I’ve recently consulted with a number of companies who have asked me to coach staff members who are considered too direct at work. These are often project managers or office staff who, under pressure, give direct orders, show anger and are seen to be dogmatic, dominant, uncooperative, and unsupportive. If you are too direct at work, here are twelve things you can do. to soften your style and still get results.
1 DON’T CHANGE WHAT YOU DO. CHANGE THE WAY YOU COMMUNICATE.
What you do gets results. Don’t change it. The way you do it makes some people angry. As a result you may get a reputation for ‘bad attitude.’ This can affect bonuses and promotion. Look for ways to soften what you do and how you do it. The result will be better and more willing co-operation.
2 SMILE. DON’T GET WILD.
Orders and instructions given with a smile are accepted more easily.
3 CONSULT. DON’T INSULT.
British management operates at its best when you consult. Don’t tell people to do things. Ask what’s the best way to do things. Use phrases like, ‘We need to reduce the copy budget. What ‘s the best way to do this? It’s important to avoid being patronising or personally critical unless you are really at the limit. A softer tone will help. Think of something they do well.
If you have to criticise, try not to make it personal. Use ‘We’ and ‘the’ There is’. Don’t say: ‘
‘You’ve done this wrong.’ Or, ‘I think you’ve made a mistake.’ Try and say:-‘There’s a mistake. We need to do this another way’
5 MAKE IT CLEAR. CRITICISM IS THERE TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE.
Most people take direct criticism personally. They feel offended. Make it clear your comments are aimed at improving performance. It’s not character assassination.
6 TELL THEM YOU’RE DIRECT.
Tell people you are direct and say what you think. People will know what to expect and will not take offence personally at your style.
7 WARMTH BEFORE CRITICISM WORKS. CRITICISM BEFORE WARMTH OFTEN BACKFIRES.
If you criticise someone or even shout at them and then try to be nice afterwards, it is often too late. Finding something good to say.
8 PREFACE YOUR REMARKS.
Don’t just comment or criticise. Say something to warn the person what you are about to say. Say, ‘I need to talk to you about your timekeeping.’ Or ‘I’m sorry to have to say this but you’ve been late three times this week.’
9 SUPPORT AND EXPLAIN.
If people don’t do something or are late, try not to lose your temper. It is better to encourage people to improve, not tell them off. Use phrases like: ‘Next time can you check the five S strategy before you leave you desk at the end of the month?’ ‘It’s important to let me have things on time. Otherwise I can’t do my job.’ ‘Let me make a suggestion? Have you thought about doing it this way. It’ll be faster and more efficient.’
12 CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME.
Criticise performance in private not public. Check people are free to talk. Or make it clear if you need to talk immediately. ‘Have you got a minute?’ is always a good introduction.
And three ideas for HR managers who need to introduce these techniques.
1 E-MAIL THREAD
Get the manager to share an email thread with a professional consultant. The consultant can advise on how to tone down emails to make them more acceptable.
2 ARRANGE PHONE COACHING.
Arrange phone coaching with a professional consultant who can role play situations and show how to be more supportive on the phone.
3 ADD PERSONAL COACHING TO A GROUP SESSION.
To avoid isolating someone you want to arrange training for. Consider adding it on at the end a one day or half day group communication training session.
Copyright BARRY TOMALIN 2013 (www.culture-training.com)