Asking questions is a basic leadership requirement. Whether you are leading, managing, job interviewing, negotiation, selling, influencing or just engaging, your question asking is more important than your question answering. Here are some ways you can benefit from asking the right questions:Find out what the other people care about, value, like, and dislikeDistinguish yourself from the know-it-allsFlatter others, and maintain their self-esteemShow interest in others rather than coming across as just trying to get what you wantGet a more honest assessment of the situationAvoid jumping to conclusions and making false assumptionsHelp guide people to arrive at the answer you wantBuy yourself timeHandle surprise and attack by asking for clarification instead of jumping into a defensive modePersuade betterReinforce, clarify, or correct what you think you knowTest and verify what they know
With all the communication tools available to us, there is still massive mutual mystification when it comes to clearly understanding each other. Many factors contribute to that, not the least being the languages people speak in our diverse workforce. A US Census report on findings from 2009-2013 found that sixty million Americans speak languages other than English at home; they speak some 300-plus different languages. For example, in: -New York = 192 different languages -San Francisco = 163 different languages -Dallas = 156 different languages So in addition to the more common German, French, Spanish, Italian, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese, you have: Havasupi, Swahili, Onondaga, Bengali, Picuris, Hindi, Tungus, Hawaiian, Bengali, Pima, Amharic, Serbian, Tamil, Indonesian, Malayalan, Kiowa, Pidgin, Croatian, French Creole, Samoan and Mandarin — as a small sample. Even if you speak English you have to work at being understood, as writer David Burge, puts it, “Yes. English can be weird. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though.”
There is about a 100 percent possibility that in the course of your day you will be communicating with someone from a different country who has had a different cultural upbringing and who speaks a different first language than you do. As one of my coaching clients explained, “I was with team members on a call today in which one person was in California and one was in Nepal, and I was in Washington, D.C. I’ve worked with these people for three years, and I’ve never met them.” There are as many ways to behave toward and with people as there are countries on the earth. And even within each country, there are regional variations of the larger culture. You cannot cover every single base, but you can have an approach that works with every single constituent:Accept differences.Be respectful and extra polite in words and tone.Use an appropriate level of formal title: Dr., Professor, Mr.,Mrs., Ms., Madame, Mssr., and so on.Use lots of “pleases” and “thank-yous.”Don’t be loud and pushy.Minimize being overly direct and abrupt.Use straightforward terminology, not big words.Slow down; speak up.
That same coaching client said, “My secret to success is to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the other person’s language. Even if my pronunciation is clumsy, people appreciate the effort.”
Don’t be quick, fast, or in a hurry (all the time). Be unhurried (within reason, of course). Be markedly unrushed. Slow down when you talk, walk, respond, ask a question, enter a room, shake hands, and leave a room. Be confident enough to take time. Move only when necessary. If you slow down, you’ll go a lot faster. The more time you give yourself, the more status people will give you. Quick, jerky motions make you look nervous. Plus, when you talk and move fast, it’s hard for people to absorb what you’re saying. Pause as if you mean it. Don’t let other people take you out of your calm. Talk at a slowed-down pace, but think fast. Be quiet so you can see and hear more. One of my coaching clients told me, “Our CEO has a distinct sense of self-containment. He’s never in a hurry, but he’s still a beat faster than most people.” Your composure will be contagious. People will ask you fewer questions and challenge or attack you less when you’re calm and slowed down.
We all think we’re different, but there are more similarities than differences between us. What is most universal is most personal. Most people:Feel not fully understoodAre the center of their own universeWant to see what they own go up in value all of the timeWant to be appreciated, feel powerful, and appear clever or smartWant to be happyWant to make their children laughHave a dark side, a part of them the world doesn’t see
In a time of trouble, most people will assess their own exposure first, then gradually assess the implications for their friends, their town, the social fabric, and their country. We are more similar than dissimilar; understanding that helps you relate and get along with diverse demographics in your workplace.
You can be anything and do anything with enough preparation and work. To be effective in what message you want to get across to others, you must prepare. If you painstakingly prepare more than most people bother to, it will measurably improve your chances of affecting people the way you want. Some CEOs tell me that for every hour they expect to be in front of someone, they give themselves two to three hours of preparation. (The rule of thumb of courtiers in Buckingham Palace is that “a one-minute visit with the queen requires three hours of planning.") Preparation increases confidence and optimism, and makes you more interesting to whomever you are speaking with. People respond well to someone who is sure of what he or she wants and goes for it. Before you communicate, ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish in this exchange? What are the reasons to do this—both implicit and explicit? Why should she give a darn? What is the likely outcome of this exchange?” And then, after it’s done ask, “Did I accomplish what I set out to?”
Be able to say “no,” but don’t take “no” for the answer. First, understand that “no” is the standard answer or response from peers, bosses, and subordinates to test or challenge you, sometimes out of laziness, sometimes for reasons of budget and time. “No” is a complete sentence, but it isn’t a complete answer. Don’t take it as a matter of course if you believe that it could, or should, be otherwise. “No” doesn’t always mean “no,” nor do nada, nein, nyet, not now, not ever, no way, negative, never ever, not as long as I live, over my dead body, not even if hell freezes over, not only no but hell no. More often than not it means, “maybe” or “I’m not sure.” Unless you come back and fight for it, your opponents figured they were right. So take “no” and go on. If you ask for something and are told “no,” accept it; then ask for something different: “Can you donate $500 million to the new college of business building?” “No.” “Can you buy two tickets for the fundraiser next month?” “Well, sure.” The above example is not ‘apples and apples,’ I know. Still, taking “no” is acceptable for some people, but it doesn’t have to be for you. If you get “no,” figure the person you are speaking with just didn’t understand and you have to explain another way. My point is to keep trying, without being tedious, without just giving up. Ask 3 (or 13) times and in 3 (or 13) different ways before you even consider giving up. When people learn that you only redouble your efforts when you are told “no,” you will get them trained to just saying “yes” right away.
You don’t need a wide smile, a snapshot pose, a big ‘ole rubber beam, or a wolfish grin. Rather, you need just a slightly open mouth with a friendly upturn of the lips—a small smile. The demeanor I’m promoting is an undaunted, comfortable-in-your-skin, shiny business game face. Consider the following:A shiny face from your attitude, not from perspiration, transmits well across cultures.Smiling isn’t about being happy (although I hope you are). It’s about confidence and taking responsibility for the energy you bring to the place.Your small smile makes you look awake, alert, alive, implacable, and approachable.You can have a determined jaw but still have a small smile— your expression will only enhance the keen intelligence in your eyes.If you smile, you can’t as easily chew gum, eat, or drink (which obviously needs to be nixed) because every saliva slap against your jaw is exaggerated in the person’s ear.Not smiling causes inaccurate responses to you. You’ll have an uphill battle without even realizing it.
With the myriad audio, video, and digital communication platforms we have today to immediately disseminate more information than ever in history, it’s kind of interesting to look back on how man achieved the same desire to share information…. During an excavation of a medieval road near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russian archaeologists recently unearthed a birchbark letter dating to the fourteenth century. They believe it was written by a servant to his master to describe unforeseen travel expenses on a debt collection journey. For many years I’ve collected religious artifacts. One of my most treasured items is the teachings of the Bible written in Sanskrit on banana tree leaves bound together by a cord so they can fan out and be read as a learning tool. Before the birchbark or banana leaves, the Incas in Peru encoded and recorded information with cryptic knotted strings known as khipu. Dr. Gary Urton, of Harvard, writes, “The knots appeared to be arranged in coded sequences analogous to the process of writing binary number (1/0) coded programing for computers.” And before that, there were petroglyphs etched into cave walls. Petroglyphs, then knotted strings, then birchbark and parchment were “technological” advancements in communication for their times. What will be interesting to see are the technological advances still waiting for us. An email in the future might seem as old fashioned as the birchbark.
Today’s workforce is made up of mixed generations from boomers to millenials and from a multitude of demographics. Despite the differences we are more similar than dissimilar. I’m an avid cook, and was wondering about a new use of a package of wonton wrappers that I had left over after making dim sum. In a Saturday morning of research I found recipes to use the same “Chinese” wrapper to make maultaschensuppe (a German dumpling), Russian Ramen, Tibetan Momos, Georgian Khinkali, Jewish Kreplach, Sichuan Chili wontons, Pierogi, Ukranian Manti, Slovenian dumplings, Italian Tortellini, and Montreal Peanut Butter Dumplings. Each recipe had the same “outside” but the insides changed a little with geography, history, culture, tastes, available items, etc. All recipes achieved the same goal of satisfying taste and providing nourishment: the same outside wrapper but different inside the wrapper techniques and ingredients. There is an analogy to today’s work force. We are humans who are made up of differences on the inside, but with the same outside goal of the pursuit of happiness – whether with food or a career.
First, you want to check if they are retainer or contingency. You want to work with retainer only. Next, tell them you will call them back. Do call them back when you are at a comfortable place to talk to them. Let them tell you enough about the job so you can be sure it’s not for you BUT so you know enough to be able to refer a name or a source for a name. They like that a lot and they will remember you. Something like, “I receive these calls frequently, as you can imagine ….I will always listen to your opportunity to see where I can be of help….I’m very happy here, working on ____ and ___…. As you explained the job specification, I’d suggest you talk to Jill Jones as she could be a candidate or know someone who would be. I’ve already done that job. My next move inside or outside of an organization will be (next level up) so that is where I’m headed….for now, I’m being rewarded for my contributions and very happy where I am….” You always want to listen, be pleasant, be helpful. Then you remain in touch every six months of so with an update of new things you are doing and the offer to help by giving them other names in your network. (And that’s why you keep building your network or connections so that you do have people to suggest!)
But issues related to job satisfaction are at least as crucial as financial incentives. “You rehire your employees every single day,” says Gloree Parker-Roden, senior vice president of Enterprise Services at Pearson Technology Centre. “We had no problem with retention until a time period where we went into a maintenance program without a major initiative going. Things felt slow to people. We found that the same people who complained about long hours and overwork really didn’t want to underwork either.” In other words, high retention of valuable employees requires keeping them challenged and interested as well as rewarding them financially.
In a research project, Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that the number-one driver of employee commitment is trust in senior management. If a manager fails to provide the necessary leadership, then people leave. Gloree Parker-Roden speaks for many when she says, “The important thing to me is being able to work with managers I respect and trust. If that was broken, then I would go.”The Watson Wyatt survey identified other factors that caused people to leave an employer. Here they are, starting with the most commonly cited:Higher salaries offered by other organizationsDissatisfaction with potential career growFeeling unappreciatedRising acceptability of job-hoppingDifficulty balancing work/life issuesBurnoutBenefits offered by other organizationsPerceived lack of job securityConflicts with supervisor or co-workersViability of the organizationConflicts with the organization’s mission or values
Salary is clearly an important factor, but it’s far from the only one. Any manager who has a high turnover rate shouldn’t blamed the company pay scale alone; instead, the manager should examine his or her own practices in the work environment.
Whether it’s “your fault” or not, being let go is a traumatic experience. It invariably produces emotions ranging from disbelief and rage to guilt, shame, and depression. It generally creates financial stress, which can lead to serious anxiety and conflicts within families. And the sense of uncertainty and loss of control that goes with being fired can make it more difficult to manage a job search in an intelligent, energetic, creative fashion — if you let it!. There are entire books that focus on the trauma of job loss, along with career counselors and psychologists who specialize in helping layoff victims cope and regroup. Clearly, all the issues associated with job loss can’t be addressed in a few paragraphs. Nevertheless, here are a few suggestions. First, remember that in today’s job market, the stigma of being let go is much, much less significant than ever before. The continual waves of mergers, spin-offs, company launches and closings, downsizings, expansions, and re-engineerings that have marked world industry over the past three decades mean that a lot of people have been laid off at one time or another. And those who haven’t been fired are well aware that they’ve escaped the ax only by good fortune. As a result, no one really looks down on people with one or two layoffs in their past. Instead, layoffs are viewed as par for the course. Try mentioning being fired the next time you’re at lunch with half a dozen other working friends. Rather than glances of disapproval, you’re more likely to see nods of understanding and hear comments like, “I’ve been there.” Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’ve been fired repeatedly, or for a cause like lying, stealing, or punching your boss. But most people who are one-or two-time losers in the job wars have little difficulty moving on to their next opportunity if they don’t take it personally and understand it’s just business. Second, you can minimize the psychological and career damage of being laid off by handling the process intelligently. Here are some of the steps to take: Negotiate a fair severance package. Rather than simply accepting the company offer, request a couple of days to consider it. Then talk to peers and former bosses and colleagues. You may find you can get the company to increase your final pay package, extend your health and life insurance benefits, or provide you with services such as career counseling. Try to analyze objectively what you did right and wrong. Examine your history with the company. Could you have handled your job better so as to extend your tenure? Were there warning signs you ignored? Make a list of work and people skills you intend to improve in your future jobs. Start your next job search promptly. Don’t spend weeks binge watching NetFlix or feeling sorry for yourself, or spending your savings on a vacation or some other consolation prize, even if you can afford it. The loss of psychological momentum you’ll suffer can be harmful. Don’t be embarrassed about losing your job. Develop a simple, neutral, accurate, one-sentence explanation for why you lost your job. For example, you can say, “The company reorganized, and mine was one of several positions that were eliminated.” Using this or a similar sentence to spread the word among your friends and acquaintances will maximize your chances of hearing about a worthwhile opportunity. The great automobile entrepreneur Henry Ford (and many others over time with their own version) said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” His words apply to getting fired. Don’t waste time and energy bemoaning what you’ve lost; focus instead on the new horizons in your future.