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Try These Communication Skills Training Exercises

December 9th, 2016

The cost of poor communication in organizations is very high – mismanaged projects, missed deadlines, interpersonal conflict over miscommunications, low employee morale. It’s important to instill an organizational culture that values and encourages clear communication, and that begins with communication skills training for all employees. Teaching people at all levels to speak, write and listen with clarity, without distractions, and with respect is key to great organizational communication. Below are some communication skills training exercises you can use to get you started.commcounts_trailer

Communication Skills Training Exercise: There’s a Time and Place

Choosing the right timing and approach for your message is an important component of any communication. The wrong approach, method or timing can bury the message and intended result in noise and misunderstanding. Choosing the right time and place can make all the difference between failure and success. This activity helps learners take a moment and think about their communication – to make sure how and when their message is delivered matches what is being conveyed. When the topic is important, they’ll learn to put in extra time and effort to communicate effectively.

Communication skills video recommendation: Communication Counts: Speaking and Listening for Results

The exercise above is excerpted from the workshop that accompanies the Communication Counts video training program, which explores 6 keys to effective communication and shows how each of them can affect the success of an organization.

Communication Skills Training Exercise: Who’s Listening?

In this activity, learners are asked to think about the best and worst listeners they know, reflect on what behaviors contribute these designations, and then honestly rate their own listening abilities. Going through this process helps employees recognize the consequences of good or bad listening, as they reflect on how their job performance and the overall environment at work is affected by working with the good listener versus the bad listener they identified.

Sometimes it seems as if we don’t have choices, but usually we do. We can choose to focus our attention, to reduce distraction, and stop for a few minutes to sit down and listen. The benefit of one person’s ability to be an effective listener carries far beyond individual conversations.

Communication skills video recommendation: Nobody’s Listening

Listening with the intent to understand is important for communication among employees. This humorous program shows what happens when a busy boss doesn’t slow down long enough to hear what his employees are trying to tell him. Fortunately, he gets a “do-over,” and things improve.

Communication Skills Training Exercise: Deep Breaths

In today’s increasingly diverse workplaces, disagreements are to be expected and even, perhaps, encouraged, as diverse opinions and perspectives are a definite organizational advantage. Discussions that include disagreement require a bit of extra care. If not respectfully managed, these conversations can easily create tensions that become unproductive and have effects long past the initial conversation.

In this activity, participants are asked to record a few words or phrases they can say to themselves — and to the others involved — when they feel a conversation heating up and moving in an unpleasant and unproductive direction.

Communication skills video recommendation: The Respectful Communicator: The Part You Play

This program teaches people to confirm their understanding, care about the way they come across, communicate with decency, and value the input of others.

The Top 3 Secrets of Successful Teams

November 25th, 2016

Organizations and managers are on a perpetual quest to discover the best ways to maximize their teams’ effectiveness. Below, we share our top 3 secrets of successful teams. All 3 “secrets” begin with teamwork training – a key way to bring teams together, build trust, learn important team building techniques, and develop a common language for discussing teamwork. And for all 3 secrets, we suggest team building videos that will help you get there.

3 Secrets of Successful Teams

1)      Successful teams operate from an accountability mindset and seek clarity around tasks and communication. An accountability mindset is a framework for viewing all tasks, meetings and conversations: it’s how you think about accepting assignments with full ownership, how you take action to complete tasks – despite any obstacles – and how you think about accepting the results of your actions – not as a victim, but as someone who owns their results, good or bad.    positive-workplace-manufacturing260

Seeking clarity around tasks and communication is also vital to an accountable, successful team and includes steps like figuring out who is doing what by when on each to-do, and using that information to craft clear agreements for all team tasks.

Team building video #1: Accountability that Works helps individuals and teams get more accomplished correctly and on time. With accountability, you get better results, improved teamwork, and clarity. Without it, you get blame, finger-pointing, missed deadlines and low morale. This program reveals an approach to accountability that improves team and organizational performance.

2)      Successful teams welcome diversity, especially in terms of different team participation styles and team player personalities. Team leaders and members understand that there is great strength and creativity in having diverse ideas, personalities and communication styles on a team. With all that diversity also comes the potential for conflict, of course, but teamwork training can help any team learn to value the participation styles of others while teaching how to use our own styles and personalities to the maximum advantage of the team – all with respect, clear communication and collaboration.

Team building video #2: Team Building: What Makes a Good Team Player features best-selling author and team building expert Glenn Parker showing how to leverage the unique strengths of different personality types and work through the kinds of conflict that prevent high performance. Manufacturing, Government, and Healthcare versions of this program are also available.

3)      Successful teams create an environment where people can give their honest opinion and where plans and ideas can be challenged. When open feedback and constructive conflict are stifled and discouraged in groups, decisions go unchecked, and disaster can occur. Groups that are successful know that encouraging diverse input, being able to challenge assumptions or decisions, and having the freedom to speak up are vital to good decision-making and strong team morale. Teamwork training can help any group learn to create a team culture where input is valued and group members’ ideas (and even disagreements) are actively sought out.

Team building video #3: The Abilene Paradox depicts individuals who support plans they really don’t believe in — leading groups to meaningless, costly outcomes. This best-selling, classic training program has helped thousands of organizations increase profits and productivity by helping teams make better group decisions.

What an Effective Change Management Process Looks Like

November 18th, 2016

We’d all like to find a “magic pill” for helping us deal with workplace change. But handling change is a process, and there’s often no quick or easy way through it. Just today, there was a major update rolled out for some software that everyone in our office uses. Collective groans rose up from every workstation, along with grumbles of “I HATE [insert software’s name here]!” and “Ugh. WHY did they change that??” And this was just a software update–imagine employee response when larger changes are announced, like projects being canceled, downsizing, a new manager being hired, or a brand-new work process being introduced. Rarely are organizational changes met with widespread enthusiasm, even when they turn out to be positive changes.stress-management

Change management training can help any organization prepare its employees for a change, and teach them strategies for managing the stressors and emotions that accompany transitions. In the workplace, change is often imposed — it is presented to us as a “done deal.” Managing the change, itself, may not be an option. What can be managed, and managed well, is our internal response to the change — our personal transition.

Change consultant William Bridges developed a three-stage transition model, a progression of experiences termed Endings, the Neutral Zone and Beginnings. Unlike normal processes where we start with the Beginning, during transitions, we begin at Endings and Beginnings is the goal! Viewing transition in terms of the three stages helps us understand that the needs, challenges and opportunities presented by change can be managed as a progression of responses.

The Endings stage is where we sever attachments to the old way of doing things, and it can be a painful and disruptive time for people. Here you should identify what is really ending, try not to overreact, and do what’s necessary to experience emotional acceptance of the “chapter” that is closing. For most people, the Neutral Zone is the most anxious, perplexing, and difficult of all the stages. It’s the period when you’ve let go of the past, but the future isn’t yet clear; you must learn to tolerate ambiguity in your work situation during the Neutral Zone. Finally, the Beginnings stage is where you are open to trying new experiences, and you take action to move forward with the “new way.” This is often the stage where people experience a realization that we are, after all, highly adaptive creatures.

Employing change management training is an effective strategy for helping employees manage these various stages of change. Good training will include effective change management activities which stimulate conversations and help employees practice or role-play the new change strategies and behaviors they’re learning. For example, here’s a change management activity that can be used at the start of a training session to help “break the ice”: Change Icebreaker Exercise: Pulse Check on Change.

CRM Learning offers numerous change management training video programs including these:

Taking Charge of Change features realistic workplace vignettes that illustrate William Bridges’ 3-step model for transitioning through the stages of change and making it work to your advantage.

Ready. Set. CHANGE! equips employees with skills to react smarter, adapt faster and engage together more productively when change comes around again.

4 Essential Conflict Resolution Steps

November 4th, 2016

Dealing with conflict in the workplace can cost employees and managers time, productivity, and emotional stress. Having organization-wide conflict resolution steps in place, however, will help everyone know how to tackle conflict constructively, instead of avoiding it or letting it get out of hand. Below are 4 conflict resolution steps that are essential to anyone’s conflict management “toolkit.”bluecollar

  1. Get clarity on the conflict. This first step is the most important since most of us do not take the time to back off and analyze why the conflict occurred and what we are looking for as a resolution. This step involves taking some time by yourself, before you address the other person, to ask some questions. This helps you avoid an unplanned, “knee-jerk” reaction to the conflict and the questions help you to get clarity on what’s going on, what you feel, what you ultimately want from this situation, and what you think the other person might want. Once you’ve made your way through these self-reflective questions, you’ll have a clearer picture of how to proceed – is it really a non-issue that you can let go of, or is it a legitimate problem that needs to be resolved?

  2. Talk to the other person. This seems like an obvious step, but many people will try to take a shortcut and just email (or text, etc.) the other person! When trying to work through a conflict, having the discussion in person is always best (or by phone if you’re geographically separated). Talking to the other person involves practicing our opening statement and issue description ahead of time, and then finding the time and place to have an open, two-way discussion with the other person. It’s critical to open the conversation with a statement that encourages collaboration (and not defensiveness). And, when describing the issue to the other person, make sure you include exactly what happened, how it made you feel, and the negative impacts the situation has caused.

  3. The third conflict resolution step is to listen to the other side. Once you’ve stated your side of the problem, you have to listen to the other person air their views and concerns. It’s the only way to understand their point of view. It will likely be uncomfortable, but it’s important that you never interrupt, that you give them your full attention, use positive body language (no crossing your arms or frowning), and paraphrase what you’ve heard to make sure you understand their point of view.

  4. Once both parties have aired their concerns, the last of these steps to conflict resolution is to work towards a solution. This step involves gaining agreement about the nature of the conflict, as well as the steps to be taken by both parties to resolve it. You should start by gaining agreement from the other person that there is a problem, and then make sure that you’ve both aired your concerns. Then it’s time to explore win-win solutions. Resolving conflict means finding a solution that does something for both participants, so be ready to communicate openly about the options. Lastly, plan a course of action based on the solution you’ve both agreed upon.

When conflict occurs, you never really know where the other person is coming from. You don’t know what might be happening behind the scenes for them, or what they are thinking. The most effective way to find out, and to resolve the situation, is to use these 4 steps to conflict resolution to help you and the other party find a fair solution you can both live with.

For a proven, bestselling training video that teaches effective steps to conflict resolution, check out What To Do When Conflict Happens. This program presents a practical and easy-to-use 4-step approach to managing conflict that helps individuals collect their thoughts and initiate resolution in the most productive way possible.

Empowering Employees By Teaching Respect in the Workplace

October 28th, 2016

There are many skills, behaviors and rules that employees must be taught on-the-job, but few will yield higher returns than teaching them how to demonstrate respect in the workplace. Employees who learn to see differences and diversity as a strength (not a source of conflict) are much more apt to support their fellow employees.  Collaboration and mutual respect become the norm and employees feel empowered to protect and even build on the spirit of inclusion.

Providing respectful workplace training is the key to teaching these behaviors to all employees – from managers to individual contributors.

Become More Tolerantrespect-in-the-workplace

In today’s world, many people look and act differently than you do. They come from different backgrounds, parts of the world, have different religions and sexual orientations, or perhaps they simply weigh more (or less) than you do. To have true respect in the workplace, we must learn to be tolerant of all co-workers (and even vendors and customers). After all, if you discriminate against one of your co-workers for reasons other than performance, how can you credibly evaluate or support their work? This kind of intolerance undermines everyone’s performance because it harms the team. Respectful workplace training will teach employees that they shouldn’t judge others based on appearance, personal background or life choices.

Respect Each Other’s Perspectives

Anyone who’s ever worked in an organization knows you don’t always get along with your co-workers or agree with everything they say, even the ones you like. Nevertheless, it’s important to respect co-workers’ unique perspectives and knowledge when we don’t agree. Different points-of-view are crucial to today’s organizations. If we surround ourselves with people who think and act like we do, we will become insulated from change and new ideas. Instead, we should seek out people who think differently than we do; their input will often improve the result we’re trying to achieve.

Encourage and Support Others

Another way to demonstrate respect in the workplace is by teaching employees to encourage and support one another. We all feel the urge, at one time or another, to put others down or become critical of their work. However, there are ways to offer constructive criticism without diminishing someone’s creativity or motivation, and whenever possible, offer praise and encouragement instead. Another way to support and respect fellow team members is to make sure everyone feels included and like they belong, so invite people to participate in teams or committees, ask if someone would like to join you for coffee or lunch, and seek out the input of those who don’t usually speak up.

CRM Learning offers many respectful workplace training videos, including The Respectful Workplace: It Starts With You. This video models the day-to-day employee behaviors that help build a positive, supportive and inclusive workplace.

How To Address Behaviors Which Lead To Workplace Harassment

October 21st, 2016

Harassment cannot be tolerated in any organization, so it is vital to show people how certain behaviors can lead to big problems.  This is done best through workplace harassment training. Every employee – from top to bottom – should be taught to recognize (and avoid) harassing behaviors and to stay on the “right side of the line” between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.Sexual Harassment training

Workplace harassment training should cover harassment in ALL its forms, including teasing, gossip, joking, sabotage and sexual harassment, and should differentiate between behaviors that are simply unprofessional or inappropriate, and behaviors that are illegal. Employees should also learn the definitions of both Quid Pro Quo Harassment (“I’ll do this for you if you do that for me”) and Hostile Work Environment Harassment, which the EEOC defines as “conduct severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Bringing awareness to what behaviors are inappropriate and illegal is the first step towards preventing harassment in the workplace. The next step is educating people on what to do if they observe, or are a victim of, workplace harassment. If the behavior is merely inappropriate or unprofessional, a person may wish to address the perpetrator directly. Perhaps the perpetrator is not aware of the offensiveness or harm of their words or actions and may change their behavior with a polite but firm “talking to.” Addressing the perpetrator directly (if one feels they can do so competently) can often keep a situation from escalating.  

When harassing behavior occurs and the recipient and/or observer don’t want to address it directly with the harasser, harassment training provides steps for knowing where and how to report the incident. Sexual harassment can be particularly difficult and uncomfortable to address directly with the harasser. In these cases, a sexual harassment training video can help the victim know his or her rights, and may help them feel more comfortable reporting the harassment through the proper organizational channels.

CRM Learning offers many workplace harassment training programs covering various topics, including harassment training for managers, policy statements on harassment, and sexual harassment. It’s Up to You is a sexual harassment video that uses real-life scenarios to depict the various faces of sexual harassment and how to stop sexual harassment in the workplace.

What is “Groupthink” and How Can I Avoid It?

October 7th, 2016

Have you ever been part of a group – maybe a workgroup, a sports team, or a committee – where everyone was so eager to get along, not rock the boat or make a unanimous decision that it affected group members’ ability to challenge a decision, propose alternatives, or speak up at all?

If so, you’ve experienced, first-hand, the phenomenon called “groupthink.”  

When psychologist Irving Janis began theorizing about groupthink in the early 1970’s (while studying disastrous large-scale policy decisions like the Bay of Pigs Invasion), what struck him repeatedly was the inability of well-intentioned groups  to see beyond their own narrow focus, to rationally consider alternatives, and to foresee how their course of action would seriously threaten – and in some cases destroy – the groups’ very goals and principles. Also notable in each case was the extreme desire group members reported to “please one another,” to be perceived as team players, and to retain their membership in the group.groupthink_video

Groupthink can strike groups of any size, in any department, at any organization. Because the risk groupthink poses to organizations is nothing less than ineffective group decisions that can lead to negative (even catastrophic) outcomes —  employees and leaders must learn to avoid groupthink by spotting it when it occurs.

One effective way to educate teams about groupthink is the Groupthink video from CRM Learning. It features Dr. James K. Esser explaining the 8 symptoms of groupthink: the more of these symptoms that are found in any decision-making group, the more likely it is that the group will develop groupthink. The Groupthink video also shows a haunting re-enactment of the meetings and decisions leading up to the fateful launch of the space shuttle Challenger, which Dr. Esser and others have studied as an example of faulty group decision-making, likely due to groupthink.

The best way to avoid groupthink is to create an “open” climate during decision-making processes – especially during meetings.  Leaders need to encourage free discussion and non-judgmental attitudes when others are speaking. They must avoid isolating the group from outside influences – even bringing in “outsiders” to help challenge assumptions and think critically about the problem the group is facing, and how data or information is being analyzed. Outsiders who don’t have expertise that directly links to the matter at hand, or who are in a different specialty area altogether,  can be valuable for asking new questions and thinking about problems entirely differently.

Similarly,  leaders and group members alike should be empowered to take on the role of “critical evaluator” – someone who has the power to challenge the group’s rationalizations and assumptions.  Critical evaluators lead the way in thinking through the potential outcomes and consequences of various decision choices.

Provide your groups and teams with the tools they need to avoid workplace groupthink with the Groupthink video from CRM Learning. It uses the space shuttle Challenger disaster and other historic examples to explain this phenomenon and how groups can avoid it.

4 Things to Love About Respectful Workplace Training: Infographic

October 7th, 2016
Sometimes the impact of “soft skills training” is hard to measure. In the case of respectful workplace training, that’s not so much the case.

respectful-workplace-infographic-jpgEveryone wants to work in a place where people feel respected. So, when they receive training on what it takes to achieve that, they tend to listen. This “4 Things to Love About Respectful Workplace Training” infographic (link opens a PDF) shows 4 areas that are positively impacted by training that shows what respect in the workplace does (and does not) look like.

We hope you will find the graphic helpful. And, if you’re looking for proven training tools in this area, we highly recommend you review our video-based training products in the areas of Harassment & Respect and Diversity & Inclusion.

The 4 programs recommended in the infographic are:

The Respectful Workplace: It Starts with You
The Respectful Communicator: The Part You Play
The Respectful Supervisor: Integrity and Inclusion
The Respectful Supervisor: Motivating and Retaining Employees

Action Plan To Identify and Stop Workplace Bullying

September 30th, 2016

Unfortunately for employees in today’s organizations, workplace bullying has become a prevalent and serious issue. Leaders should address this problem head-on by providing harassment training – specifically on bullying – to ensure all employees have an action plan to identify and stop workplace bullying.sexualharassment260

Any action plan designed to prevent bullying should begin with learning that identifies what bullying behavior looks like. By definition, bullying is persistent, offensive, intimidating or insulting behavior that makes victims feel upset, threatened, humiliated (not good enough, stupid, incompetent) or vulnerable. It can be verbal, physical, social or even online in nature, so it’s important to coach employees to recognize bullying in all its forms.

The second component of a bullying action plan should be to stop bullying when it occurs. This involves teaching employees to speak up for themselves when they experience behavior that “crosses the line.” Harassment training will go a long way to empowering employees to speak up for themselves when they’re being bullied. Speaking up takes courage, but when done calmly, confidently and factually, it can have a very good outcome. It helps when employees plan what they will say ahead of time – even practicing it aloud – and focus on stating the facts of what has happened along with how it made them feel.

Another important part of a workplace bullying action plan is to  encourage employees to stand up for others when they witness bullying. Sometimes the victim of bullying doesn’t feel they have the courage, power or will to stand up to their bully. But if other employees witness the bullying, they have an obligation to take action: either addressing the bully directly or reporting the bully to a higher authority. If a witness chooses to stand up to the bully personally, they need to state their observations (the bullying behaviors they’ve witnessed); share their concerns for why those behaviors are a problem, and explain the impact of the bully’s behavior – on the victim, the team, and the whole organization.

Providing training on harassment and bullying can build awareness among employees to help recognize problematic behavior, and can also teach skills and techniques for preventing and stopping bullying and other abusive and disrespectful workplace behaviors. CRM Learning offers numerous harassment training videos including Preventing Workplace Bullying: How to Recognize and Respond to Bullies at Work.


 

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