Did I really say that?

The top tip in this story is to beware of the English language because it can trip you up so easily.

I was talking to a group of managers about Learning Styles. You don’t need to understand what Learning Styles are to understand the trouble I got myself into. Suffice to say that there are 4 and they are called Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. The way I facilitate this subject is to ask delegates to complete a simple questionnaire and identify which of A, R, T and P they score highest. I then group the delegates by their common letter and set them the task of trying to work out what the letter stands for. So far so good.

The A group went first and I asked them what they thought the A stood for. They did well and said the word Active which was close enough. Next went the R group and I asked them what word they thought represented R. They also did well and said Reflecting (again close enough). Next was the turn of the T group and I asked them what they though their word was. They said Thinkers and then with a bit of prompting Theorists. So far so good.

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Now it came to the P group. Aware that the word Pragmatist is not in everybody’s vocabulary I must have been thinking of this when I asked the question ….. “so how would you define your Penis?”.

Well that is what people heard.

Obviously what I had said was “so how would you define your P-ness?” but by then the damage had been done and a shocked silence descended upon the room.

Thankfully the silence only lasted a second or two before giggles, chuckles and then guffaws replaced the silence. My embarrassment was complete however when some bright spark from the Activist group asked me if I would like them to redefine their A-ness!!!!

So, still blushing at the memory, I would like to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you like a tuneful e-card please click on the link below and enjoy our chosen charity’s greeting.

Merry Christmas from all at The Reality Business

This year the Reality Business decided to send our Xmas Card budget to the charity Crash who do sterling work with the building industry to help the homeless. We have been fortunate to work with several clients in that sector this year so were delighted to do our bit.

Our Internal Parent/Child

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This tip is not directly about a difficult conversation, but I hope it will be relevant and useful anyway.

A colleague of mine was telling me how he needed to better understand the concepts of Transactional Analysis and particular the part which talks about our Ego states when relating to other people. You may have heard of these Egos namely Parent (Critical or Nurturing), Adult and Child (Adapted or Natural).

In a nutshell, we all lurch from one ego state to another often triggered by our own habits or the perceived behaviour of the other person. For example when giving somebody some feedback we may find ourselves talking down to that person and ‘telling them off’. This would be our Critical Parent kicking in and is likely to ‘hook’ a Child response (such as “that’s not fair”) from the other person.

Back to my colleague. He was telling me how tedious he was finding the reading and that he was unconvinced it wasn’t a load of @*^&!

He also said he was having to resist a huge temptation just to throw the book away and do something else much more interesting.

I asked him from which Ego state did he think these ‘voices’ were coming from? He understood immediately that this was his ‘Internal Child’ wanting to go out and play. At this point, he said, “so then I must resist these and definitely finish the book, however, tough that is”.

The answer, of course, is probably not because where might the ‘voice’ demanding completion be coming from? Probably his ‘Internal Parent’ in response to the ‘naughty’ Child.

The ideal Ego state to be in (usually) is the Adult. This deals with the here and now. It is interested in facts and relevance. So, perhaps the right thing to do would be to read some of the chapters, make some notes and then bounce some thoughts off somebody else.

Without realising it, I think my colleague experienced all three Ego states without relating to anybody else at all. Maybe he unconsciously chose the Adult path by picking up the phone to me and hopefully is now somewhat clearer.

The top tip therefore for almost all conversations but definitely difficult conversations is to avoid slipping into Parent/Child and try and stay Adult (even if the other person doesn’t). Eventually, they will have to join you Adult to Adult.

Read more on the Reality blog

Beware Multiple Questions

set of hand drawn arrows and speech bubbles on cardboard  background, vector illustration

set of hand drawn arrows and speech bubbles on cardboard background, vector illustration

A common mistake made by managers when giving feedback is to ask questions which are unclear. This can easily make the conversation more difficult than it should have been.

Let me give you an example:

“Fred, I have noticed you have been late in submitting your figures for the last two weeks and this is having a knock-on impact delaying the new marketing campaign.”

(so far so good)

“What’s the problem? Is it to do with the new software or is it because you are waiting on Jim in sales? Is there anything I need to know and how can I help?”

(Fred now has a choice of which question to answer and will probably plump for the easiest)

“Thanks boss, no everything is now under control and I will let you know if I need any help.”

The result of the above exchange is minimal. The manager is none the wiser about what has happened and Fred is none the wiser as to what the manager wants him to do in future.

A much better question would have been:

“What’s the problem?”

(Fred talks about the situation and you listen, before asking a second question)

“What do you need to do to ensure your figures are always submitted on time in future?”

Multiple questions do not help the person receiving the feedback so keep your questions short, simple and only ask one at a time.

Reap What You Sow, by Steve Farmer

It has been a little while since my last tip and a couple of things have prompted me to get back in the swing of it. Firstly I have received several really nice bits of feedback saying how useful the old tips have been and that they have helped with some challenging conversations. Secondly I have run a ‘difficult conversations’ workshop this week and a new ‘top tip’ emerged from one of the ‘Real Play’ scenarios.

This scenario was different in that the difficult conversation was going to be with a person the manager had not met and did not know. In this case it was going to be a conversation with a key customer about outstanding invoices but it equally could have been any number of other situations where you need to influence or negotiate with a new customer/supplier/employer.

The manager in this instance was new in role and was picking up a problem that others had failed to resolve. He had been given snippets of information about the customer (a senior manager in a council department) and most of that feedback had been about how difficult this person was to deal with. Apparently he was unsmiling, short of time, unfriendly, only interested in own agenda and generally tough.

Now those things may well have been true and were shared honestly to try to help this manager. The problem in this case was that these impressions were used to shape the approach that this manager took. In the ‘Real Play’ (where an actor is the council manager) our manager had the conversation expecting bluntness and a battle and lo and behold that is exactly what he got back.

When we unpicked what had happened it started to emerge that our manager had almost tried to mirror his expectations. He had been unsmiling and serious. He had adopted a fixed posture and steely gaze which remained unaltered. He had used very direct language and failed to listen stating only his needs.

Management Tips Graphic - Businessman Reaps What He Sows

The beauty of ‘Real Play’ is that you can rewind and try different approaches. The second time our manager was more ‘himself’. He smiled a little more, was more relaxed and listened better. He put aside his script and responded to the other person and lo and behold a dialogue started with scope for better understanding and finding areas of mutual benefit.

The real meeting is due to take place next week and of course there is no guarantee it will go anything like our second iteration. However, I can guarantee it will certainly go like the first attempt if our manager assumes too much of how the other person is going to be.

Fundamentally whether the other person is an actor or a real person they will respond to your behaviours. In other words we reap what we sow.

Performance Capability and Fluctuation

In my last blog I talked about Performance Fluctuation and about making an honest assessment of yourself and those around you in terms of how consistently you are performing at between 90-100% of your true performance capability.

We work regularly with many managers in all sorts of different roles across a multitude of business types and cultures and have been doing for the last 10 years. We see people on our programmes but also in situ in the workplace and often observe first hand these performance variations. Indeed many Manager’s engage us to help them with their team’s less than stellar performance and in particular specific individuals whose performance they’ve seen decline and cannot seem to get under the skin as to why.

So – let’s firstly look at the concept of a “psychological contract”. This is the non-existent piece of paper that determines the amount of discretionary effort an individual will give in the workplace – you may want to call it “the inner motivation to do well”. There’s a pile of classic and well proven motivational theory (Herzberg/Maslow etc.) that one can draw on to identify some of the things that might cause someone to either choose to, or choose not to, feel motivated – such things as their job content, chances for development advancement, security, reward, workplace surrounds, the business culture and environment and so on.

All of these things are absolutely valid as to possible things that can cause performance capability to fluctuate but the majority of them are EXTERNAL to the person and whilst it’s possible to influence some of them to an extent, it’s also true that the degree of influence is not hugely within your span of control.

What we see less people examining are those factors that are INTERNAL to the individual and it is my belief that these are key to truly understanding ours and others performance. We’ve seen some substantial uplift in performance from courses we have run with groups of people and from 1-1 coaching we have done where we raise awareness of, and then work on these internal factors. The fields of Emotional Intelligence and Personal Resilience offer some extraordinary insights into what makes people tick  – we’ve been amazed at how many people we’ve come across some of whom are in very senior positions) who suffer from issues around self-confidence, relationship building and their handling of change and setbacks. Once people are able to understand and connect how they think (and why that is) to how they feel and behave they can start to unravel why they aren’t performing as they’d like to (such performance often extending way beyond the workplace to their home and social lives too). The next stage then is make the (for some) almighty leap to realise that so much of this is a CHOICE and, moreover, totally within our span of influence.

So – if you know there’s something going on with yours or others performance – it may well be something that lies in this INTERNAL arena – and if you are interested in doing something about it but don’t know how, why not give us a call! We may well be able to help!

And if you are interested in Sport and don’t get what I’m on about do a bit of research on any of those sporting people I mentioned in my previous blog……………look at the fluctuations in their performance capability………..are they INTERNAL or EXTERNAL factors?

Training That Is Creative, Imaginative and Wise

You will have noticed some recent changes to our company website including our brand new Reality Business logos (including recently added festive edition!).

reality business training logo

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I was therefore very interested to read an article recently that suggests that when designing a logo for your business, it’s important to take into account the way people interpret colour. It’s the right time to ask, what kind of emotion do I want my brand to convey? Continue reading