Maggie is our very neurotic dog daughter. She is super weird about many, many things. First, she is terrified of riding in a car. Now Maggie has lived with us since she was 6 weeks old, and to my knowledge, she has never experienced any type of car crisis or tragedy. She used to like the car, but one day, she suddenly did not. So now riding in a car involves shaking and panting and lots of big sighs from all of us. Maggie also hates ear drops and will hold a grudge if you put any in her ears. For days, she will leave the room if you come in and will give you hateful glares if you look at her. But perhaps her weirdest quirk is that she is afraid to walk on hardwood or tile floors. Sometimes she forgets her fears and ventures onto the tile kitchen floor, but as soon as she realizes she is no longer on a non-slippery surface, she freezes. And then she asks for help. She barks until someone comes and walks with her off of the tile and back to the carpet. Maggie may be neurotic, but she knows when and how to ask for help. Boy, we can all learn from Maggie. How many times do we avoid asking for help because we are afraid it may make us look less capable? How many times have we waited too late to ask for help? etc Strategies believes that asking for help can create more collaboration, build better teams, and encourage a more cooperative work culture. Now if we can only find a way to “help” Maggie to ride in a car or take ear drops …
An important philosophy of etc Strategies is that we practice what we preach. We truly strive to model the strategies we promote. So … remember my blog about the importance of letting others share their “stories”? Here’s a highly successful, experienced manager’s take on a common communication issue:
Listening and understanding. It seems like such an easy concept to grasp. I have found myself in several situations with colleagues that I have worked with over the years that simply don’t understand what that concept means. We all know that person who cannot wait to raise their hand and answer with a comment, question or statement that’s intent is to show you how smart they are rather than that they understand the context and premise of the conversation before answering. I am dating myself, but if you watched Welcome Back Kotter, you know who Arnold Horshack is. Horshack was the student who was always the first one with his hand up saying, “Oh, Oh, Oh Mr. Kotter!” before Mr. Kotter could finish his thought or question. Horshack is a classic example of listening-to-reply instead of listening-to-understand.
It is naturally easier listening-to-reply instead of listening-to-understand before you reply. But I’ve found that listening-to-understand will drive teamwork, cooperation and general respect from all of your coworkers. The best part of this is that it only takes a second longer but the results are long-reaching.
etc Strategies believes that listening-to-understand our guest blogger Dan Kemp’s story can help you in all of your communication experiences. And we think Arnold Horshack would agree!!
When I was in kindergarten, I told everyone that I was a Houston Oilers’ (the Houston football team before the Texans) cheerleader. That’s right ... I said I was a professional cheerleader. I told my friends, my teachers - heck, I told anyone who would listen. And after a while, I truly believed that I WAS a Houston Oilers’ cheerleader. Because I was a kindergartener, no one really asked for those real-life details to prove that I was actually a cheerleader. No one really said much; most just smiled or laughed when I told them. A few days later, I actually forgot I was a professional cheerleader and went on to become the sheriff’s wife in our recess game of “Cowboys.” Here’s the lesson learned - just because I said I was a professional cheerleader did not make it true. But I’m afraid that lots and lots of people haven’t learned that very important lesson, especially on social media. Lately, I have read post after post about information that is simply not true. As a teacher, I stressed over and over the importance of looking at information critically, taking the time to check the source and validate the information. Many of the “lessons” I tried to teach in my classroom were hard to connect to the real world because some things you just have to experience as an adult. But sadly, this critical analysis connection was easy to illustrate as I used example after example of intelligent adults who “shared” information as factual when in reality, the information was NOT true. My students noted that those intelligent adults lost credibility and respect for following the “just because I say so” mentality without critically analyzing the information. I hate to break it to you, but just because it's on the Internet or a news show or stated by an “expert” doesn't make it true or factually based. Here’s the deal -- check your facts before you post or present. And check multiple sources for such facts. If you can’t validate the information or the source, DON’T present … or post … or “like” … or “share” … etc Strategies believes that responsible communicators always critically analyze before sharing. And although I never became a professional cheerleader, I will always be cheering that people go beyond the “just because I say so” and share reliable and validated information.
Before the Internet … you heard me … before Pinterest, before Buzzfeed, even before a Google image search, I had the daunting task of figuring out my son Austin’s Halloween costume. Now I am not talking about the Dark Ages; we did still have Target and Walmart and a selection of cheaply made, super uncreative costumes. But Austin wanted to win the Cub Scout Halloween contest, and to do that, I had to come up with the most creative, yet “diy” attainable costume. So each year at the beginning of October I started to look around for costume ideas. As I watched tv, shopped for groceries, and interacted with family and friends, I always looked for something creative that would work. And after lots of discarded ideas (my son really wanted to win!!), we always came up with something. One year, he was the inside of a dryer (black sweatsuit with socks, a dryer sheet, and even a pair of undies clipped on him). He was a trash can (actual plastic trash can from Home Depot with the bottom and arm holes cut out and lid attached to a ballcap) and a Kroger bag of groceries (big box covered with brown paper with groceries sticking out of the top). His Cereal Killer (black trench coat with small cereal boxes attached inside, carrying a big stick with a spoon at the end) was truly the best! And guess what? He won every single year. So is this blog all about me bragging about my creativity? Not really! Remember, I had to work to be creative. I started in early October looking for ideas. Today, my son has it so easy. He still likes to wear the most creative Halloween costume, but he now has all kinds of resources to use like Pinterest, Buzzfeed, and Google Images. etc Strategies believes that in communication and training, we need to understand that you can become better at being creative if you work at it. And creativity can help you solve that problem, develop that new idea, or train more effectively. Use your resources but also use your focus. Allow yourself time to look around and see the creativity all around you. And best of all … that creativity will help you “win” every time!
My mom thinks she can break the Internet. Seriously ... she thinks that if she pushes a wrong button or clicks in the wrong place with her mouse, she will be responsible for breaking the Internet. Technology truly scares her. She doesn’t fear using the technology itself; she fears that she will “break” something if she uses it incorrectly. Every flash of the screen and every “bleep” and “whirl” cause anxiety. But give my mom a break! She is 80 years old and is still willing to try. Her latest and greatest accomplishment involves replying to an email. Other great feats include opening an attachment, finding Facebook, and printing a document. Today’s world revolves around technology, but we sometimes forget that people have differing comfort levels using technology. Others may not have immediate access or lack the most current apps and programs. So when we say, “I’ll email you” or “Here’s a site that will help,” we must remember the technology limitations that still exist. But how do we know if an employee or client have such limitations? Easy! We ask -- “What is the best way to share information with you?’ As we work to communicate more effectively, we must find (and be willing to invest in) alternatives to using technology. Offer a printed information sheet. Mail a postcard. Make a phone call. etc Strategies believes that when sharing information, always strive to find the best possible method and look beyond technology if necessary. My mom will thank you!