it comes to communicating information that’s important.  Definitely not what you’d intended, or likely even thought about!  But it’s something you need to be aware of. Continue reading

If you discourage honest and open communication, you may get a Potemkin village!

As leaders, it is critical that we foster an environment that encourages and supports honest and open communication between team members.  And creating the right workplace atmosphere that encourages these types of behaviours starts with us.  I’ve blogged previously about how sometimes leaders send mixed messages, the cavernous disconnect between what you say and what you do, which quite frankly confuses our people.  But continued mixed messages can also result in Potemkin villages.

PotemkinVillageA Potemkin village is a term commonly used in economics and politics to describe a literal or figurative construction that is created solely to deceive others into thinking that a situation is better than it really is.  The term comes from the tale of fake portable villages that were built only to impress Empress Catherine II and her entourage during her journey to Crimea in 1787.  The story is that after the Russian annexation of Crimea from the Ottoman Empire in 1783, Grigory Potemkin was appointed governor of the region with a goal to rebuild the devastated area and bring in Russian settlers, something he was not able to achieve.  But in 1787, as a new war was about to break out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, Catherine II made a trip to the area with several of Russia’s allies.  Since it was crucial to impress the allies, Potemkin set up “mobile villages fronts” on the banks of the Dnieper River. As soon as the barge carrying the Empress and ambassadors arrived, Potemkin’s men, dressed as peasants, populated the village. Once the barge left, the village was disassembled, then rebuilt downstream overnight. Continue reading

Does empathy really work?

FeetInShoesEmpathy – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective – is a critical skill in leadership (and it can be very difficult, as hilariously illustrated in this video I blogged about last year).  As a leader, if you are empathetic, you will get more things done through other people.  Let me give you a recent example, narrated to me by a client who is a sales manager in an office furnishings company.

This manager was discussing with one of his employees an upcoming planned sales visit with a potential client.  The employee seemed reluctant to attend the sales presentation, and several times suggested that the visit would be more effective if it was delayed to the following week.  However, this was a high-profile opportunity, and the manager did not want to delay the visit, so continued to push for haste.  But, as he told me, several minutes into the conversation, it occurred to him to ask “Is there a reason you think we should delay this visit?”  After some reluctance, the employee finally admitted that the present week was a difficult one for him as it was the first anniversary of his mother’s passing, and he was worried that he might not put his best foot forward.  Continue reading

Three indisputable benefits of listening

curious businessman listens with glass leaning against the wallOver the years, I’ve penned many blog posts about the importance of effective listening, including the very interesting use of the word “listen” in traditional Mandarin Chinese. Today though, I thought it was worthwhile bringing up how not listening effectively actually causes people to sabotage their credibility and effectiveness. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize the benefits of listening, and thus, the serious consequences of not. Right off the top of my head, here are three specific benefits of listening that I can think of. Continue reading