Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cut to the Chase

I know many of my friends appreciate people who get right to the point, or in other words: "Cut to the Chase"

Cutting to the Chase is also a great thing to remember to do when dealing with conflict. Let's just say that someone bursts into your space with their voice up, body animated and is more or less really upset about something.

Consider this: Joe (a workmate) barges into your space and starts screaming “I can't believe you're asking me to do this now! It is due tommorrow and it means I'm going to have to stay late to get it done. I'm NOT Happy.” You can add in any expletives that might normally accompany those words.
My advice: Cut to the Chase.
Cutting to the Chase means separating thoughts from feelings.

What are Joe's feelings?
They are definitely anger and frustration. If you react to those you're in for a fight. On some days, this might seem appealing, especially if you are looking to unload some frustration as well, but we all know it won't help either of you in the long run. When you put someone's “nose out of joint” they won't see past it to hear what you are actually talking about. Arguing resolves nothing.

Effective Communicators address the thought of a statement.
Always ask : What are they really asking me for?

Given Joe's comments, what he is really asking you to do is to respect his time.

Cutting to the chase means your response should be something like:

“Wow Joe, my intention wasn't to frustrate you that much. How much lead time do you need in the future for these types of requests? You shouldn't have to put in overtime to get this done."

When you cut to the chase, you actually solve issues that need resolving instead of wasting time
on unproductive and unhealthy conflict that gets zilch done.

By the way, my experience has been that as you cut to the chase, Joe usually ends up coming back later that day saying something like “Sorry for blowing up like that this morning.. it just hasn't been a good day. I know you didn't mean to frustrate me.”

We've all had days when were frustrated and angry with other people. Its a natural emotion. As people approach you with those emotions, just cut to the chase to get things done.

p.s. I realize there is a line between normal, everyday anger/frustration we've all seen and abusive behaviour. Abusive behaviour should be met with zero tolerence and does require you to cut to the chase as well but will be different in nature.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Be Accountable

As Donna and I await our second child, due November 20th. I"ve begun to think back to when Mia, our three year old was born.

Past the elation and wonder at life's miracles it also hit home as I stared into her beautiful little eyes that, nestled in my arms was someone completely reliant on me. While a part of that was nice, the other realization was the increased importance of my ability to "provide".

Its funny how in life, if the only person who is effected is me, I take a much greater laissez-faire attitude to decisions. When someone else relies on me .. the pressure is on. In the case of Mia, the pressure was good. It acted as a fuel by providing extra purpose to the speaking & photography businesses I'm building.

In our work lives, accountability serves the same purpose. If we work in a job where we are not accountable to anyone other than our boss, it can be a dangerous place. When work teams are set up such that members are accountable to each other on a regular basis, great things happen:

1) Team Members get regular feedback. As human beings we need feedback. We need it now, tommorrow, the day after. We constantly need feedback. Praise is great, but knowing where we need to improve is also cool. We just need to know where we stand.

While silence should mean "agreement" with a person's performance, we all know that an extended vacuum of feedback is usually filled with negative doubt and not helpful in motivating employees. I've been there. I know many of you have as well.

2) Increased Corporate Profits when misunderstandings are caught sooner than later because employees have expectations of each other that need to be met on a regular basis. Regular expectations of team members from each other, act as "check-ups" to make sure your process is on track to success. When it is not, flags can be raised and misunderstandings corrected (sooner rather than later, when it becomes harder to deal with).

3) Purpose. You've probably all heard of Rick Warren's best seller book the "Purpose Driven Life". The title hits a wish cord in many of us. We all need "purpose" to be motivated and sometimes to simply get us off our butt. I don't know if any of you would say you work better under pressure. I know that is a fact for myself. Regular accountability to each other means regular deadlines which gives me the positive pressure I need to stay focused on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It can do the same for your team. Use it to your advantage.

Accountability is tougher when you deal with remote employees. The danger with remote employees, those you rarely see face to face is that 'out of sight' can also mean out of mind. A system of regular structured communication is doubly important. We all probably know someone who feels cut-off and unimportant in their remote office.

The Transportation sector is no exception. Long Haul Transport Drivers can be on the road for weeks at a time. If you are a transport company the question should be: What regular expectations of communication are built into their daily routine? Not just to protect the company but ironically and as importantly, to protect the driver's sanity and levels of motivation. Regular feedback can decrease your risk of driver dissatisfaction, abandoned loads etc.

Each accountability point can and should be a feedback opportunity to keep the driver focused on success, yours and theirs.

As for me.. a week or less until some increased accountability comes in to my life and I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Turning up the Heat: LOVE Conflict, NEED Conflict, MANAGE Conflict

Who needs Cable TV for exciting drama these days . Just head south of the border and attend a typical “Town Hall” or more appropriately “Town Brawl” on US Health Care Reform.

Shouting, screaming, name calling. It may even remind some of you of work! Beneath the sensationalism of the news coverage of these events, I frankly don't think all the heat being raised down south is necessarily a bad thing.
Lets face it: Most of us struggle with conflict. We either don't like conflict and try to avoid it. Or live for it and create it where its not necessary.. just to see what happens.

Conflict exists in every organization. It is human nature. Your personal and organizational success depends on dealing with it effectively.
So listen up:

Here are 2 suggested attitudes that may not seem intuitive at first but when adopted will rock your world:

LOVE conflict.
NEED conflict.

Yeah, thats right.. I think you should LOVE conflict. I've been guilty of running away from conflict in the past for the sake of just “keeping the peace”. I know that many of you reading this blog, do that as well. We need to be reminded that there is a huge cost associated with conflict avoidance.
First off: It costs us. We end up chewing on feelings of frustration and discontent for a long time because we never asked for what we wanted. We feel like we've lost. The time spent dealing with residual frustration would be much better focused on succeeding at our role. Shying away from conflict dramatically affects our relationships and productivity.

Secondly: The other person loses because they didn't get your feedback which may have helped them get better at what they do. Silence equals approval in most worlds that I live in. As they keep on doing exactly whats bothering you the most (because you've never actually asked for something different), it just exasperates your frustrations. At the very least we'll learn something new that releases our frustrations as we understand the why's of what they are doing.

Feedback needs to be a daily event in organizations for them to succeed. When you see things with which you don't agree , question or believe could be done better, you need to get it out! If you hold them in, they can grow from minor irritations, to battles, to all out war. All of that hurting everyone involved.

So go ahead and pack your boxing gloves in with your lunch box. Your company needs you to fight for what you believe in. You have to LOVE that!
I have a friend who loves to drive his BMW fast. So he'll take his car out on the country roads outside of Calgary and open 'er up for a bit. As he's leaving his house to head out, he'll usually tell anyone within earshot "See you in a bit. I feel the need for speed."

Healthly companies feel the need for conflict and actually set expectations for it to happen.

To help explain, it does help to ask the question: What is Conflict anyway?

If you looked it up in the Dictionary you might find the definition “Opposition between ideas or interests”. I'm sure each one of you have come across vigorous differences of opinions in your organization. While you may not feel like it at the time, you should thank your lucky stars you do.

Companies & Individuals win when employees feel free and are encouraged to express their ideas, especially ones in contradiction to each other. Why? Well, I don't care how open minded and diverse each one of us thinks we are, decisions made on our own are limited by the scope of our individual view of the world and limit our success and that of the company's.

At best an employee may only have a 70 degree view of the world and that is if they are really good! The fact is that companies win when decisions are made with a 360 view of the world. (I.e. all the facts are on the table) .

So it turns out: you NEED conflict in your organization. You need employees to challenge each other's ideas. It allows you to make best decisions as a company and it seeds continuous growth of your employees by honing their strengths with the strengths of those around them. Everybody wins.

So back to Health Care debate in the US. The debate in itself is good. It forces many alternatives to surface to the table. When facts are on the table, they can be evaluated properly to discover their pros and cons. Ultimately, it can lead to the best possible solution being found.

The trouble with the nature of the current debate down south is that most of the screaming is focused on emotional selling and not facts. Spurts like “Do you want government deciding when to kill your grandmother.” simply try to play on emotions of guilt, anger, frustration. While effective in swaying short term opinions and even winning elections, very rarely does it lead to great decisions being made. Emotional plays are usually made when someone doesn't want you to focus on the facts.

As you'll discover in my next blog, Managing Conflict well boils down to separating emotion from fact in everything your organization does. It has to be done right from goal setting to results measurement to daily feedback between employees.

David Benjatschek is passionate about people and the topics of Leadership and Communication. His Freedom House Leadership & Communication Series helps Companies & Indivuals free themselves up to effectively achieve their goals. You can contact David through his website:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting Things Done .. A Surprising Guide to Getting Organized and Getting Results!

If you've ever been frustrated by the inability of those around you to get even the simple things done right, then this blog is for you.

Confession of this Blogger: I am a visionary. I love to talk about what is possible. Cheerleader, Dreamer, Out of the Box, Artistic are some expressions my friends would likely offer to describe me if you asked them.

So it was with surprise that I received a request to speak and facilitate a week of “Organize Yourself” seminars in Eastern Canada during the month of May and even more shocked that it would turn out to be one of the most powerful weeks I've had on the road facilitating people's growth (including my own).

If you asked my wife to describe me: “ Organization “ would not be the first word out of her mouth! In fact, that is HER strength. (Tip to the Wise: If you have a weakness, its not always best to spend 2564 hours working to overcome it, instead, just marry someone that has that trait as a strength! From a company perspective: I'm not suggesting you marry a coworker .. just that you marry the strengths and weaknesses of your team together to save the team time and create a fabulously happy one)

I agreed to facilitate this week of one day sessions with a great deal of reservation and those itsy bitsy self-judgemental gnawings of hypocrisy in my gut. As I received the materials for the course, I hesitantly opened the pages, expecting them to shine a spotlight on my blindspots in the areas of Organization and Time Management. To my surprise however, as I flipped through the course, there wasn't anything that I DIDN”T KNOW that I was supposed to do. It was that revelation that allowed me to successfully tailor and deliver this material to have a powerful impact on the audience and yes ... myself.

The question of the hour was:

"If I knew WHAT I was supposed to do.. WHY wasn't I always doing it?"

And so each course day began with:

“Today we're going to discuss 957 ways in which you can become better organized. NONE of it will matter, if you don't understand the WHY you want to do it. If the Why is please your Boss, I'm not sure it will cut it. If you came to check off a “To-do” on your performance contract, I'm not sure that will cut it either...”

So often leaders in organizations run themselves ragged trying to pound the “What to do's” in their employees and are disappointed with the results of their efforts. If as a leader, you are frustrated with employees who don't seem to get the “What to do's”.. try standing back and get after the Why's. We often assume that “Pay-Cheque” and “It's your job” should cut it. We all know they don't. Money is far from the number one motivator of your employees. So often, the primary barrier to success has nothing to do with the knowledge of how to do something, but instead the lack of desire to do it. Just think of the piles of laundry waiting for you at home, the dishes in the sink, the weeds in the garden.. Why should our team be any different then we are?!

As we not only tackled the what to do's of “Getting Organized” that week, but also the "Why we always don't", it was awesome to see people's faces and attitudes transformed.

It only makes sense that when corporate and personal goals align, the path to success is a lot straighter. So take some time and listen to individuals on your team. Then help them understand how the corporation's goals help them fulfill their personal ones. You'll have just built the single most important foundation for your team's success!

David Benjatschek is a Professional Speaker/Trainer known for his Freedom House Leadership & Communication Series. You contact David through