Welcome to the Working
Newsletter. Our goal is to highlight how we
stronger work relationships, communicate
effectively, and manage conflict
constructively in the workplace.
I hope you'll find our suggestions useful and contact
us when we can help.
|Fun Has to Be Part of the Equation
Tensions. stress, and uncertainty abound in the
world of work today and can make us a great deal
less effective if
we aren't careful.
Managers and employees alike feel on shaky ground,
which makes everyone think about performance,
goals, and staying on top in turbulent times. There is
danger though in letting the workplace be all about
work. Fun has to be part of the equation!
Ask your team, "What would make our
workplace more fun?" You might be surprised at
what you hear. Michael Guld of "Talking Business"
asked the question and found responses didn't
involve costly time away from the workplace or
expensive in-house changes. Instead, they said "fun
at work" meant
- "more communication, more POSITIVE
- "more interaction and less debate"
- "more latitude to make decisions"
- "an environment where you can create your own
Let's face it -- work is a huge part of everyone's
day and should include the byproducts of fun for the
individual and for the organization. If we
are having fun while we work, most likely we are
confident, relaxed, creative, open-minded, and
productive. Even in in today's extraordinary economic
climate, the ability to have fun at work remains a big
factor in why employees feel positively about their job
and find the energy to give their best.
|Huddles: Just One Method of Preventing Communication Breakdowns
"Huddles" can be effective ways for busy teams to
communicate on a daily basis. Teams in
production, legal, and medical workplaces have been
using them for years. Huddles can prevent lack of
communication or miscommunication from
needlessly becoming serious disagreements, and
perhaps prevent them altogether.
Do you sometimes hear comments like these:
"I thought the deadline was next week, not
Friday"; "Didn't you
hear today's meeting was rescheduled?"; or "Huh, I
though Bob was in charge of that!" These comments
can simply signal communication that's not taking
place at the same point for everyone. However, the
emotional nature of this miscommunication is felt
when someone misses a deadline or shows up for a
meeting on the wrong day. An oversight or forgotten
detail now has some unintended consequences --
frustration, anger, sense of being left out, or worse. A
simple communication breakdown has the potential
to lead to a more serious situation. Five- or
huddles might be useful for busy teams to
disseminate information in a timely
Successful huddles usually have these
- team leader buy-in to the practice
- a convenient and consistent meeting time
- a length of 5-7 minutes
- a central location
- an agreed-upon agenda that is useful to all
Try different methods of keeping teams up-to-date
on important information to learn what works best for
your team. Whether it is a huddle or something
else that fits your team better, do spend time
investigating ways to minimize costs of
miscommunication. Communication breakdowns are
often the first step in a path to much more serious
|Using Brain Research to Become a More Convincing Leader
Using five principles of neuroscience, you can
become a better leader of yourself and others.
In "Leading Your Brain Instead of
Letting It Lead You," Stephanie West-Allen and Jeffery
M. Schwartz use advances in neuroscience to give
leaders a blueprint for self-leadership.
Proven effective by neuroscientists, here are five
strategies and tactics essential for leaders who
to have a clear picture of where we want to go and the
ability to stay on course:
- Harness your will. Your brain meets
resistance when your are learning a new behavior or
trying to adopt a new habit. To get past the resistance,
we need to "animate our will for a clear purpose." A
clear purpose as inspiration will be needed when the
old ways beckon.
- Instead of resisting the old
way, substitute a
one. We all feel the tug toward familiarity. To
break away, we can substitute a new way and find we
are able to create new brain pathways.
- Rehearse the new behavior in your
Mental rehearsal, like that of an athlete, can change
your brain and improve behavior.
- Act as if you have already mastered the new
skill. The person skilled at self-leadership
has a strategy of who she is or wants to be and
can use "acting as if" as one tactic to become that
- Make mental notes to increase focus and
concentration. Start by labeling feelings as
occur, then move to labeling behaviors. Taking mental
notes can be calming in the middle of a storm.
|Does One Bad Apple Have to Spoil the Whole Bunch?
We've always heard what "one bad apple can do,"
but it looks like the leader may have more
over "bad apple behavior" than we previously thought
was possible. Do you ever listen to "This
American Life" from Chicago Public Radio? On Dec.
19, 2008, the episode asks "Can one
person ruin a workplace?"
"Bad apples" can be a major frustration on the
job, but their behaviors also can have debilitating
effects on group dynamics and
performance. In an experiment conducted by Will
Febbs, professor at the Rotterdam School of
Management in the Netherlands, teams of four
responded to a 45-minute
management task without realizing an actor was
portraying one of three behaviors considered to be
hurtful to a workplace --
- abrasive, insulting behavior (e.g., "Are
me?" and "Have you actually taken a business
- slacker/do-as-little-as-you-can behavior
friends while others work or sighing "Whatever!")
- depressive/pessimistic behavior (e.g.,
task wasn't worth the effort and doubting the group's
ability to succeed)
The initial results mirrored scientific studies.
Groups with members who were insulting, not doing
their part, or depressive and
pessimistic, performed 30-40% worse than
others. In these
groups, other members facing these negative
behaviors would argue, fight, not share relevant
information, and communicate less. Not surprisingly,
teams would take on the negative characteristics.
Another result, while not scientific, was particularly
interesting for team leaders and leader
educators who are interested in finding ways to
lead teams to successful outcomes.
What is the
good news? In the experiment, a leader
emerged in one of the groups. In that group, the
leader asked questions, engaged team members,
and diffused conflict when it occurred. In this one
instance, the team did not take on negative behaviors
from others and were actually able to succeed at their
While this needs to be studied
further, it is interesting to consider the potential
influence a team leader can have by simply asking
questions, listening, and increasing
understanding. "How do you see this?"
and "What is
your view?" increases employee engagement and it
just may zap the power of naysayers, bullies, and
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About the Publisher
Susan Gunn is president of
Working Dynamics, a Richmond, VA, consulting
Working Dynamics provides a full range of
assessment, development programs, and conflict
management services for organizations in business,
government, and nonprofit sectors to reach their
goals using conflict in its most productive forms.
Learn more at workdyn.com.
"Never take a person's dignity; it is worth
everything to them, and nothing to you."
-- Frank Barron
"A 'No' uttered from deepest conviction is
and greater than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or
what is worse, to avoid trouble.
-- Mahatma Gandhi
"Let us be kinder to one another."
-- Aldous Huxley's last words