Foot in Mouth Disease is it Redeemable?

Have you ever been in a situation where your brain and mouth did not connect before blurting out something shocking?  Blame it on the spontaneity of the moment or what I call, foot in mouth disease.  It is the end of the year and we all are working hard and just a little stressed.  How does one come back from an emotional blurt out? Seriously we see politicians do it all the time.

Communication is more than just exchanging information.  Effective communication is a two-way street. It’s not only how you convey a message it’s how it is understood by someone the way you intended.  More than just the words you use, effective communication combines nonverbal communication, such as:

  • Engaged listening
  • Managing stress in the moment
  • The ability to communicate assertively
  • The capacity to recognize and understand your own emotions and those of the person you’re communicating with.

Effective communication is a learned skill, it is more effective when it’s spontaneous rather than formulaic. A speech that is read, for example, rarely has the same impact as a speech that’s delivered (or appears to be delivered) spontaneously. Of course, it takes time and effort to develop these skills to become an effective communicator. The more effort and practice you put in, the more instinctive your communication skills will become and hopefully protect you from foot in mouth disease.

Here is how to avoid the dreaded foot in mouth disease.

Stress and out-of-control emotion. 

When you’re stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, you’re more likely to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior. Take a moment to calm down before continuing a conversation.
Lack of focus. You can’t communicate effectively when you’re multitasking. If you’re planning what you’re going to say next, daydreaming, checking text messages, or thinking about something else, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. You need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience.

Inconsistent body language. 

Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel you’re being dishonest. For example, you can’t say “yes” while shaking your head no.

Negative body language. 

If you disagree with or dislike what’s being said, you may use negative body language to rebuff the other person’s message, such as crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping your feet. You don’t have to agree, or even like what’s being said, but to communicate effectively without making the other person defensive, it’s important to avoid sending negative signals.

 

Giocando nel passeggino
If we only looked this cute, all the time!

 

How do you redeem yourself? 

One way is to practice staying calm under pressure.

Use stall tactics to give yourself time to think. Such as having a question repeated, or ask for clarification of a statement before responding.

Pause to collect your thoughts. Silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response. It also allows you to gauge others following your initial comment.

Deliver your words clearly. In many cases, how you say something can be as important as what you say. Speak clearly, maintain an even tone, and make eye contact. Keep your body language relaxed and open. Wrap up with a summary and then stop. Summarize your response and then stop talking, even if it leaves a silence in the room. You don’t have to fill the silence by continuing to talk.

You may not be able to take your foot out of your mouth from a previous discussion without clarification later which endangers you for discussion of that same topic; however, it’s your decision to let it stay or redirect.  As my Mom use to say, sometimes it’s best to let the dead dog lie. Which basically means, leave it alone, what’s done is done.

What tactics do you use when you suffer from foot in mouth disease?  Do you naturally use the above tips or is this something you’ve learned over time?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Stop Your Late-Night Email Cycles

Many of us have been in the situation where we realize something for work after working hours. No time like the present, we let our smart phones do the walking and send our teams that late night email. It seems harmless enough but is it?

A rare email after hours is harmless enough, however if it’s more habit i.e., several days in a week, a month; you’re hurting your team.  Why you do you ask? Simply put you’re driving a 24/7 type of culture in your company. Your team will feel obligated to be “on” at all times versus the specific busy times.

If late night emails are common behavior for you, you’re missing the opportunity to get some distance from work, and distance that is critical to a fresh perspective you need as the leader, while you are denying this same opportunity to your team. Let’s face it when the boss is working, the team feels like they should be working. All it takes is that one meeting where a few in the group voice, “when we were emailing last night…” or “we completed this over the weekend…”. This causes pressure for those who were not involved to be involved. Those start fearing, I will be poorly evaluated as a key member of the team/company if I’m not seen as committed as others.  This is how the company culture begins to change.

Experiments show that we need downtime, our bodies crave it.  In fact if we don’t get that down time, adverse symptoms will start to show including, stress, insomnia, depression. Being “always on” hurt employee effectiveness long term. When employees are constantly monitoring their email after work hours, they are missing out on key down time that they need. Employees can never disconnect when they’re always reaching for their devices to see if you’ve emailed, don’t add to their device addiction – be opposite and foster a better culture and expectation. I had one boss, who held this conversation with me, and it stayed.  ‘Lets work hard during the day, then enjoy your evening because you’ve earned it.  It will all be here for you the next day don’t worry, it’s a never ending cycle.’  It’s like the old saying work hard, play hard – that’s the work-life balance we all crave.

Creativity, inspiration, and motivation are your competitive advantage, but they are also depletable resources that need to be recharged. Incidentally, this is also true for you, so it’s worthwhile to examine your habits as a leader and ensure your not hurting your team/employees.  A few helpful tips, if you are going to email at night – send it to draft and send in the morning. Resist the all appealing ‘send’ button.  Or if your email client has a rule option, set up rules that emails from you after x time and before x time, be sent at 8:00am.  Lastly, ensure your consistent with your employees by not rewarding them on late night emails and their expectations of an answer from you after hours.  It’s important that if there is a dire situation or issue an employee knows they can reach you by phone.

Walk the walk and set the standard leaders, your teams will thank you and you’ll have in return more effective and satisfied employees. I know I have had some of the best teams because of this one mantra I’ve held as a leader and manager.  Granted some will continue the bad habit, you need to push as a leader this is not your expectation and work with your team to get them back to the work day productivity or reassess your teams assignments.

What are some ways you can influence a change in your teams to stop the late night email cycle?

Be a Leader – Increase Your EI

Do you want to be a Leader, a good one? Emotional Intelligence (EI) is essential for success and should be in your development plan.  There are a few who see the word emotion and begin to roll their eyes.  Who wants to add emotions to the professional realm?  Guess what? A leader should. This isn’t gender based. After all, who is more likely to succeed, someone who responds to stress with shouting and impulsive decisions, or one who can calmly and firmly assess the situation and manage the circumstances?
Diagram of emotional intelligence

EI is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of the people around you.  It’s not manipulation, it’s understanding and caring. Those with a high skill set of EI know what they’re feeling. They understand what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people, and they apply that understanding to those around them.

How do you develop your EI? Firstly, be emotionally aware. Make an effort to pay attention to your emotions and behaviors, your actions and reactions. Consider how they affect you and those around you. This isn’t easy especially in the middle of a meeting when bad news is delivered. Take a pause and evaluate your reactions in front of others. Govern your responses.

Hold yourself accountable. Being in control of your emotions and moods is a basic responsibility, especially as a leader. When you can regulate your responses, you avoid making knee jerk decisions in the heat of the moment. This becomes easier the more you allow for pauses and in turn you control your state of mind.

Lastly, be confident in yourself and your team. In tough situations if your doubting you and/or your team it shows. Master the inner critic, be decisive while empowering your team in that same manner. Those with strong EI are typically respectful of others. Rather than focusing on your own success, help others develop and shine by respecting their strengths and talents. Remember that to give respect is to get respect.

People with high EI are usually successful in most things they do. Why? Because they have a deep understanding of self and they make others feel good about themselves. Building strong EI will not only impact your leadership skill set, it will add value to your life. Don’t strip emotion away for the sake of an ideal of what is ‘professional’, it’s a balance, after all we’re all human and to be human is to be emotional.

What are you going to do to up your EI over the next week?
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Top 10 Ways to be a Good Leader/Manager

As a leader and manager for over the last 10 years these are my top 10 ways for being a good one.

  1. Get your hands dirty.
    • Know what your people are doing and what their grind is like.  You can’t empathize if you have no idea, and they know it.
  2. Listen.
    • Don’t lead all the meetings, spice it up and have others lead.  All meetings shouldn’t be updates and lectures (boring!!).Leadership
  3. Ask questions and go back to #2.
    • Gain insight and knowledge by seeking out the hard questions/answers.  Don’t seek to answer them straight away, no one likes the spin zone in which the question never gets fully addressed (people are not stupid).
  4. Empower your team.
    • Let your team drive their work and decisions, while supporting them, win or fail.  No one likes a boss over the shoulder every step of the way, but they do appreciate the one who is a phone call away.
  5. Be fearless.
    • Don’t let every little dip in a relationship with clients dictate your mood to our team.  It will all work out and showing a positive spirit in the face of adversity will drive morale higher versus killing it.
  6. Keep your people at the top of your priorities.
    • Should be self-evident.  People make the world go round. If the wrong person isn’t right for the job perform them out, they affect the people who are right for the job.
  7. Develop something from scratch.
    • It gives a sense of pride and accomplishment, leaders need it too!
  8. Allow personal goals for your people.
    • All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Goals shouldn’t all just be corporate ones, refer back to #6.
  9. Make mistakes and don’t hide from them.
    • Mistakes happen, hopefully not costly ones that can’t be remedied.  Don’t sweep it under the rug, play in it and learn from it and share what you or the team as learned.  Refer back to #5 and #4.
  10. Break the rules.
    • If it adds value to a person or a project and is strategically sound, break the rule.  Refer back to #6 and if someone is pulling in more hours than usual and adding value, give them the day off outside of the vacation schedule to recharge and let them know you care and appreciate them.

Any additional ways for leaders/managers to be good? Please let me know in the Comments below.  It’s good to stay at the top of your skill set as a leader/manager.

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