Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Communication: The Name of the Game

The President of a midsize company was fed up with the cost of miscommunication within his company.  “We’re wasting time and money because we don’t know how to communicate,” he told his management team. “Beginning immediately we’re starting a campaign called ‘Say it Back to Me.’ I want big banners made and posted all over the company. I want a memo sent to every person explaining this new campaign. I’m determined to improve our communication. “

Over the next few weeks, employees began to get used to their president’s new idea. In any business conversation, whether it was one-on-one, in a group meeting or on the telephone, each employee had to conclude his statements with, “Will you please say it back to me?” The other person had to paraphrase what he or she heard that person say.

Of course no one liked it at first. It was a change, and as we’ve already seen, we don’t take to change easily. But since it was the president’s campaign, they realized they had little choice. So day by day everyone got more comfortable with “Say It Back to Me,” which was a simple technique to make everyone aware of the importance of communicating clearly and unambiguously.

Twelve months later the company was able to identify a significant bottom-line, hard dollars savings to the company because of improved communication. The reduction in errors and mistakes, plus the increased productivity because of saving the time required to fix those mistakes, was easily identifiable as a result of this simple campaign to improve communication. “But,” the president said, “we received another benefit we hadn’t counted on. The improvement in communication eliminated many bad feelings between employees and greatly increased our team spirit and esprit de corps.  That has proven to be one of the best results of our campaign to communicate more effectively.”

How many times have you said, “Wow, I just didn’t communicate with that person very well”? Or, “We really miscommunicated, didn’t we?” I think communicating accurately and effectively is one of the best skills we can acquire and one of the toughest too. It simply is not easy to communicate, and in order to do it well, we have to learn the skills and work hard at improving and maintaining them in our own lives.  Thrivers are good communicators and people who work at improving all the time.

Remember that verse from 2 Corinthians 8:21: “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” Developing good communication skills requires some “pains,” but it is effort that pays off in enhanced performance, improved relationships, and reduced stress. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Change: What's So Hard About It?

Orva came to work for me after retiring.  She wasn’t ready to retire, so at seventy she worked part-time to help me promote my new radio program.  After being in the radio business for thirty-five years, she knew how to do it, and she had connections.  What a blessing to have Orva on my team.  She had the energy and drive of a forty-year-old.

But – there was this thing called a computer! She had never used one before, and I had computerized our operation from the beginning.  In order to work for me, she would have to learn to use a computer at age seventy.  Most people would have said, “I can’t learn a computer; I’m too old,” and never even tried.  But not Orva.

“I’m not going to let some machine get the best of me,” was her attitude.  So she tackled that computer. Only later did I learn how frightened she was of it; she never let on.  But little by little she learned how to use that computer. By rote, for the most part, but efficiently and effectively.

Orva was willing to take a risk, to stick her neck out, and to change the way she had done things all through her career.  She didn’t try to talk me out of using computers; she knew it was the way of the future. So she changed herself.

Change – It’s just a word. But when you try to change, you discover it’s more than just a word – it’s a challenge.  Few of us welcome change into our lives; most people go kicking and screaming into any kind of change. It’s risky; it’s unknown; it’s uncomfortable; it’s hard work. No wonder w run from it. But we can never improve or grow without changing.  Thriving from nine to five is directly related to your willingness to change. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Importance of First Impressions

I was hired to conduct a long-term customer service training program for a large Chicago hospital.  My first week’s assignment was to anonymously familiarize myself with the hospital and gather information on where improvement  was most needed to make it more user-friendly.

The nurse behind the counter scowled at me.  Well, she didn’t actually scowl at me, because she never gave me any eye contact.  She just had a scowl on her face and body language that was anything but friendly and inviting.

I thought, “I would never want her to be my nurse! I’d be intimidated to even talk to her.  Why would they put someone like that in such a high-profile job?”

Later I learned that this nurse had been with the hospital many years and was, according to her managers, one of the best they had.  She really cared about her patients and did her job with excellence.  But her management recognized that she made a very bad first impression and asked me to counsel with her one-on-one.  As I did, I realized this was an unusual woman who had survived many adversities and was truly outstanding in her job.  But she made a terrible first impression.  Did she do it on purpose? Of course not! She had no idea people were perceiving her initially in a negative way.  But the very negative first impression she gave to people was affecting her ability to really thrive on her job.  It was holding her back, and it was totally unnecessary.

Did you ever think about what kind of impression you make on people?  I’m sure you’ve heard it said that first impressions are the most important, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  That’s true, but it’s also true that last impressions are ones we remember, and all those in between are important too.

If you’re not making consistently good impressions on your job you’re going to find it difficult to thrive.  Making good impressions is not some phony, hypocritical fa├žade we put on; it’s not polishing the apple or playing company politics.  It is simply being certain we’re putting our best foot forward and making the effort to improve our skills and eliminate bad habits so that people remember the positive things about us rather than the negative ones. 

Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” A prudent person is wise, judicious, and careful, and that person will give thought to his or her ways.  Are you a prudent person? When was the last time you gave serious thoughts to your ways – your habits, your skills, the impression you make on others?  Self-improvement is important and it’s healthy to think about how your ways help or distract, encourage or tear down, make you look bad or good. 

As Christians working in a world that needs to know Christ we should make the best impression we can.  We are, after all, ambassadors for Jesus Christ; we represent him to our world. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An Attitude Checkup

Don't you think Christians should have positive outlooks and attitudes?  We have so much to be positive about; we have hope and a future.  And yet, sadly, many of us are just as negative as those who don't know Jesus.

Chuck Swindoll writes: "The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude to life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than the past, than education, than money...than what other people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day.  We cannot change our past...we cannot change the inevitable.  The one thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.  I am convinced life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it." 

I agree with Chuck; life is not so much what cards we've been dealt, as it is how we handle and react to the circumstances of our lives.  How are you doing in the attitude department?  Staying positive or falling into negative territory too often. 

Positive people aren't just born that way; they work at it.  If you'd like your attitude to be more positive, I have a suggestion.  First, make a list of the things that happen to you which tend to destroy your positive attitude.  Mentally walk through a few of your days and ask yourself what are the things that get to you.

I call them "negative pulls."  You'll probably list things like a co-worker or a boss who drives you crazy; too much work to do; unrealistic expectations from other people; lack of cooperation; office politics, interruptions, etc.  Putting them in writing helps you realize just what is ruining your attitude.

Now, once you've done that, the next thing is to fight back.  Not with your own power, but with the power of God within you.  This is where Christians have a great advantage, because we can call on God to give us the strength to fight back.

I suggest you read your list to the Lord.  Say, "Lord, here are the things which happen to me that tend to ruin my attitude.  I'm asking you to help me fight back.  I know the fight is in my mind, and it must be done by faith.  If you will empower me, by your grace, I will work at being a positive person to bring glory to you."  That is a big first step in our attitude check-up. 

Paul wrote to the Ephesians in chapter 4: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”(4:22-24)

The old self is negative; let's put it off.  The new self, given to us when we are born from above, has a new attitude of mind, and like Jesus, it will be positive and encouraging.  By God's grace, let's determine to develop and maintain positive attitudes for the glory of Jesus Christ.