About Workforce Echoes

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Communication Timing

Timing is everything; even when it comes to communication. I was having a really bad day yesterday and it seemed to coincide with the day that EVERYONE wanted to talk to me. My Blackberry was not working properly, my internet was down, my computer froze, and I had someone who owed ME money telling me that I owed THEM money. I had twice as much work to finish as I could possibly complete. It was just one of those generally irritating days. In the midst of this, my phone rang off the hook with problems. People I haven’t talked to in months decided that yesterday was the day to call. My husband, mother, son and daughter all called within 30 minutes of each other. They all had problems I needed to resolve. During several of these calls I was sitting in a lengthy traffic jam. As the problems piled on, my patience grew shorter. It was not a good day to get my undivided and positive attention.
This all reminded me of the importance of timing when it comes to effective communication. Don’t you hate walking into the office in the morning and have someone hit you with a problem before you even make it to your desk? That’s bad timing. How about if you want a raise; would you ask your boss when she is clearly in a terrible mood? Would you decide to interrupt and begin explaining some detailed assignment to your colleague when he is fully engaged in another project? Here’s a favorite; how about waiting until you are fighting mad to resolve an important conflict with your co-worker? We all know that anger makes us stupid, yet we choose to battle our most important battles when we are angry.
If you ignore timing, you may present a fantastic idea, with all the right facts and emotion, yet still have it shot down. If you had waited a day, the same idea might have been approved. People do not make purely logical decisions. That would be too easy! Our emotions often take over our reactions. So if you present an idea to me when I’m having a bad day, I am likely to find all the potential problems and holes with your plan. On a good day I might view your idea as interesting and inspiring.
Good communication involves some logical thought and curbing impulsiveness. Consider the other person’s current state of mind, time schedule, and emotions. It is in YOUR own best interests to wait till the timing is right. Don’t let a bad day spoil a great idea.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Too Busy To Be Innovative and Creative!

Years ago we began to see the words “creativity” and “innovation” appearing throughout business research, articles, and books. We have witnessed how fast that even a huge corporation can go out of business without creative strategic planning. Look at Blockbuster. Consider Tower Records. Think about the future fate of bookstores as more and more people are into downloading their books. On-line education is becoming ever more popular which may soon even impact our K-12 schools. Cell phones, computers, and cars are continuously being improved upon. The list goes on and on. Companies must not only HAVE great ideas these days, but must be faster than everyone else in implementing the ideas. Yet all too many businesses are struggling to get on this creative and innovative bandwagon.
Our economic problems have made creativity and innovation all the more challenging. Businesses are cutting back everywhere and employees are over-worked. Perks have been taken away. Incentives have been put on hold. There is little or no time for training or conferences or extra time off.
The problem here is that we are now too busy to think. A hectic environment, with “to do” lists several pages long is counterproductive to creativity and innovation. Stress also zaps creative energy. Creativity doesn’t just happen. It requires time, freedom, a break from routine, and a continuous exchanging of ideas.
I recently attended a conference for which I had to travel away from my office for a week. As usual, I came back from the conference filled with great ideas. I actually had time to think while I was away. Everyone I talked to at this conference felt the same way; that is, they always leave conferences or training programs ready to implement something new. But then the inevitable begins to happen. No time to think. There is so much work to be done that those new ideas begin to take a back burner, and, if you aren’t careful, will be forgotten. Keeping those new ideas moving forward takes concerted but worthwhile effort.
What’s the answer here? Simple. Setting aside time for creative thought should be viewed as a method to improve business rather than as a couple of hours wherein work is not being done. Brainstorming sessions are NOT a waste of time. I like to take every idea that is tossed out and, rather than thinking why it can’t be done, think through how it COULD be done. Set aside negative thinking and let imaginations prevail. Put together cross-functional teams, from all levels of the organization, and have them come up with a solution to a problem and a workable implementation plan. Monitor and encourage progress. Set up systems that foster the exchange of ideas.
You might think that you and the rest of your team just don’t have the luxury of extra time to be creative. But think again. It may actually be that you don’t have the luxury of NOT taking time to think. The economy will eventually begin to bounce back. If your business is going to be one that participates in the expansion, now might be a good time to allow creativity and innovation to become a normal part of your organizational culture. Put together an innovation team and let the ideas flow.