Adults Can Learn New Things – It Just Might Take Longer

Performance improvement is achieved by gaining both knowledge and understanding of your own behaviour, and by increasing your willingness to change the way you interact with and respond to others. If you understood how someone likes to communicate, listen, manage and be managed, and you communicated and managed them in a style that they liked – would they be more receptive? Would they be more apt to listen to what you had to say?

Suppose for a moment that we are born a certain style – a certain way of behaving. And suppose for a moment that that style dictates the way we communicate, listen, and interact with others. And suppose there were four distinct styles of behaving and that, generally speaking, we “fit” into one of those four styles. If that were true, would there be any value in understanding your style and the styles of the people we work with?

Can you change  your behaviour to get a different result? (Can you create new habits? Stop doing one thing and start doing another. And the more you do it the more it becomes you.) Simply put can you act in a way that is going to get you what you want? I’m a behaviorist by training, which is a fancy way of saying that I study and watch people for a living. I use an assessment tool called DISC which identifies your style. Once I have identified your style, I work with you to teach you how to communicate and interact more effectively with someone who has a different style then you. Each of the four styles the DISC tool identifies has its own strengths and limitations.

Dominant personalities are task-focused and prefer to lead the group, but may come across as unapproachable. They can be seen as insensitive to others and show impatience at times. They are often referred to as A-type personalities.

Interactive/Interpersonal personalities are great communicators and they love being around people, but they may appear superficial in their approach to others. They can appear to be disorganized and to lack follow-through.

Steadiness personalities are great listeners and are very loyal, but can appear to be indecisive when making a decision, for fear of upsetting others. They have a tendency to outwardly agree with you, even when they don’t, and resist change, preferring to maintain the status quo.

Conscientious personalities are our very best planners. However, they can be overly concerned with perfection. They appear to act aloof and prefer to work alone. They tend to stifle other’s creativity by sticking to the rules: their rules and their plans.

I believe there isn’t one style that’s better suited to managing people then any other style. A strength overused, or used in the wrong situation, can become a weakness. The secret to great managing is to change your management style, depending on the person you are working with. Your job as a manager is to teach your people what they need to know. One management style does not fit all. Remember: There are no dumb students, only dumb teachers who refuse to use every tool available to them to ensure that their students have learned.


People Hear What They See – Not What You Say 2

Business ethics is somewhat of an oxymoron if you take into account what has happened in today’s world financial markets and stock exchanges (Reminds you of the WorldCom and Enron’s) It implies that there are two kinds of ethics – business and personal. I believe you’re either ethical or you’re not. What does it say about you as a person if you behave one way at work and then behave differently at home? (It must get awful confusing at times to remember what “hat” you’re supposed to be wearing.) If there are two kinds of ethics, does that mean that it’s OK to con your clients and employees, but you shouldn’t con your friends or neighbors?

What does it say about the world that we live in when we question the honesty and integrity of the people in leadership positions both in Government and private industry? What does it say about the world we live in when Governments at all levels need to pass legislation requiring Chief Financial Officers to sign off on their company’s financial results to guarantee that they are factual; and if found not to be, they could be charged with a criminal offence punishable by law?

Question: What does a great manager look like? How does a great manager behave? Before you answer those two questions I think it’s important that we understand how humans communicate. According to research conducted by Dr. Ralph Nichols, we communicate 93% of the time non-verbally. Think about that for a moment. We communicate 93% of the time by our actions (a picture really is worth a 1000 words). I believe the real significance of that number is that non-verbal communication is based on perception. It is based on how the other person interprets your actions. If they believe you acted ethically – then you did. If they believe that you treated your clients and employees honestly – then you have. What you think doesn’t matter. It only matters what the other person thinks.

“You must do the walk if you are going to do the talk”. You must lead by example. (Everyone is watching and taking their lead from you). Employees are looking for managers that they can believe in. Employees are looking for managers that they can trust. What ever you say you’re going to do – do it. Being a great manager isn’t about being liked or popular. Being a great manager is about being honest, fair and consistent; it’s about applying the rules across the board. No one, and for certain not you – is exempt. Remember – People hear what they see – not what you say. Say what you do – and do what you say.

Common Sense – Revisited

Have you ever asked yourself where common sense comes from? How do we get it? Are we just born with it? Why do some people seem to have more of it than others? If something makes perfectly good sense to you, shouldn’t it make perfectly good sense to everyone else? I’ve been doing some research on the subject and I’d like to share some of what I’ve discovered so far.

“The only thing common about common sense is the fact that it’s not very common amongst most people”.  The more I observe the people around me and witness the strange things that they do, the more I believe that it’s not very common. Michael Dillon defined common sense as, “a rather uncommon ability to do the right thing without a lot of forethought; a close connection to deep intuition”. A participant in a recent workshop of mine suggested that common sense was the lowest common denominator of beliefs thought to be common, in most people. Common sense is often referred to as “horse sense”. (our ability to look at things in a straightforward, logical fashion.) To lack common sense would suggest a lack in street smarts.

The people we meet, the books we read, and the things we see shape us from the moment we are born, to the moment we die. Somewhere in the middle of all that lies common sense. The amount of common sense one has seems to be proportionate to the amount of life experiences one has had. For the most part, adults like to learn as they go along.We learn from our past experiences. Most people learn by doing, refining what they’ve done, and then they do it again.

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years” – Mark Twain. (It just seems to me that the older we get – the smarter we get. They should call it life-sense not common sense)

Have you ever been guilty of using the “common sense” excuse? Does this sound familiar? “How long have they worked here? If they had any common sense, they would not have done what they did. They should have known better!” I’m certainly guilty of using that rationale to try to cover up the fact that I failed as a manager to give proper instruction. As managers, we sometimes make assumptions based on what we think a person knows. We figure because we know, they should know. We surmise that, because they have worked there for a number of years, they must have learned how to do it by now. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is – If you haven’t taught someone how to do a task the way you want it done, then don’t assume they know how to do it. (There are no dumb students, only dumb teachers)

It’s very rare that we get to hire employees who are fully trained for the job, it at all. It’s the managers role to give his or her people the tools they need to perform the task, and then get out of their way and let them do it. Making sure they have been properly trained is part of your manager’s tool kit. Always keep this in mind: There is no such thing as common sense. The only way to turn a “can’t” into a “can” is to train the “t” away. After all, isn’t that just plain common sense?

Cats Can Teach You a Thing or Two About Managing People

I was never a big fan of cats growing up. It wasn’t because I didn’t like them – I just never had much use for them. I mean, what’s the point? They don’t fetch things; they don’t sit on command, roll over or play dead. And most of the time cats don’t come to you when you call them.

The other knock I had on cats was the smell. It’s like fish – I just couldn’t get past the smell. I knew if someone had a cat the moment I walked into their place. I now realize it has more to do with the host’s hygiene practices and less to do with the cat. My older brother has a cat, but unless you saw his cat running around his apartment, you’d never know it. My brother is fanatical about cleanliness (some would suggest that he is downright anal.) He cleans his cat’s tray at least three times a day and sprinkles the kitty litter with deodorizer to ward off any offensive odors.

My opinion about cats all changed after looking after my Ex-Wife’s cat Cali (as in Calico). I now think cats are cool. Cats can be managed – you just need to manage them differently than dogs. If you think about it, the same can be said about managing people. One management style does not fit all. Managers will be more successful managing their staff if they modify their management style to be more in-tune with the person (or in my case cat) they are working with.

Here are my top five tips for managing cats or people:

Be Patient: Cat’s perform better at their own pace. They will eventually do what you want them to do – it just may take longer than you’d like. Unless it is something critical or urgent, back off, take a deep breath, and chill out. Be patient; learn to pick your battles. Sometimes you have to give up control to get control.

Be Forgiving: Cat’s don’t hold a grudge and you shouldn’t either. People make mistakes. And when they do, you need to get over it and move on. Have your “Teachable Moment” but don’t keep punishing them for past transgressions. There is no future in the past; if you get my drift.

Be Consistent: Cat’s can be trained if you apply the “rule” fairly and consistently. Being consistent is the key. Maintain your standards; don’t settle for less than what you want. If they know that you are going to call them on it each and every time they get out of line, they will eventually toll the line. (Re-read patience – you’ll need it in spades)

Follow-Up: Cat’s do what you inspect not what you expect. Check in on them once in a while. You need to monitor their performance. If left up to their own devices for too long, you may discover that they have ventured off course. Managing is about finding a balance between over and under managing. Everyone likes to be managed a certain way. Find that balance.

Allow Playtime: Cat’s need their playtime. It can’t be all work all the time. We all need some time to put our feet up on our desk and do absolutely nothing. We all need some time to de-stress and recharge our batteries. Energized people are more productive and easier to be around.