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.

If you enjoyed this post let me know by liking below.  It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged on management and I’m gauging its survival in my blog. 🙂

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?

Communication – Listen First

I saw this quote (picture below) and have been thinking about it all week.  Communication the all time hot topic for development in most jobs.  How to improve it, to excel at it and how to drive others with your leadership of it.


I asked myself this week, do I listen to reply or do I listen to understand?  In many cases I’m needed to reply, direct, mentor or give advice; however, I feel that one needs to understand before moving to a response.  The key is the mindset to ensure you understand first.

There are times where I’ve ask a question to my leadership team and the answer I get is a “non” answer to my question.  Which I quickly translate to “I don’t know” but for some reason there is a fear, for not knowing something, it’s what I call the autonomic reply.  I dislike this autonomic reply, I’d rather deal with the uncomfortable silence for redirected questions if necessary, than get the “non” answer.  This is a communication problem i.e, poor listening skills.

Let’s be fair, not everyone is a great communicator (topic for another blog) or it wouldn’t be a hot topic come goal setting time, however, as a listener it’s up to us to understand.  How does one become a good listener?  Glad you asked – Here are steps to get you on your way.  Think CAR.

1.  Classification
It’s important to know, as the listener, if you are to respond. As you’re listening, decide if there is a call to action expected of you. Sometimes the role of listening is just that, to listen and empathize. Classify and know your role. If in doubt ask, but at the end, if the discussion has already started, when you understand more. If you ask up front you look like a tool.

2.  Attention!
In the military, soldiers don’t doodle around multi-tasking when their superior commands attention, they do it. No multi-tasking. So take this step and ensure your attention is directed correctly.  Don’t do the mental wonder, stay in the present and focus.

3.  Repeat
The act of understanding, is easier said than done sometimes. When you’re having a hard time understanding something, ask clarifying questions. Repeat what you’ve heard. It’s not meant to be frustrating to the person talking, however, if the intent is for understanding and reply, you need to know what’s being asked or communicated. Now is not the time for assumptions. Remember the saying, assumptions make an ass out of you and me when wrong.

I hope this helps you on your listening skills.  Which step will you apply in the next week, do you already use these steps?  Do you have another to add? I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment below.

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Smart Phones Making Us Dumb

I am noticing a shift in management to bring the tech part of work back to the people. Some of the more experienced staff (i.e., the older personnel) are grasping onto this concept whereas, the younger generation Y and younger are more hesitant to this shift.

So what is this shift? It’s the simple concept of picking up the phone and talking. More face to face meetings – video is fine, we’re not telling technology to take a hike here. Rules wizards on email set that if a topic has more than a preset of responses, no more emails can be sent on the topic, those involved are directed to hold a meeting for discussion. Set rules on instant message within a company structure, on availability and types of allowed messages.

At first it sounds like ‘big brother’ is watching you more heavily, but actually these are points of management to incorporate for yourself. Do you use the automatic schedule setting to turn your phone off and on based on working hours? Or do you have it running 24 hours 7 days a week?

People are connected to their devices all the time – I mean do you really need to check it in the bathroom, at dinner and for each beep, tweet noise that comes out of the speaker? I use to be one of those with the crack-berry thumbs, so that email could be answered efficiently and directly from where ever I was and time no longer an issue because the 9-5 office was not literally anymore with a blackberry (i.e., smart phone). Then I hit an age and experience level and realized this compulsive need was my own making and basically quit cold turkey from the every 5-10 minute check of the phone during waking hours.

My messaging to my manager and direct reports following my own intervention 5 years ago – if it’s urgent, call me. Guess what, not a ton of calls occur at odd times, however there didn’t seem to be a moratorium on emails. Therefore in my mind, nothing is urgent and it can wait until I review my emails.

Watch this YouTube video, you may have seen it already as it has a number of hits, it’s quite telling and true on how disconnected we are from people, colleagues, friends and family. Ever feel like this or would like to form your own intervention to quit?

Do you feel this video is an accurate representation of your smart phone use? Or do you feel more like the girl in the video? Anyone see how wrong this is and see how we are stepping backwards as a result?

I am curious to your comments – let’s hear it and discuss!! 🙂