Magna Res Est Vocis Et Silentii Temperamentum – A Valuable Lesson Indeed!

Detective 4The proverbs of Seneca the younger provide the title and the lesson for consideration, “The great thing is to know when to speak and when to keep quiet.”  I make this statement and write on this lesson, not because I am good at knowing when to speak and when to stay silent, but in the hopes of learning more perfectly when to speak and when to talk.  In reviewing my K-12 report cards, the ones my parents had to sign, the most frequent comment is knowing when to shut up, closely followed by “Does not play well with others.”  The latter is a badge of honor; I have never played well with others!

But, knowing when to speak and when not to speak is a challenge, and in observing people, I find I might not be the only person afflicted with a lack of knowledge on this topic.  My wife is a perfect example of someone who knows when to speak and when to stay silent.  She has mastered the art of saying the exact word in season someone needs to hear and claims manners and discernment have honed her abilities.

Charles de Lint is quoted on educating children, saying in part, “Teach them to learn how to see and ask questions.”  The greatest teachers I can recall easily are those who taught me to either perceive differently or how to ask questions.  Long have I desired to return these lessons and remain enthusiastic about finding the opportunities to teach.  I often quote and consider the lessons taught by Henry Chester, who said, “Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world.  It beats money, power, and influence.  It is nothing more or less than faith in action.”  While appearing paradoxical, enthusiasm and learning when to speak and stay silent are anything but contradictory, and this is the point and the lesson for your consideration.Pin on Why Volkalize?

Why do we speak?

Of all the questions asked me in my K-12 journey, the number one question has to be an iteration of the following: “Why are you talking?”  I never could understand when to shut up.  Worse, there were plenty of times when my refusal to shut up would worsen the punishment, even though I considered the teacher’s actions immoral, unethical, or plain wrong.  For example, in 12th grade, Mr. Moro’s class, Camden-Rockport High School, Camden, Maine.  I had been a student of this school for a grand total of 1 day; this was the second class on my second day.  My first meeting with Mr. Moro, who, very clearly stated, “This is his classroom, his castle, and in his castle, he was king and demanded respect.  To which I firmly replied, NO!  He sent me to the principal’s office and said I would not return until he had a parent/teacher conference.  Being emancipated, I told him he would have to speak with me, and he could fax me!  I still have no idea what a senior class advisor is or what they do, but apparently, I had to appease Mr. Moro if I wanted to graduate.

Quotes About Listening And Speaking. QuotesGramWhy was I speaking in this incident; I was not going to be pushed or bullied by what I considered at the time a pompous moron.  I needed to change how I perceived Mr. Moro as a person.  I graduated high school, Mr. Moro never became a friend, but we did learn how to get along with each other.  Yes, I ate some crow and had to chip away at my ego.  After graduating and traveling to Advanced Individual Training for the US Army, I got a nice letter from Mr. Moro.  One of the reasons we speak is we feel put upon and do not know how to extricate ourselves, or in my case, extricate my foot from my mouth.Are you an active listener ….or do you just hear? | Psychoeducation in Psychotherapy ...

Another reason we speak is a desire to say something, but how often have we opened our mouths without forming the thought entirely, and our mouth is running way faster than our brains, common sense, and self-preservation?  In my case, way too often.  Several comedians call this an older person’s disease, not having the brain mouth filter, common sense, or good social skills to know when to say something and when to listen.  One of the reasons I love old people is explicitly derived from this truthfulness and lack of filter.

When my mother-in-law fell and had to be placed in a nursing home, long-term care facility, I made some great friends in her facility.  Not a single filter anywhere to be found.  One older lady, her name regrettably escapes me, had family who would come and tell her the filthiest jokes on the weekend.  During the week, I would visit my mother-in-law and slip her a couple of clean jokes, dad jokes, and just plain funny jokes.  One day I told her a joke about passing gas in church after a bean supper the night before.  She laughed so hard; I thought I had injured her.  I came back the next day and learned she had told the entire staff this joke, and she told me she had laughed so hard so peed herself.Raji Lukkoor Quote: "Respond; don't react. Listen; don't talk. Think; don't assume." (9 ...

I apologized to the nursing staff and armed them with a few choice dad jokes.  She did not want an apology, but she told me a story from her youth where the night before her church had hosted a community-wide bean supper, chili cookoff, raffle/silent auction, and how the next day’s sermon was cut short because the pastor could not stand the air in his church, which is when I began laughing hard enough to make me wonder if I was going to pee myself!  Worse, this was the day after serving baked beans for supper, and she and I listened to the chorus of frogs from the patients and kept falling out of our chairs laughing.Spalding, Laura - Kindergarten / Special Classes Schedule

Betty Eadie eloquently provides a caution for our words, “If we understood the power of our thoughts, we would guard them more closely.  If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative.  In our thoughts and words, we create our own weaknesses and our own strengths.  Our limitations and joys begin in our hearts.  We can always replace negative with positive.”  The next lesson on why we speak is that our brains are too full of words and need an outlet.  Yet, how much better would the world be if we filtered our thoughts, slowed our thinking, and kept our mouths shut?

Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.” – Buddha

The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

If you want peace, stop fighting.  If you want peace of mind, stop fighting with your thoughts.” – Peter McWilliams

Listening Quotes | Listening Sayings | Listening Picture QuotesThree people from different periods of human history, all messaging a truth, thoughts do become things, and often the things our thoughts become are not what we wanted or desired.  More specifically, the thoughts became things because we expressed the thoughts that should have stayed silent in words.  In learning to control the post-traumatic stress disorder I suffer, the words of Peter McWilliams became the answer I needed and the balm in Gilead I sought.  I had to stop fighting my thoughts to be able to control the pernicious and repeated images, feelings, and constant reminiscing over a terrible incident from my service in the US Navy.  Every day remains a challenge to acknowledge the thoughts and let them go.  Every day it becomes easier to achieve.  There is hope!

Why do we listen?

Of all the questions I have never been asked, I hope to learn the lesson of controlling my thoughts so I may hear better.  I suffer from tinnitus, many times though the ability to listen does not reside in my ear where the tinnitus rings, but in my brain that is a ravaged wasteland of competing ideas, factions, and imaginations.  When the voices in my head go silent, I hear the birds in the trees, I hear voices of people around me, and I experience hearing.  The moment I begin speaking, I lose the ability to hear.Hearing Vs Listening Quotes. QuotesGram

Ken Kesey is quoted as saying, “See with your ears and hear with your eyes.”  What a remarkable idea.  One of the most momentous times I can ever recall occurred while onboard my ship, deep dark of night.  You know how dark night can get if you have ever been beyond the hundred-fathom curve.  I was an engineer on the mid-watch (0000-0400) and was roaming around topside between rounds, something I should not have been doing, but I needed fresh air and wanted to see if the stars really were more brilliant at sea.  On a night with no moon, deep dark, I saw the ship passing through the water with my ears.  I heard the waves; I heard the wind whistling through the ship’s rigging; I saw with my ears the stumbling of smokers going to and from the smoke deck—an experience like no other.  Why do we listen; to learn, to experience, and if we choose, to marvel!

In the 1990’s I had a screen saver called psychedelic.  When music was played, it changed colors according to the beat, and you had user interfaces where you could pick specific interpretations to display on the screen in colors, lines, and contrasts.  This was the first time I can remember visualizing sounds.  I had previously turned the stereo speakers to maximum and watched sound interface with the water in a fish tank, but this screen saver was the first time I can remember seeing sound displayed by a computer.  Since this screensaver, I have watched sound played in flames (SUPER COOL), watched water falling display shapes as heard through a computer, and synthesized (unique experience indeed).  I have used several computer programs that took that old screensaver’s concept and improved the display and synthesization.  Yet, I am still want to hear with my eyes and see if I can improve how I listen.Hearing And Listening Quotes & Sayings | Hearing And Listening Picture Quotes

Something was pointed out to me, the word silent has precisely the same letters as listen, but in the arrangement of those letters, the ability of one is lost or found.  I have learned that a silent mouth precedes a silent mind, and you need both to listen.  Yet, it is a rare moment indeed when my brain is silent.  My brain runs lyrics to songs, words I think I should have said, words I am preparing to speak, responses to questions, responses to other people’s opinions, facts, figures, fights, and the list goes on ad nauseum ad infinitum!  A book by Stephen Covey mentioned, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand.  Most people listen with the intent to reply.”  Why do we listen; this is a valuable question to consider!

I have mentioned this previously and repeat myself only for emphasis; all the musical talent, knowledge, and skill I possess can be poured into a thimble and never moisten the bottom.  I mention this because Linda Ronstadt said, “Ninety-Nine present of singing is listening and hearing, and so then one percent of it is singing.”  A thought I had never previously considered.  I love music and have an eclectic taste in music, but I hear not listen to music.  Music has never been an escape from reality but has often been a balm to my world-weary soul.  Music has been a tool, a weapon, and a shield, in the battles for knowledge, learning, and protecting myself from the words of others.  In the US Army, Basic Training music was the key to getting me to relax and shoot the M-16A2 sufficiently to qualify and eventually graduate basic training.  But, only now, when considering Lind Ronstadt’s quote, I realized I hear music, not listen to music.Humorous Listening Quotes. QuotesGram

Funny story, while my parents are hippies, my father is a professional musician but not a music teacher.  As a kid, music in our house was how food made it to the table, how my father retreated from the world’s cares, and often a weapon against my mother.  Yet, even coming from a home where music was a major part of daily life, I never learned to listen to music.  Have you ever heard reveille played on a tuba, French horn, clarinet, trombone, guitar, recorder, or flute?  If so, you know a little of what growing up in our house was like.  When 0400 came, whatever instrument my father was playing at the time became the instrument upon which reveille was played.

Knowledge Check!A song covered by a multitude of musicians originates with Paul Simon, “The Sound of Silence.”  The second link is to Disturbed’s cover of the Paul Simon song; I think this is the best version.  What are the sounds of silence?  Are they different for each person?  Does the sound of silence change with the environment, the weather, or humanity’s influence?  I once read a research report regarding the negative impact of listening to the sounds of New York City and how the city’s sound shortened the lives of those who constantly heard the city.  As we consider the lesson on learning when to speak and to discern when to stay silent, may we consider how to improve listening, moving from hearing to listening, and find joy in seeing with our ears and hearing with our eyes.

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Why Should Your Customers Remain Customers?

Bobblehead DollMy wife is mad at me; I was relating an email survey experience where a financial institution had sent me a customer service survey.  I described the truth, I have no reason to remain a customer and feel less than enthused at remaining a customer.  My wife fearing I had been insulting, derogatory, or denigrating, got mad at me.  I explained my position and how I had answered the rote questions, and she is still not happy.  But, her position and my position bring up an interesting point, centered around the following question, “Why should a customer remain a customer?”

Use My Name!

Daily I receive programmed emails from multiple companies.  Do you know how I pick the ones I want to do business with?  They know my preferred name and use it!  What an incredible concept; since the early 1990s, we have had the technology to put in names, create mailing lists, and use people’s preferred names, and businesses still struggle with this concept.  Why?

LookI have several titles, want my business, know and use my titles.  Pick one, and use it!  How can a company claim they “know their customers” when that company cannot use the customer’s preferred name or title in addressing that customer?  I have worked hard to earn a Ph.D.; I do not expect everyone to call me “Dr.,” but it sure as anything beats being called “mister” all the bloody time.  Worse, I still hold several ranks and positions that come with titles. I could be addressed using them, but even with a preferred name on many company customer profiles, I get that lazy customer service representative that calls me Mr. Salisbury!  Guess what company I am going to ditch at the first opportunity?Shhh----Don--t-Say-A-Thing--Just-Listen--Don--t-Talk.jpg (500×273) | The beauty and danger of ...

On the topic of names, if I say, “everyone calls me Dave,” and you continue to call me “Michael,” “Mike,” or “Mr. Salisbury,” you are either not listening, or your company has the worst policies for addressing customers.  Guess what company I will end my business relationship with post-haste?  I have given permission to use a preferred name, use my name.  Listen to me!

Listen!

Job Interview Cartoons ~ Silly BuntActive listening can be faked!  Customer service agents, I know active listening can be manufactured, I have been a customer service agent, I know your stress, I know your job, and I know your problems.  Thus, to your bosses, I appeal; stop the active listening drama!  If you are not stressing reflective listening to your employees, where they and the customer reach a mutual understanding, you are not doing your job leading customer relations!

My wife claims that conclusion is “Too harsh.”  I disagree vociferously.  Here’s why!  Remember how I just related how I had informed customer service agents, “everyone calls me Dave,” and the agent continued to call me everything but my preferred name.  Failure to listen remains the number one customer complaint for a reason; the agents are not listening to reach a mutual understanding.  Too often, they are not even attempting to listen actively but are listening to respond, responding to the voices in their heads and not the customer!Joke of the Day | Joke of the day, Funny quotes, Single words

Do you want better customer survey responses; try listening, then acting, then listening again.  Not speaking; listening, acting, listening, acting; it’s a pattern worth doing!  Yet, too often, what is the pattern found, maybe listening, speaking, maybe listening, token action, maybe listening, half-hearted action.  Wait for the customer to become frustrated and go away.  Guess which company I am going to be ending my business relationship with quickly?

Respond!

AP 20.96 Short-Answer Questions (SAQ) - Bello's Reference Page - Use GOOGLE CLASSROOM for all ...I have four companies who I have informed (several times) I no longer can do business with them.  They continue to send me emails asking for my business for old properties and cars I no longer possess.  Listening is but half the answer; you must also respond with definitive action.  How many times does a customer have to relate to your business they have moved?  I did business with a windshield repair company in Phoenix, AZ.  Good company, good service, but for the next three years, I received calls from them monthly, and I had moved out of their service area.  They were told this month after month, I was promised month after month this was the final call, and month after month, I received another call.  Guess whose recommendation I deleted online?

People ProcessesBusiness processes matter; honoring your word matters, displaying trust, integrity, and fulfilling a promise made all matters in the customer relationship long before the product or service is discussed.  Yet, how often are these issues on shaky ground, before the ink is dry on the service contract or the receipt for goods?  I have a cell phone provider I detest; I long for the day I can finally walk free of this provider and never look back.  Because their customer attention is deplorable, I feel used and abused every time I interact with this company.  I have the same problem with my current Internet provider.  When your customer service is so deplorable, you have to climb to become terrible; there is a problem that colors, signage, marketing, and gimmicks cannot fix!

Why Would I gladly Pay a Higher Price; Service!

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs Recipe - Southern LivingI was in the supermarket, my wife asked for a treat.  To her, a treat is a bowl of deli mac & cheese, potato salad, or a bag of potato chips.  As I was in the deli and they had her mac & cheese, I bought mac & cheese.  My wife was shocked, I paid, what to her was an exorbitant price for the mac & cheese, but I was glad to pay the price.  The counter worker wrapped the mac & cheese package in plastic wrap to protect it from spilling, was pleasant, remembered me from a previous visit, and made my day.  The service was well worth the extra cost.

I kept going back to this store, making purchases long after this deli person was transferred to another store closer to their home because the service level did not go down.  Thus, I remained satisfied to pay extra for the service I received.  Walking on a cane, with labored breathing, and having a service representative walk with me, not ahead of me, so I feel like I have to race, is a significant service I would gladly pay more for.  I felt respected and remembered from visit to visit, even if I was sporadic in visiting for over a month.2mm to Sales Mastery | Customer Obsession: Creating "Wow" Moments That Leave a Lasting Impression

Long before the product or service costs are discussed is the customer experience.  If the customer experience fails, you can have the coolest products and the best access to services and fail because you forget the customer experience!  Getting back to the financial survey I just completed, it was full of Likert-style scale questions.  If your company employs a Likert question on a survey, you need a follow-up self-directed qualitative question to explain directly after.

Likert-Style Surveys

Likert-style questions are a quantitative researcher’s bread and butter, showing the relationships between agreement and disagreement on a broad scale.  Generally, on a scale of 1-10, these questions and scales have come to be represented by emojis, colors, statements, and more as technology has advanced.Top 10 Likert Scale Examples for your next survey! | QuestionPro

I completed 15 Likert-styled questions before I was asked why I rated the company as “Neither liked or disliked, neither favorable nor unfavorable.”  Okay, so quantitative data is easier and less expensive to collect, collate, and report.  But, if your customer survey is only collecting qualitative or quantitative data, you are only collecting half the story and none of the customer experiences!  However, you cannot simply ask ½ the questions qualitative and ½ the questions quantitative and expect anything but GIGO.  Careful planning is key to customer survey results worth your time and the customers time!Likert scale questions, survey and examples | QuestionPro

A customer satisfaction survey should first be an instrument of dedicated action!  Where your best and brightest in customer relations work to analyze, report, and propose efforts to satisfy the customers.  They investigate survey findings.  They respond to survey questions and concerns, address real people, and produce tangible results.eCommerce Customer Surveys | An Ultimate Guide 2021

A customer satisfaction survey is not the time, nor the place, for cute emojis and colorful pictures depicting customer attitudes.  Can the customer survey be more than black and white; naturally.  Remember that the customer survey is not where you go to flash and spin; this is where the customer goes, tells the truth, and expects action, not to be played with.  If the customer takes the time to complete a survey, there is a reason, find the cause, know the customer, and win.

Knowledge Check!These are but three basics, fundamental points at the start of the customer relations journey.  If you cannot get these three points right, the rest of the trip will be short, painful, and not fulfilling for you or your customers.  Worse, the experiences will be remembered, and people have this nasty habit of not forgetting bad experiences.  Why do the majority of people despise the DMV; because the majority of customers have experienced the most frustrating issues of their professional lives at the hands of the DMV agents.  Governments abuse their customers, which is as bad as customer interactions get, and everyone feels betrayed when the government and bureaucrats use them.

You are in the private sector; you have competition; your first question daily should be, “Why should my customers remain, my customers?”  When you answer this question, your customers will hear the answer loud and clear!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Flexible Workspaces – Alternative Work Options

Bobblehead DollAfter my service-connected injuries went crazy in 2010 and my nerves decided I needed to be a “bobblehead doll,” I quickly realized there was a need for alternatives to commuting to an office every day and working as a traditional employee.  However, alternatives to conventional employment continue to be few and far between, primarily due to the IRS in America.  2020 saw a breakout in other options to the traditional employment paradigm, and I would like to continue this discussion to generate more alternatives to conventional employment.

Olmstead and Smith (1989) wrote what I consider to be the quintessential and sentinel book on alternatives to traditional employment, “Creating a Flexible Workspace: How to Select and Manage Alternative Work Options.”  Flexibility in the workplace is not just a Human Resources (HR) duty but is helped by having HR people with imaginations and who are empowered to be creative to keep good employees.  Flexibility is not merely limited to a wide variety of work schedules which can be offered optionally.  Flexibility in the workspace also includes on and off-site employment, and cross-training, as key fundamentals in empowering employees and driving workplace flexibility programs.  But flexibility always begins with the realization that flexibility is a two-directional relationship between employer and employee and a means for enhancing the talents, skills, and abilities already hired as part of a dedicated appreciative inquiry desire to innovate.

Appreciative InquiryQuestion

Appreciative inquiry is a growth mechanism that states that they already have enough of what a business organization needs, provided they listen to their employees.  Appreciative inquiry and common sense tell leaders who want to know and change their organization how and where to begin.  Appreciative inquiry-based leadership is 6-continuous steps that start small and cycle to larger problems as momentum for excellence permeates through an organization.  But the first step, just like in defeating a disabling addiction, is admitting there is a problem.

The six operational steps of appreciative inquiry:

      1. Admit there is a problem and commit to change.
      2. Define the problem.
      3. Discover the variables and stay focused on the positive.
      4. Dream BIG!
      5. Design the future and outline the steps to that future.
      6. Destiny, create the destination you desire.

Follow the instructions on a shampoo bottle, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.”  The appreciative inquiry model can be scaled, repeated, implemented into small or large teams, and produce motivated members who then become the force to building change.  Allow yourself and your team to learn, this takes time, but through building motivation for excellence, time can be captured to perform.

Call Center Agent - FemaleFlexibility and Viability – Not just Terms, but Lifestyles

Flexibility in an organization is understood as accepting change and positively using that change to grow and develop more flexibility.  Viability in an organization is where the continuing effectiveness of flexibility generates new growth markets and creates the organization’s potential to flex to meet the growth areas.  Flexibility and viability are interlinked and interwoven ideas that every employee should be conscious of and striving to enhance personally as part of their brand.

Andragogy - The PuzzleErroneously called “Employee Engagement,” flexibility and viability are the continued efforts of all employees to participate in the business’ success.  Appreciative inquiry is the sum of the efforts to flex and be viable in competition with other businesses, recognizing that the answers to your current problems are always found in listening to employees.  Please note, you can think your business is flexible enough, but when the winds of change blow, will your business collapse or grow?

For example, as a consultant and subject matter expert, I was called into a manufacturing company to improve flexibility.  The company had been around for more than 100-years, and the owners, a family business, figured they were pretty flexible.  From day one, though, it was apparent the business had stagnated, and there was no flexibility or viability left in the organization.  When the 2008 market recession occurred, the company lost 5 of its 6 operating shifts and barely survived by draining all remaining liquidity to stay afloat.  The company has limped along ever since, to the amazement of everyone who has worked at this facility.

GearsHence, one must understand the principles of viability, flexibility, and appreciative inquiry as a lifestyle of daily choices where the leadership is engaged in and listening to employees.  Failure to listen remains the number one reason businesses, and governments fail.  Who should governments be listening to; average citizens, not statisticians, not special interest groups, not lawyers and political cronies, the people who voted them into power.  Who should businesses be listening to; their employees, not customers, not vendors, not shareholders, all of whom need to have a voice, but the front-line employee has answers.

Realities versus Fiction

Having worked with many a small businessperson across the continental US, the smaller a business understands the need to listen to employees, but the bigger a company becomes, the less desire they have to listen to anyone, let alone employees.  This is a reality.quote-mans-inhumanity

The fiction is the proclamation that the customer should be listened to, the shareholders know what the business needs, or the vendors have essential information for the company.  While all have a seat at the table, the front-line employees remain a wealth of information generally untapped, unused, and depressingly denied the ability to help.  As a consultant, I spend most of my time listening to the employees, then presenting their ideas to management.  I have never claimed another employee’s ideas as mine and never will.  Yet, I know too many consultants whose ethical and professional brands might be slightly less demanding than my behavior standards.  This also is reality, watch the ethics of a consultant; if they waiver, there is duplicity nearby!

Creating Flexibility in the Workplace

As an industrial and organizational psychologist, I affirm in a language most somber that no single tool will be a “magic bullet” for fixing employee concerns and building flexibility and viability.  Holistic solutions are not just a current “buzzword,” but an actual truth.  The solutions must grow from an apt quote from Captain Jack Sparrow:

“The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man, or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that someday. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not” [emphasis mine]?

People ProcessesWhat can your company do, and what can your company not do?  Between these two extremes are a lot of different possibilities, opportunities, and areas for exploration.  For example, as a call center, can you home shore your agents?  Maybe the technology is there, but are the legal questions regarding data security and safety open to home shoring?  What about contingent employment, where you use knowledge vendors to fill in during peak times, thus allowing your call center to flex off and not have to work overtime so much?  Would your call center do well with phased retirement, partial retirement, or voluntary reduced work time programs?

Each of these options builds flexibility and viability, but they come with consequences, and the valuation of those consequences should include input from the front-line employees.  For example, a call center I am familiar with used to have stepped departments, where a rep could learn the basics, then promote into the next higher step.

3-direectional-balanceExcept, the model was broken by HR, and the depth of available personnel dried up.  Thus, the call center went to a universal agent model, where all agents were expected to know all the different departments and steps and act accordingly.  The universal model was sold as a cost-saving measure.  The employees did not like the new model as all the business processes were built on the old stepped agent model.  The universal model failed, the company could not afford to return to the stepped model, and knowledge was walking out the door at an exceeding pace.

The answer was to listen to the front-line employees, but it took more than five years and ten different consulting firms and technology firms to reach this point.  But the cost of lost potential sales and lost business knowledge is still hindering this company from a full recovery.  Why; because the change that broke the company has never been fixed, just plastered over, and the universal agent approach destroyed organizational trust between employees and the employer.  Decisions have consequences, and if you do not know what your company can do, you do not know what your company cannot do; especially, if you refuse to listen to the front-line employees.I'm not listening - boring :: Funny :: MyNiceProfile.com

What will your employees do?  What are your employees already capable of doing if provided the opportunity?  Where is the focus in your company, customers, vendors, shareholders, or employees?  Why?  Who of your employees can you absolutely trust to accomplish a task?  How do you know that employee is trustworthy?  What makes that employee happy to return to work every day?Michael Shurtleff quote: Listening is not merely hearing, it is receiving the message...

When you listen to your employees, honestly and openly communicate with them, and know the why to share the why your employees can work marvels you could not believe possible.  If you desire flexibility and viability in your company, build it!  One employee at a time using imagination, honest communication, and build organizational trust.  You will be surprised at how often the answer to improving your company doesn’t have a dollar sign but a living person and a debt of gratitude.

Reference

Olmsted, B., & Smith, S. (1989). Creating a flexible workplace: How to select and manage alternative work options. American Management Association (AMACOM).

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Employee Engagement

Knowledge Check!Recently this topic was raised in a town hall style meeting, and the comments from the leadership raised several concerns.  It appears that employee engagement is attempting to become a “buzzword” instead of an action item, and this bothers me greatly.  Worse, many people lead teams with vague ideas about what employee engagement means and then shape their own biases into the employee engagement program, making a pogrom of inanity and suffering out of a tool for benefiting and improving employee relations.

When discussing employee engagement, we must first begin with a fundamental truth; employees do not work for a company, do not work for a brand; they work for a manager.  An employee might like a company; they might enjoy having their professional brand aligned with a known branded organization. The employee might feel pride in associating with other employees under that brand.  When the road gets difficult at the end of the day, an employee works for a manager.  The relationship between a manager and an employee is one of trust operationalized and honed through shared experiences.

Employee Engagement – Defined

ProblemsAccording to several online sources, the definition of employee engagement is, “Employee engagement is a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees.”  If you believe this definition, you will miss the forest for the bark you are fixated upon!  Employee engagement is fundamental; it is not a concept, a theory, or a buzzword.  Employee engagement is a relationship between organizational leaders and the employees, but employee engagement is not about collecting qualitative or quantitative data for decision-making policy-based relationship guidance.  At the most basic level, employee engagement is the impetus an employee chooses to onboard because of the motivational actions of the manager they report to.

Employees must choose to engage; when they choose not to engage, there is no enthusiasm in the employee, and this can be heard in every action taken by the employees on the company’s behalf.  Is this clear; employee engagement is an individual action, where impetus leads to motivated and enthused action.  While organizational leaders can and do influence motivation, they cannot force the employee to engage!  Thus, revealing another aspect of why the definition found online is NOT acceptable for use in any employee engagement effort!Leadership Cartoon

Employee engagement is the actions an employee is willing to take, indicating their motivation to perform their duties and extra-duties for a manager they like.  Employee engagement is the epitome of operational trust realized in daily attitudes, behaviors, and mannerisms of employees who choose to be engaged in solving problems for their employer.  While incentive programs can improve employee engagement, if the employee does not first choose to enjoy the incentive, the incentive program is wasted leadership efforts.  The same can be said for every single “employee benefit.”  If an employee cannot afford the employer’s benefits, those benefits are wasted money the employer needs elsewhere.  Hence, the final point in defining employee engagement is the individualization of incentives and the individual relationship between managers and employees.  Stop the one-size-fits-most offerings, and let’s get back to talking to people.Anton Ego 4

Reflective Listening

Listening has four distinct levels; currently, these are:

      • Inactive listening – Hearing words, seeing written communication, zero impact mentally. Mainly because your internal voices drown out the possibility of communication.
      • Selective listening – Hearing only that which confirms your own voices, opinions, and biases. While others are speaking, you are already forming your response.
      • Active listening – Show the other person you are paying attention to, engage with meaning in a reply. You are focused on removing barriers to get your point across.
      • Reflective listening – Paying attention to intent and content, reducing emotion, two-directional as both parties are engaged in achieving mutual understanding.

Chinese CrisisInactive and selective listening can be heard through phone lines, instant messaging, text messaging, and easily observed during face-to-face communication.  Worse, active listening launches trust, and when faked, destroys credibility, ruining relationships.  Reflective listening can only achieve mutual understanding when both parties are choosing to listen intently and with the purpose of reaching mutual understanding.  The most powerful tool in an organizational leader’s toolbox for quickly rectifying employee engagement is reflectively listening.

Communication occurs in two different modalities, verbal and non-verbal.  Good communicators adapt their message to the audience using reflective listening and careful observation.  Adapting the message requires first choosing, determining who the primary and secondary audience is, and then focusing the message on the primary audience.  Next, adaptation requires prior planning, which includes mental preparation, practice, and channels for feedback.  Finally, adaptation requires listening to achieve mutual understanding, careful observation, asking questions designed to lead to mutual understanding, and clarifying what is being said to achieve mutual understanding.  The pattern described can be the tool that begins employee engagement but is not an end-all solution all by itself.Anton Ego

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry is a growth mechanism that states that what a business organization needs, they already have enough of, provided they listen to their employees.  Appreciative inquiry and common sense tell leaders who want to know and change their organization and how and where to begin.  Appreciative inquiry-based leadership is 6-continuous steps that start small and cycle to more significant problems as momentum for excellence permeates through an organization.  But the first step, just like in defeating a disabling addiction, is admitting there is a problem.

Here are the six operational steps for appreciative inquiry:

      1. Admit there is a problem and commit to change.
      2. Define the problem.
      3. Discover the variables and stay focused on the positive.
      4. Dream BIG!
      5. Design the future and outline the steps to that future.
      6. Destiny, create the destination you desire.

Bait & SwitchFollow the instructions on a shampoo bottle, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.”  The appreciative inquiry model can be scaled, repeated, implemented into small or large teams, and produce motivated members who become the force to create change.  Allow yourself and your team to learn, this takes time, but through building motivation for excellence, time can be captured to perform.

Of all the steps in appreciative inquiry, it must be stressed that focusing on the positive is the only way to improve people.  Even if you must make careful observations to catch people doing good, do it!  Focusing on the positive provides the proper culture for engaging as many people as possible.  Criticism, negativity, aspersions, and insults all feed a culture of “Not my problem,” and when the employee claims, “not my problem,” they will never engage until the culture changes.

Organization

Andragogy - LEARNEmployee engagement requires structural changes to the organizational design.  Employee engagement is going to bring immediate change to the organization.  If the leaders, directors, managers, supervisors, team leaders, etc., are not prepared for and willing to change, employee engagement will die as an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.  As a business consultant, I have witnessed the death of employee engagement, and the death is long, protracted, and disastrous to the entire business.  Worse, individuals refusing to change stand out like red dots on a white cloth as employee engagement dies.

Thus, the first step in employee engagement belongs not to the employee, but the employer, who must answer this question: “Are we a learning organization willing to change, or are we a knowing organization who does not need to change?”  How the leadership answers this question will speak volumes to the employees closely observing and making their decisions accordingly.  Depending upon how that question is answered will depend upon whether the business can move onto the second step or remain stuck on the first step.

Andragogy - The PuzzleThe second step in employee engagement is training the organization to accept change and failure as tools for learning, growing, and developing.  A toddler learning to walk will fall more than they stay up before they can run.  The same is true when initiating employee engagement.  Guess what; you are going to fail; can you as an organizational leader accept failing?  Are you willing to admit you failed, made a mistake, and publicly acknowledge the blame and consequences?  Are you willing to allow others to accept the praise for doing the right thing?  Will you as an organizational leader accept change?  How you answer these questions also speaks volumes to the employees you are trying to engage.  Depending upon how you individually and collectively as a team answer these leadership questions will decide if you fall back to step one or advance to step three.

The third step in organizing employee engagement is total commitment.  Are you onboard?  Are all the leaders onboard?  Being onboard means 100% commitment to the organization dreamed in the operational steps to appreciative inquiry.  If not, do not launch an employee engagement program, for it will fail spectacularly!  Never forget the cartoons where a character has one foot on a boat leaving the pier and one foot on the dock; they get wet and left behind!

Have FUN!

Semper GumbyEngaging with employees should be fun, it should be an enjoyable experience, and it should bring out the best in you!  All because you want to see others engage, grow professionally, learn, develop, and become.  Your efforts to teach engagement lead you to learn how to engage better.  Seize these learning opportunities, choose to grow, but never forget to have fun.  My best tool for engaging with employees, dad jokes!  Really, really, really, bad dad jokes!  For example, when Forrest Gump came to Amazon, what was his computer password?

1F@rr3st1

When you get that joke, laugh; but wait for others to get it as well!  Employee engagement is fun, exciting, and can be the best job you ever had as a professional.  Just believe in yourself, believe in and invest the time in appreciative inquiry, organize yourself and your business, and always reflectively listen.Never Give Up!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

A Failure to Listen – The Hinge Upon Which Governments Fail or Thrive

AmidalaPadmé in “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” makes a powerful statement about the galactic war being fought, “This war represents a failure to listen.”  While Padmé insists that diplomacy is required, this is incorrect.  Diplomacy is the political game of charades, with smoke and mirrors of intelligence games.  Diplomacy fails because each sides agenda is more important than the words being spoken, which is why so much of the work done in diplomatic circles is done in “informal settings.”  Diplomacy fails to listen.

America is a Republic, rather America is a Constitutional Republic, where the rule of law as written is the supreme law of the land to which every citizen is bond.  In the world there are democracies, where the mob rules.  There are socialist governments where the fat of government is forcibly taken through taxation and doled out by the micro-ounce to those selected to win or lose.  There are still communist governments and monarchies where the leaders are pampered to the detriment of the citizenry.  Unfortunately, between these extremes are a host of other government types who borrow pieces from many government theories thinking they can escape the negative consequences of those government methodologies.

Yet again we find Padmé’s counsel appropriate and timely.  Before war begins, there is always a refusal to listen.  For example, it is historically accurate that the US Government had signs and warnings of the impending Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, but the US Government had stopped listening to adverse advice, and America paid dearly for that failure to listen.  Worse, war came, and hundreds of thousands paid in blood for that failure to listen.

Emotional OutburstThe Russians thought diplomacy was the appropriate approach to Nazi Germany; and Nazi Germany made the Russians pay in blood for the failure of the government to listen.  Even though history has regularly taught the Russians not to engage in diplomatic solutions with Germans.  This was hardly the first fight between Germany and Russian troops and governments.  Failure to listen, and the citizens suffered tremendously to overthrow both Nazi Germany and then the chains of Communism.

Consider again the relationship between Mexico and the United States, the Mexican Government has never been an ally or friend to the United States; yet, the governments refuse to listen to common sense, and throughout history, those people hellbent on destroying America have always found safe passage and refuge in Mexican borders.  History relates that the failure of governments to listen, is the root of the United States and Mexican sour relationship.

Cuba has suffered under Communism and Castro’s poor ideas because government leaders refused to listen.  Venezuela fell because the governments in power refused to listen to each other, bribed the electorate, stole elections, and now a once mighty nation is starving while their government leaders sit in luxury.  How many times will this story have to repeat before the citizens of governments learn, we must be able to speak freely, and listen appreciatively, if we are to survive, grow, and prosper.

For too long, the powers of the world who consider themselves above the law have worked to keep the citizens separated into fighting factions.  Every conceivable line that can be drawn to distract, separate, denigrate, and deride has been drawn, and the only people winning in this are those drawing the lines.  Republicans against Democrats, Homosexuals against Heterosexuals, religions aplenty all against each other, state to state, NFL/NHL/NBA/NASCAR and so much more adding confusion and noise to the problem and further separating people along ambiguous lines to keep them from talking and listening appreciatively to each other.

Nuclear FamilyHow many families cannot have a meal without choices of lifestyle and hostility ending conversation over a failure to listen?  Can a Chicago Bears Family survive long with a fan from Minnesota or Wisconsin?  What about the other choices people make in their lives, religious flavor versus another religious flavor; this simple line has been destroying nations since history began being recorded.  What do we see in the Old Testament; governments repeatedly failing because they stopped listening.

Please note, this is not a call to drop standards, accepting everything, and singing “Kumbaya,” while Rome burns, and society dies an ignominious death.  This is a call to cease destroying society and begin listening first!  Why were the riots this past summer so brutal and destructive; first the mob stopped listening, then they stopped talking, and then they started fires and terrorizing society.  Why did they stop listening; because they assumed no one heard them and cared enough to shift the paradigm, (patterns of thought and action all based upon selfishness and pride).

Darth and AnakinWhy did Anakin stop being a Jedi; he stopped listening, then he selectively listened, he began acting as a terrorist, and then he became Darth Vader.  This plot line of refusing to listen is so prevalent and obvious because humans continue to make the same mistake.  When we stop listening to each other, we stop talking; when we stop talking, we become overwhelmed by our own echo-chambers, and create the chaos that ultimately destroys our lives, our dreams, and our futures until we begin to lay aside petty differences and listen to each other again.

Listening has four distinct levels:

    • Inactive listening – Hearing words, seeing written communication, zero impact mentally. Mostly because your internal voices drown out the possibility for communication.
    • Selective listening – Hearing only that which confirms your own voices, opinions, and biases. While others are speaking, you are already forming your response.
    • Active listening – Show the other person you are paying attention, engage with meaning in a reply. Focused upon removing barriers to get your point across.
    • Reflective listening – Paying attention to intent and content, reducing emotion, two-direction as both parties are engaged in achieving mutual understanding.

Social Justice WarriorListening appreciatively is reflective listening, where we commit to listening with the intent to achieve mutual understanding.  Essentially, to improve government we must listen first with the intent to reach mutual understanding, before we ever open our mouths to speak.

The following are some launch points for improving listening in society:

      1. Understand your desire.  Know that your desire choices are determining your destiny.  If your destiny is not one you appreciate, return to desire, make different choices.
      2. Practice mental preparation based upon previous situations, to make different choices.  Listening is a voyage of discovery to reach a mutual understanding, but mental preparation is key to safely reach the destination.  Prepare, use a mirror, practice until what currently feels alien becomes familiar.
      3. Reduce emotion.  The principle of empathy and sympathy are destroying listening and only reflect the internal voices.  The volume of internal voices is silencing the ability to reflectively listen, necessitating the need to fake actively listening.
      4. Listen as you would have others listen to you.  This is an adaptation of the “Golden Rule” and remains applicable as a personal choice.  How you choose to listen will determine your destiny.
      5. Listening remains the number one tool you control and has application to written communication and verbal communication channels.  Body language is a non-verbal communication channel that can be heard as well as seen.  How are you communicating non-verbally which is interfering with your written and verbal communication attempts?

Leadership CartoonListening is a choice.  Listening is hard.  Yet, many people have pointed out that we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as often as we speak.  Choose to reflectively listen, choose to reach a mutual understanding, watch society change.  It has been said that the US Constitution will hang by a thread, rule of law and the American Republic hang upon our decisions to listen appreciatively to each other and to stop allowing petty divisions to destroy ourselves, our families, and our American society.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.
All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:
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