It happens sometimes. We clash with people at work, but there’s a better way through the right kind of communication.
Recently, I had a spirited discussion with a woman who works for me who had made some mistakes I just had to address. Our exchange was tense at times, and we eventually worked things out, but the most interesting thing to come out of it was what we learned from the experience.
Her name is Mary, and she’s smart, accomplished and works quickly and efficiently—most of the time. Mary would probably describe the conversation differently, more like a cannon explosion. It did start that way, as I had let things build up without discussing my concerns when they happened. And then, on a particularly busy morning, I just let it out.
I could tell Mary was surprised and I’m sure she felt I was being harsh. Maybe I was at first but well, I was mad. As managers and business owners, we have the right to expect quality work and peak performance from people who work for us. At the same time, we need to know and practice effective communication, so we can get the performance results we want and keep up morale.
Nothing promotes productivity and loyalty like support and respect–and that works both ways. In business, I had seen how badly women treated each other. They sabotaged, rather than supported, each other. I knew we could do better, but we first needed our own code of conduct for how to think and live in the world that was different from the one we inherited from men. It was my dream to build a community of women helping each other through a program that could show women how to tap into their own value and innate power. In 2011, my dream came true when I created The Women’s Code.
As for Mary, she listened intently and didn’t say a word until I had finished my rant. I had expected her to be defensive, and make excuses for not meeting a deadline, but instead she acknowledged her mistake and took responsibility! How rare is that? From having learned The Women’s Code, I could tell Mary had been reminded of the importance of being accountable and learning from mistakes.
Then it was her turn, and she calmly but firmly pointed out behaviors of mine that impede her workflow, like not being accessible to answer her questions. I have to admit, she made a valid point. “I know my value,” Mary said at one point, and I was both impressed and gratified because I knew she had embraced the core principle of The Women’s Code. Today, we are happily back on track, we understand each other better and can even find humor in the whole situation.
Tips For Effective Communication
* Prepare. Think in advance how best to communicate your complaints so the person on the other end doesn’t get defensive. When someone feels attacked, they naturally defend themselves. It’s normal, we all do it, but it creates a stalemate and stifles productivity.
* Flip the complaint around so it comes from your point of view. For example, instead of saying you did this and I’m really mad about it, start from a neutral, even humble, place. “Maybe I didn’t explain things clearly, but from now on I’d like you to follow through on all email correspondence.”
* Lead by good example and respect, not fear.
* Ask what tools or changes a person needs to do their best work.
* Try to understand how a person’s work process may may differ from the rest of your team.
* Be clear on deadlines and work priorities.
* Acknowledge a job well done. Praise and support are the best motivators.
Beate Chelette is a respected career coach, business trainer, and a consummate entrepreneur who founded The Women’s Code, a unique guide to personal and career success that offers a new code of conduct for today’s business, private and digital world. After selling one of her start-up companies, BeateWorks, to Bill Gates in 2006 for millions of dollars, CEOs and entrepreneurs around the country came calling to learn her strategies for success, and today Beate shares them in her dynamic break-out training sessions on leadership, conflict resolution and effective communication.