« August 2007 | Main | October 2007 »

September 27, 2007

Preview of two upcoming civility workshops for ISU Extension

The workshops are about communication and relationships. There is no PowerPoint presentation.

Iowa State University Office Assistants’ Development Conference, Oct. 4
• We begin with the Queen of Soul, Aretha.
• A 10 question, multiple choice answer quiz that you never need show anyone. What you might think about for answers are on the back side.
• Ground rules for the session.
• What does respecting others mean?
• What do you want to ask about, to talk about? I may have information and suggestions. Others in the session may have suggestions. I may need to search out information to post on this blog or for a follow-up conversation.

Iowa State University Extension Annual Conference, Oct. 10
Not a repeat of last year’s annual conference workshop, although I think Aretha will be there again.

Iowa State has six principles of community approved in January 2007. We’ll focus on one: “Honest and respectful expression of ideas. We affirm the right to and the importance of a free exchange of ideas within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity and respect, and we work together to promote awareness of various ideas through education and constructive strategies to respectfully consider and engage in honest disagreements.”
• Ground rules for the session.
• Civil discourse on one question relevant to ISU Extension.
• What do those in the session want to talk about on the topic of civility in the workplace?

I’ll ask those attending to fill out a survey at the end of each workshop.

The handout for the first workshop has a new feature: glossary of terms associated with civility and incivility. I selected ones brought up at last year’s workshop, terms I’ve written about this year and things I think about. Some are undoubtedly a preview of blog topics. Download file

If you work for ISU Extension, see you at the conferences. I hope you consider coming to talk about civility.

September 26, 2007

The most successful and influential people tend to be the best listeners

"The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated." William James, American psychologist and philosopher (1842–1910)

Are you listening?
Or are you waiting for your turn to talk? Do you take the time to see the speaker’s world through his or her eyes? A primary activity of love is listening. We must temporarily suspend our judgments and be fully present for the other person, be in the moment. Buddhists call this state ‘mindfulness’. What if you listened to others so deeply that they felt loved, accepted and safe in your presence, no matter what they had to say?

Conversational ping-pong
They are on opposite sides, each trying to win. Listening needs to be cooperative not competitive, helpful rather than harmful. Conversations are frustrating when you care only about your agenda, when you feel your ego is threatened or when you are too stubborn to hear what others are saying.

Not listening causes pain in personal and professional relationships—conflicts, misunderstandings, arguments, lost business and hurt feelings.

Listening is a mental and emotional process

You gain understanding, trust and rapport. You learn about another’s true concerns. The first step to effective listening is to become quiet. Sometimes it’s best to walk away from a conversation if you can’t be mindful.

Effective listening requires you search for the message behind the message. When someone is angry, what’s behind the anger? When someone is joyful, what’s behind that emotion?

Ask and listen
When people share a concern or problem, they may not expect you to have a solution. They want someone to listen, to understand and to care. You have to want to listen and that’s not easy.

Listening model
1. Pay attention. Fight off distractions. They are external such as surrounding sounds and the speaker’s clothes. They are internal such as thinking about what you’ll say next, jumping to conclusions. You have to concentrate to not be distracted.
2. Acknowledge you’ve paid attention. Empathize. Understand, not necessarily agree. This creates a climate of trust and rapport. Employ golden silence. You can reflect with pauses such as, “I see,” or “Oh”. Try to acknowledge the emotional message the person is sending. “It sounds like you’re upset about this.” “You’re raising an important point.” “It must hurt to be treated that way.” It’s not so much that you pinpoint how that person feels, but explain what you perceive. The other person can then affirm or correct your perception.
3. Clarify what the person means. Ask open questions such as “Can you tell me more?” “I’d like to understand your frustration. What else is troubling you?” “So, your concern is…”
4. Respond. Suggest options and alternatives. Provide resources. Agree to take action. Encourage with comments such as “What do you plan to do about it?” Respond with few words rather than many.

The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. Listening is how we show we care. Empathetic listening may seem time-consuming but it will save time in the long run and improve relationships.

Empathy -- noun, Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives
Synonyms: commiseration, compassion, condolence
Etymology: Greek, literally ‘to suffer with'

Inspired by a very small book, ‘Listening for Success: How to Master the Most Important Skill of Network Marketing’ by Steve Shapiro.

September 25, 2007

Do you prefer people who talk or people who listen?

Places I expect to listen, not talk

Places I expect to listen and talk
Team meetings
Staff meetings

What turns meetings into lectures or sermons?
No agenda
Dictator or bullying tactics
The meeting leader does not control the meeting

How do those who attend such meetings react?
Nod off
Look at their watches

What is accomplished in such meetings?
Perhaps this is why meetings are labeled one of the biggest time wasters.

What can you do?
Be insistent in asking for an agenda prior to the meeting.
Be assertive; support the meeting leader to stay on topic.
I’m thinking about perfecting the ‘time out’ signal. I suppose that’s not terribly civil, but neither is the incessant talker.

A psychologist from the Iowa State Student Counseling Service was a guest speaker at a meeting of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences academic advisers. He has a PhD in counseling psychology. His topic was reading students’ verbal and nonverbal signals. There were 16 advisers present, from student peer advisers to full professors. I asked to sit in because I’ve wanted to learn about nonverbal signals.

Within five minutes, I was taking notes on HOW he engaged everyone present and listened to them, as well as taking notes on what he said.

He began with an open-ended question, “How is advising going this fall?” He spread his arms open and leaned forward as he asked the question. There was no doubt he came to listen and respond to what those advisers wanted to talk about. Initially there was a bit of hesitation, but he soon had advisers giving examples and asking questions.

The group learned from each other as well as from the psychologist. It was a truly inspiring meeting with good solutions. Why? (Actually, I should have expected this; he’s a psychologist.) He is a master of the art of asking and listening.

P.S. I will write a post some time on nonverbal signals but this points out how, sometimes, by listening and observation, you get so much more than you expected. Nice. Very nice.

September 20, 2007

44 simple pleasures at work

"I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891, Irish dramatist, novelist, poet (1854 - 1900)
1. A coworker loaning you a book you’ve wanted to read
2. Dark chocolate
3. An empty inbox
4. A new, special journal for notes
5. An uncluttered desktop
6. Fresh brewed coffee
7. A really good laugh
8. Helping someone solve a problem
9. Iced green tea
10. Crossing something off your to-do list
11. A canceled meeting
12. A root beer float break
13. The first snow
14. Good ‘hold’ music
15. Watching a red-tailed hawk out the window
16. A printer at arm’s reach
17. Silence
18. Taking Friday off
19. A potluck
20. A short productive meeting
21. Dilbert comic strips
22. Finishing a project
23. Inspiration from a mentor
24. Discovering a coworker is trustworthy
25. Unexpected flowers
26. Resolving a silly conflict
27. The right temperature in your cubicle
28. Brainstorming
29. Lunch with former coworkers
30. An IT student moving into your quad
31. A thank-you note
32. Learning
33. Empathetic listening
34. Finding your name badge
35. A productive phone conversation
36. An agenda
37. Being prepared for a meeting
38. No spam
39. Getting to know someone you really click with
40. Participating in a community project on work time
41. An easy button
42. Creating a ‘good as it gets’ mailbox
43. Comments posted on your blog
44. Driving home with good music playing

What would you add?

September 19, 2007

Wall Street Journal: Shooting Messengers Makes Us Work Dumber

From the Sept. 12, 2007 online article: Everyone knows blaming the blameless bearer of bad news doesn't help, but we do it anyway. It's a symptom of the ill-aimed, trigger-happy nature of office blame, and the gulf between knowing a problem and solving it. Among the unwanted consequences: The shooter gets a one-way ticket from reality.

Several months ago I wrote about shooting the messenger as a tactic of workplace bullies. The Journal article has some bizarre examples. Most of the discussion is insightful. The first comment (below) points out the need for stellar communication and the complexity of today’s work. The second comment points out how to effectively handle the situation----work on the problems. And the third comment I pulled----pure entertainment looking through the rear view mirror.

The Journal writer then turns to customers shooting the messenger. Perhaps we need to think about our actions in such situations. Either type of shooting the messenger is really, really uncivil.

Readers’ comments on the story
1. “This issue is really about how organizations of all types foster or impede communication. I believe it is the gold standard of effectiveness. I also believe that people (inside the organization) who shoot messengers do not understand the complexity of the work in which they are engaged, and that being able to handle complexity is becoming the most critical skill we can develop.”

2. “I was reminded of working in Tokyo in the late 80s, the first and only foreigner in a major pharmaceutical company. What astonished me about the way my colleagues worked was the lack of personal attacks. When a problem arose--and problems in the pharmaceutical industry can be serious--folks got to work fixing the problem.”

3. “When I was the IT manager of a small Cambridge, MA consulting firm, my staff or I were blamed for everything that had to do with a network wire. Once, our Internet service was cut by a backhoe slicing a fiber cable in Virginia. When I told the president he blew up and asked what I was going to do to fix it. A phone strike in France delayed our network connection to the Paris office. Again, my fault.
Looking back I'm wondering if I should have been complimented instead of insulted. I mean, the man thought I controlled French labor unions and Virginian heavy equipment operators.”

Read the full Wall Street Journal article and the discussion

This blog, July 18, They shoot messengers, don’t they?

September 18, 2007

I'm smiling because you've finally driven me insane

Ever feel that way? Your workplace probably has a few difficult people.

There are two kinds of people in the world according to Sidney Simon, author of ‘Negative Criticism’. He says there are "toxic" people and "nourishing" people. One of the secrets to happiness and success is limiting your exposure to the toxic people while expanding your time with the nourishing ones.

1. Who are the toxic people?
They can be egotistical, critical, complaining or cruel. Be careful of these types. They lower your self-esteem and zap your energy. You will burn out faster if you spend too much time with them.

2. What do you do if you're stuck with toxic people?

It would be nice if you could turn toxic people into nourishing people. Sometimes you can't. And if that’s the case, then pull away. Practice creative neglect.

For example, you may have a coworker who goes on and on about how poorly she feels. She's asked for your advice, which you've given, but she pays no attention. Pull away when she launches into her health problems. Wish her well and excuse yourself. Or change the subject. Find creative ways to neglect that topic -- which has become nothing more than an immature attention-getting device.

3. Who are the nourishing people?
Find them because they literally add years to your life. Edward Hallowell documented it in his book 'Connect'. In a 10-year study of women with breast cancer, two groups of women were given the same exact treatments ... with one exception. One of the groups met for 90 minutes once a month in a support-group setting where they would engage in lots of open, honest communication about their situation. The women in that group lived twice as long.

According to Simon, nourishing people have several characteristics.
* They always have something nice to say about you ... no matter what you wear, how you look, or what you do.
* They make it safe for you to ask any question or share any feeling. They don't beat you up for being yourself.
* They allow you to be fragile when times are tough ... never taking advantage of you when you're down.
* They challenge you intellectually. They help you think of new and better ways to handle situations.
* They are tender and gentle, giving you lots of validation and a limited amount of criticism.
* They bring fun and laughter into your life.
* They walk in when everyone else walks out.

Action: Figure out one thing you can do to pull away from a toxic person and one thing you can do to spend more time with a nourishing person.

Condensed, edited and reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman's 'Tuesday Tip.' As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Zimmerman has worked with more than a million people, helping them become more effective communicators on and off the job. To receive a free subscription to his 'Tuesday Tip' articles, go to http://www.DrZimmerman.com. Or contact him at 20550 Lake Ridge Drive, Prior Lake, MN 55372.

September 13, 2007

Bullying workshop Oct. 9 in Sioux City

Western Iowa Tech Community College is hosting Workplace Bullying: An Introductory Workshop Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The presenters are two of the leading U.S. advocates seeking to eradicate workplace aggression.

This is big time, the real deal, here in Iowa.

Gary and Ruth Namie wrote ‘The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity On the Job’ and founded the Workplace Bullying Institute. The institute mission is to raise awareness, lead public dialogue about health-endangering Workplace Bullying, and to create and communicate research-based solutions for individuals, employers and public policy makers. It is a nonprofit organization based in Bellingham, Washington.

Abbreviated course description
Workplace bullying is an insidious aspect of most contemporary work. For 20 years Europeans have researched it and passed laws to address it. It is an emergent American issue, attracting popular media and business press attention. Victims suffer. Employers suffer. Bullies inhibit productivity.

The fee is $10 for social work or human resources educational credit. There is no charge for general attendance but you must preregister. The morning program covers defining workplace bullying, why the silence, perpetrator tactics, profile of targets, impact on victims, costs to organizations and solutions. The afternoon session is clinical including predictable misdiagnoses and effective treatment strategies. Call (712) 274-6404 to register.

I talked to the workshop coordinator Monday. She has done little promotion; 90 people are registered. The limit is 225. That tells you how critical this issue and that Midwesterners want to know more.

A Sept. 2007 Workplace Bulling Institute survey
of more than 7,700 adults in the United States shows
• 37% of American workers have been bullied
• Bullying is 4 times more prevalent than illegal forms of harassment
• Employers worsen or ignore the problem
• 40% of the bullied targets quit their jobs

The Siouxland workshop is underwritten by grants from The Kind World Foundation of the Siouxland Community Foundation, The Waitt Family Foundation and The Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention.
Born in Sioux City and the son of a fourth-generation Iowa cattleman, Ted Waitt co-founded Gateway on his family's farm in 1985. He founded The Waitt Family Foundation in 1993 and the affiliate organization, The Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, in 2005.

WIT and Sioux City---kudos.

Pdf of the WIT brochure on Workplace Bullying: An Introductory Workshop, Download file

U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, Labor Day 2007, http://bullyinginstitute.org/wbi-zogby2007.html

September 11, 2007

The characteristics of a civil leader

Blog Action Day is more than a month away which gives me time to mull over what environmental action I’ll promote. I’m on alert for ideas.

The back page of the fall issue of Garden Talk from the Chicago Botanic Garden has an article ‘Conservation Starts Here’. The publication displays the certification symbol of the Forest Stewardship Council. Every part of the manufacturing process of producing that publication meets the standards for responsible forestry.

I looked for information about the Forest Stewardship Council. Their Web site, http://www.fscus.org, has a job announcement for a new president. This is one section of that announcement.

Successful Characteristics
a. Contagious drive and leadership skills with evidence of the ability to delegate, motivate others to action, and complete tasks
b. Strong interpersonal skills and ability to relate to individuals representing various sectors, interests, and points of view
c. Articulate ”salesperson” with ability to clearly and persuasively communicate with diverse audiences including industry and businesses, media, environment, natural resource and social NGOs, foundations, individuals of high net worth
d. "Quick Study"
e. Politically astute, diplomatic, and charismatic
f. Keen awareness of self and others
g. Consensus-based and democratic leadership style; ability to work in a “servant leadership” style with the Board and stakeholders
h. Ability to network, cultivate and manage strong relationships, and function well within networks across many boundaries
i. Communications and listening skills with an ability to identify the relative importance of various ideas in FSC’s vision and put them into action.

Stamp civility across that description.

Want to learn more about civility? Subscribe to this blog's feed, http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/atom.xml

September 06, 2007

The 9 best civility points I’ve learned this year

Today is the first anniversary for this blog. I’ve learned a great deal listening, reading your comments, hearing your problems and suggestions and researching topics. Sometimes I follow paths you’ve suggested or little trails off your ideas to find credible and reliable information.

These are the points I think about in reviewing the past year.
1. Much of civility comes down to the golden rule endorsed by all the great world religions. Treat others only in ways that you're willing to be treated in the same exact situation. It’s empathy. You need to imagine you are the other person.
2. Assertive communication is a core communication skill. It means that you stand up for yourself, express yourself effectively and prevent others from taking advantage of you. It can help control stress and anger. Assertiveness is not aggressiveness -- disregarding the needs, feelings and opinions of others. Strive for a culture in which one is expected to not back down in the face of the bad behavior of others and in which there is an expectation of resolving conflicts or at least getting the issues out for everyone to see, discuss and work towards resolution.
3. Workplace bullies need to reform or be eradicated in the United States. We are far behind other countries in addressing the problem. Workplace bullying is repeated, health impairing mistreatment comprised of verbal abuse and/or threatening, intimidating conduct and/or work interference.
4. Sexual harassment lives on and it should not. Sexual harassment is the inappropriate sexualization of an otherwise non-sexual relationship. The severity of the harassment is determined to a large extent by the impact on the victim. Sexual harassment in the workplace is unwelcome or unwanted attention of a sexual nature that causes discomfort, humiliation, offense or distress, and/or interferes with the job.
5. Civility requires active listening. Esprit de corps, the common spirit inspiring enthusiasm, devotion and strong regard for the honor of the group, needs everyone’s voice to build a culture, a community. One of the most civil utterances is the simple, humble, and smart question ‘What do you think?’ Listen actively to the answers.
6. Civility is respecting others. The components of civility include humility, compassion, empathy, responsibility, discretion, trust, assertion, kindness, interest, honesty, ethics, integrity and more.
7. Civility improves communications and relationships. A more civil workplace produces a better quality of life. When your quality of life is raised, your job performance improves as well as your engagement at work. It creates energy and inspires creativity and productivity.
8. Leaders do not have subordinates when they are leading. Leaders give up authoritarian control, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always a voluntary activity. Those in management have authority vested in them by the company, and subordinates largely do as they are told. Managers can be leaders but it is obviously not automatic.
9. Civil discourse should be embraced. Recognize a person’s right to advocate ideas different from yours. Civility requires that you make an honest and continuing effort to understand the views and reasoning of others and are willing to be persuaded others’ ideas or the group’s ideas are better than yours.

Civility resource information and topics are endless. You who are interested in civility have offered news items, quotations, books, suggestions for topics and inspiration. Thank you. Don’t stop now. Blessings on you who think less about yourselves and who strive to make workplaces more civil.