About Our Guest: Jodi Glickman is an expert in training people how to be Great on the Job. In fact, that’s the title of her bestselling book. In addition to training, coaching, and consulting, Jodi is a regular blogger for Harvard Business Review. She has appeared on MSNBC, and her career advice has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek, WSJ Finance, CNN Money, Woman’s Day and many other media outlets. Jodi is a former Peace Corp volunteer (Southern Chile) turned investment banker (Goldman Sachs) turned communication expert. She earned her MBA at Cornell University. – Doctor Duncan
What are the two or three most common communication mistakes in a business environment – and what advice do you offer for solving them.
The first one is failing to manage expectations. We make a lot of assumptions that people know what we’re thinking, what we want a finished product to look like, when we want to see the final sales numbers. The antidote is explicit communication. If you give me an assignment and I have 20 other things on my plate, I should respond immediately and communicate to you when I’ll be able to handle your request. This builds trust and demonstrates that you’re on top of things. Let people know their needs are on your radar and that you’ll follow up at a specific time.
If you’re handing off work, clarify your expectations. Clearly communicate how you want the finished product to look and when you need to have it.
Mistake number two: failing to ask for help. Many people are afraid of looking dumb, so they set themselves up for failure because they don’t ask for the resources and guidance they need to meet expectations. Asking for help doesn’t mean saying, “I have no idea what to do.” Asking for help means saying, “Okay, this is the way I understand it. Is this what you have in mind?” You may want to put together a plan of action, then get your manager’s buy-in to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction. An agreement on direction, project steps, and milestones can be helpful to all parties.
Mistake number three: failing to use face-to-face communication when it’s needed. Many people use email as a crutch when they don’t want to have a difficult conversation with someone or they don’t feel comfortable delivering bad news. If you fail to address an issue head-on, there’s a good chance it will blow up to become an even greater problem. Tone and tenor get lost in email. In business, most decisions don’t get made via email. It’s through face-to-face communication.
Why do some people seem to ignore – or resist – the need to get help with their relationships at work?
People tend to focus on technical skills. Technical and financial skills are sometimes easier to deal with because we can measure output. Relationship issues are often more difficult (though not impossible) to measure. The easy way is to simply ignore problems. If we promote people to management positions because they have good technical skills, and then just hope that they will automatically develop people skills, we’re headed for trouble. Similarly, some people resist coaching with a comment like, “You know, I don’t really need help. Things will take care of themselves.” People often avoid confronting a colleague who genuinely needs help with relationships.
Self-awareness is one of the common denominators of great leaders. Leadership is not just drive, ambition, intelligence, or vision. It comes down to knowing what you’re good at and knowing what you’re not yet good at. Self-awareness enables you to capitalize on your strengths and outsource or compensate for your weaknesses and get better at those things in which you need improvement.
What tips can you offer on the best ways to give – and receive – feedback on the job?
The most important thing in giving feedback is to be specific. Don’t just tell someone they need to get better. Offer specific examples and tips. Otherwise, you’re giving frustration, not help. Be prepared to tell the person what you think he should do differently, or what he should stop doing, or what he should start doing. Jason Garrett, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, says the coaches he appreciated most in his playing days were those who were very explicit in telling him how he could improve.
We should not look at feedback as something to make us feel good or bad about ourselves. We should regard feedback as developmental. It’s sometimes like medicine. It may not taste good, but it can help us get better. If I really care about becoming the best professional I can be, then I should welcome your constructive criticism.
People need to ask for feedback explicitly. You can’t safely assume that people will automatically give you feedback. You should plant the seed in advance. You don’t want to put anyone on the spot and say, “How did I do in that presentation?” Tell them in advance that you will ask for feedback. This enables them to be thinking about how they can offer feedback that will be helpful.
In today’s super competitive environment, how can good communication skills help a person stand out from the crowd?
The reality is that when you meet someone, you’re sizing them up within 30 seconds. That might not be fair, but it’s reality. You’re either impressed by their poise and maturity and confidence, or you’re not. And it all comes across in the way they’re able to communicate to you in that first half minute.
Let’s assume you’re sharp and on the ball and have what it takes to back up a good first impression. Still, the only way you’re going to get the job is to impress the potential employer that you have something valuable to offer. No matter how smart you are, if you can’t talk it’s very hard to compete for the best job.
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