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The CRM Learning weblog will be regularly updated with helpful training tips, articles, and other news. We encourage you to comment and share ideas. Come IN!
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Hostile Emails at Work

October 28th, 2014

Emailing in Business CommunicationIt’s a common, maddening occurrence: You innocently open an email from a colleague, customer or boss only to suddenly feel ambushed by its contents. The sender blames you for a problem you didn’t create, unfairly accuses you of sabotaging a project, or negatively interprets something you said. Even worse, he or she cc’s the email to your superiors.

As you stare at the offensive message, your vision blurs. You feel blood rushing to your face. Your heart beats faster. Your stomach drops. Your strongest impulse is to render justice by striking back.

Though it’s hard to remember, you do have a choice in that moment. You can either react out of anger, and fire back a harsh retort, or you can close the infuriating email, and calm down.

Which do you do? Our survey reveals that the usual response is to get ticked off, and retaliate. You then get into a battle with that person that can last for weeks at a time.

Opportunities to take offense in the world of email are high. Email is a form of communication without buffers, interpreters or pauses. The cc mechanism lends itself to either “tattling” on your co-workers or being told on to your supervisors.

But if your goal is to resolve workplace conflicts without hurting your reputation, reacting in anger doesn’t work. Why? Because you’re likely to send your first (and worst) thoughts to the recipient. Angry email responses injure the relationship, and damage your credibility.

The first thing to do when an email makes your blood boil is to calm yourself down. Draft files were created to hold (and filter) our angry e-bursts. Why is it that so few people are able to answer hostile emails in a cool and professional way? Because the temptation to immediately “fire back” an email when you think you’ve been attacked is very strong.

The next time someone sends an e-missle your way, take whatever steps you can to cool down before responding. We recommend: closing the email, getting up from your desk, stretching, taking a few deep breaths, splashing water on your face, or walking around your office floor to collect your thoughts. If you can cool off, you’ll have a much better chance of responding in a calmer, more professional, more effective way.

By Kathi Elster and Katherine Crowley. Used with permission. Visit their website: http://www.ksquaredenterprises.com/

Need help in this area? Working With You is Killing Me, hosted by Kathi Elster and Katherine Crowley, provides the antidote to becoming “hooked” by a toxic co-worker, showing exactly how to take responsibility for addressing the problem and put a stop to it all.

Training Success Story: CRM’s “Ethics 4 Everyone’’

October 25th, 2014

Ethics Training CoursesThe ROE Report Results: A recent “Return on Expectation” (ROE) study has shown that CRM Learning’s “Ethics for Everyone” video training program exceeds customer expectations nearly 100 percent of the time. Both individuals and organizations have rated their experience as “highly satisfactory” in an independently-conducted study.

About the Video: “Ethics 4 Everyone” combines real-world situations and practical advice for anyone confronted with ethical issues at work. The training program teaches participants to apply a quick “Ethical Action Test” to various situations – and the entire video runs only 15 minutes. A bonus segment for organizational leaders is also included. Read the rest of this entry »

A “Learning/Discovery” Approach to Change

October 21st, 2014

Today’s organizations face change in a variety of areas…at an unprecedented rate. And though we’ve been told that constant change is the “new normal”,  we usually look upon it with fear and negativity.

Susan Campbell, author of From Chaos to Confidence, has an interesting take on the topic.  Campbell views navigating change as being a lot like surfing:  “Successful surfers stay just ahead of the wave that could wipe them out at any moment.  They use the power of this very same wave, participating with the wave, not fighting it or trying to control it.”

In the same way, to survive in a constantly changing workplace, Campbell says we must learn to relate to our environment rather than trying to control it.

One way to do this is to shift our mindset from “Security/Control” to “Learning/ Discovery”.

If we maintain a Security/Control mindset we focus on stability ( i.e. knowing the rules, being around people like us and having things turn out predictably).  We don’t like uncertainty, change, lack of structure or people who don’t share our point of view.  We view change as a loss of control.

Alternatively, when we develop a Learning/Discovery mindset, we become open to experimenting in unfamiliar situations.  Because we relate to our environment rather that trying to control it, we focus on creatively developing ourselves to succeed in our changing environment.Instead of worrying about what we’ve lost, we ask, “What does this moment require of me?” This attitude shift is very empowering, making change an opportunity for growth.

According to Campbell, when we get trapped in a world of wishes and fears, we lose the power to deal effectively with reality and the options it holds.   The key to getting “unstuck” lies in letting go of attitudes and reactions that don’t work and focusing on ones that do, like those listed below: Read the rest of this entry »

How Leaders Keep The Team from “Goin’ to Abilene”

October 18th, 2014

How Leaders Keep The Team from "Goin' to Abilene"  In our last article, “The Abilene Paradox – How You Can Skip the Trip”, we explained how group members who sense their group is “going to Abilene” can own up to their true feelings in the presence of the other group members. We further explained that –if the person has misdiagnosed the situation and there is no Paradox operating in the group– by speaking up, the group member has at least opened the door to honest discussion and debate. However, if the situation has been correctly diagnosed and the Paradox is operating in the group, the group member will typically hear nothing but relief on the part of others who’ve been struggling with the course of action the group has agreed to take.

But, what about preventative measures? Are there things that can be done at different stages of the decision-making process to help groups skip the trip entirely? The answer is yes! And, a great deal of the responsibility falls on the group leader to make sure these practices are put into place (1) before decisions are made, as information is gathered (2) during meetings and discussions, and (3) after decisions are agreed upon. Those practices include: Read the rest of this entry »

Unspoken Feedback

October 15th, 2014

Leadership TrainingEver wonder what your employees are thinking about you?

If so, you’re probably a better-than-average leader who takes the time to observe body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, so you can tell when someone’s frustrated, confused, or just plain upset about something that’s happened.

But even in the best of manager/employee relationships, you’re probably not going to get the type of  in-depth honest feedback that might help you make real changes. Even in organizations where 360-degree reviews are consistently used, feedback isn’t always timely – or completely honest.

So what’s a manager to do when s/he wants to improve?

It goes back to observation, and to caring about what your team thinks and feels.

It’s not hard to learn how people act when they’re upset, hurt, frustrated, or angry.

It’s not hard to notice when something you’ve done has triggered their reaction.

It can be hard to be honest enough with yourself to acknowledge the connection between your actions and their reactions, and to be vulnerable enough to explore how you might do things differently in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

The Abilene Paradox – How you can skip the trip!

October 13th, 2014

confroomIn our first article of this series, we learned how a family trip to Abilene on a 104-degree Texas afternoon led Professor Jerry Harvey to discover what he calls “The Abilene Paradox.” The paradox occurs when groups take actions in contradiction to what the individual members really want to do. Remember that Professor Harvey described the Abilene Paradox as the inability to manage agreement rather than the inability to manage conflict.

We’ve also explored six tell-tale signs that will help us recognize when we might be on a” trip to Abilene” and four underlying psychological dynamics that create the conditions for the Paradox. The question is…what do we do about it?

If we believe our group or organization is caught in the Paradox – and is “on the road to Abilene” –Professor Harvey recommends we speak up and confront the Paradox in a group setting. Working within the context of a group is important, because the dynamics of the Abilene Paradox involve collusion among group members.

The first step in the confrontation is to “own up” to our true beliefs and be open to the feedback we receive when we share them. By owning up, we let others know we’re concerned that the group may be making a decision based on inaccurate data. To illustrate this, let’s revisit this workplace scenario (from article two). Read the rest of this entry »

Why We Take “The Road to Abilene”

October 6th, 2014

abelinecarIn our previous two articles we introduced Professor Jerry Harvey’s concept of the Abilene Paradox and how it affects group decision making in both our personal and work lives. We also reviewed six tell-tale signs that a group or work team has stumbled into the Paradox and is “on the road to Abilene.”

In this post we will explore the psychological underpinnings of the Paradox. Why would a group of people (families, companies, or even governments) take action in contradiction to the data they have for dealing with a problem and, as a result, compound the problem rather than solve it?

According to Professor Harvey, group members are impacted by a number of psychological factors.

  • The first principle is action anxiety—an intense uneasiness created when we think about acting in accordance with what we believe needs to be done. Action anxiety occurs as we anticipate the results of taking action, and the results we foresee are negative instead of positive.
  • Negative fantasies or perceived risk are visualizations where we focus on the harmful effects resulting from our actions, rather than improvements to the situation. They provide an excuse for not taking responsible action.

Read the rest of this entry »

6 Tell-Tale Symptoms of the Abilene Paradox

September 30th, 2014

Team Effectiveness TrainingIn our previous article we wrote about a humorous family “trip to Abilene” and the concept of the Abilene Paradox.  We also discussed
how the Paradox affects us in both our personal and work lives.   Today, we’ll explore six tell-tale symptoms of the Paradox.

Remember that professor Jerry Harvey described the Abilene Paradox as the inability to manage agreement rather than the inability to manage conflict.  This inability to manage agreement is the essential symptom that defines individuals and organizations caught in the web of the Abilene Paradox.

Consider this workplace scenario:

Sue, Tony, Jasmine and their manager, Chris, all have strong reservations about implementing a proposed procedural change.  Individually, each one is convinced the change will cause more problems than it will solve.  BUT, because the proposed change was suggested by a highly-paid consultant, and because no one else is voicing their concerns, each individual claims to support the plan (when they really don’t). The procedural change goes forward…seemingly with unanimous consent.  Later, when troubling operational issues surface, the  group members get annoyed with  one another and blame the consultant for giving bad advice. Eventually—despite a hefty investment in the flawed new procedure—the organization decides to go back to the old way of doing things.  Susan, Tony, Jasmine and Chris never discuss the matter again. Read the rest of this entry »

The Timeless Wisdom of the “Abilene Paradox”

September 24th, 2014

Abilene Paradox Training VideoWhat do a 104-degree Texas afternoon, a game of dominoes, and a cafeteria have to do with making good workplace decisions?

In his classic article, “The Abilene Paradox,” professor Jerry Harvey tells the story of his family’s decision to drive their ’58 Buick – with no air conditioning – 53 miles to Abilene for supper.

When they returned home several hours later, hot and exhausted, it turned out that none of them really wanted to make the trip. Each family member revealed that they would have strongly preferred to stay home and play dominoes. As professor Harvey describes the situation:  “Here we were, four reasonably sensible people who, of our own volition, had just taken a 106-mile trip across a godforsaken desert in a furnace-like temperature, through a cloud-like dust storm, to eat unpalatable food at a hole-in-the-wall cafeteria in Abilene, when none of us had really wanted to go.  The whole situation simply didn’t make sense.” Read the rest of this entry »


 

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