Want to get or KEEP your job? The focus is on communication

We are constantly discussing the importance of communication skills and how they affect relationships and the culture in the workplace.  Organizational culture is fundamental to how the organization does what it does.  The ‘how’ is about relationships, how the members of the organization do what they do.  As a member of an organization, perhaps an ‘employer’, we wonder how often consideration is given to the culture of the organization when interviewing perspective employees AND we wonder how often perspective employees are curious about the ‘how’ of the organization, prior to joining it?

Wallace Immen’s article in the Globe and Mail “Want better employees? Ask better questions in job interviews”, published Jan 5, 2012, is an interesting example of this.  Now more than ever, the importance of how we show up in the workplace and how we communicate not only affects our relationships and culture, it could affect keeping our jobs.

Times are tough.  Organizations aren’t hiring as many people as they used to in the past and so it’s becoming increasingly important that they hire those few who are the ‘perfect fit’, meaning the ‘how’ of what they do meshes with the ‘how’ of the organization.  By meshing, we mean aligns sufficiently to ensure relationships can be built and the fit will ensure respectful communications with a common focus.  However, as described in this article, a study done by Leadership Coach Mark Murphy showed that at least 70% of employers aren’t quite getting it right, employees end up not working out and it’s not due to the lack of skills, it’s due to attitude.

According to the article, the study tracked 20,000 new hires (United States, Canada, Europe and Asia) over a three year period and within the first 18 months they found that 46 per cent of them had either been fired or received poor performance reviews.  Mr. Murphy goes on to say “I’m regularly told by employers that their low performers have really good job skills, but other factors such as being negative, feeling entitled, blaming or being change-resistant turned out to be the reason they didn’t work out”.  To us, this reflects a lack of alignment between the employer and employee in the ‘how’ of what they do.  If the ‘cultures’ of the two are not aligned, relationships falter.

What is needed at the interview stage to include the ‘how’ of the organization, the culture of the group?


How would you describe your organizational culture?  Looking at the group where a perspective employee will be working, how would you describe that culture?  What are the 3 non-negotiables of how work is completed?  Once these have been identified, look at how you can incorporate these into the interview, what open questions you can ask to ensure the perspective employees are asked about each of these non-negotiables?  For example, if an employee is expected to be a team player where innovation is created through collaboration, ask the perspective employee how they work in a team, even asking for examples of what has worked well for them in the past or ask them how colleagues, members of previous teams would describe them, how they worked together.

 Perspective employee:

You really want this job because you know you have the required skills and can achieve success when you look at the job description.  However it may be challenging to succeed if the culture of the organization does not align with you, ‘how’ you do what you do.

Reflect on what you need from a cultural perspective in an organization.  ‘How’ do you want to do what you do?  Once you have identified 3 fundamental needs for you, craft questions around them so you can be curious and learn about the organizational culture during the interview.  For example, if you need to receive feedback on what you are doing, you could ask the interviewers how the reporting manager communicates with their team, how the manager provides direction, supports learning for team members etc.  If feedback does not come up, you can then decide if this is a deal breaker or if you can learn and feel valued a different way.  Perhaps the manager could be open to providing feedback and you can ask this.  The clearer you are in the interview about your needs, the better the fit can be.  For example you could indicate you thrive in an environment where you receive frequent, specific feedback and wonder how this manager provides feedback.  You will be able to learn quickly if feedback is something she is comfortable with.

In either case, if the fit is not there, listen to your inner voice.  This may seem like the ideal job and yet maybe it is not.  If the alarm bells start ringing in your head, how can you continue to be curious and open to ensure you ask ALL the questions needed to dim down those alarm bells?

We want to hear from you, what’s working and what you find challenging?  What do you contribute to the culture of your organization?

Judgement Day, “It makes me feel better”

This is a real conversation that we overheard between a young daughter and father walking the seawall and felt compelled to share with you:

10-12 year old daughter:  “Daddy, why do you have to be so judgemental?”

Dad:  “Because it makes me feel better.”

Daughter:  “How can putting someone else down make you feel better?”

Dad:  “It just does.  If I make someone else look diminished, it makes me feel more important.”

Daughter:  “How do you think the other person feels when you make them feel diminished?”

Dad:  “I don’t care because I feel better.”

Daughter:  “I don’t understand.”

This little girl of 10-12 was wise beyond her years and was so curious, asking her dad open questions to try to better understand why he said things she did not understand.

Think back to when you judged another for what they said, were doing, were wearing etc.  What were you really doing?  How do you think your judging comments made the person feel?  How did your behaviour/comments make you feel and what were the REAL reasons you were doing it?

For us, building relationships means nourishing others and thereby nourishing ourselves.   We wonder how diminishing others through judging helps to nourish anyone?

We invite you to reflect on how judging makes you feel and what you can do differently so you end up feeling you are nourished and have nourished others.

“The One Trait All Innovative Leaders Share..”

We loved August Turak’s article “Steve Jobs and the One Trait All Innovative Leaders Share” (forbes.com 11/21/2011)

We believe that strong leadership comes from strong communication skills and the skill identified in August Turak’s article is #2 in our communication model, curiosity (aka, ask questions!).

For some reason as we get older, we lose our ability to cultivate curiosity.  As kids, all we are is curious.  Kids are constantly asking questions, wanting to solve problems, trying things that we know aren’t possible and yet wanting to push the boundaries looking for a new end result, all because they are curious and wanting to know more.  It’s like a survival skill; how they learn, test their assumptions, are open to new perspectives, push their boundaries of what they are capable, make mistakes AND do things they (and often we) never thought was possible.  We, as kids, questioned everything.  So how do we lose it, when does it happen? Is it when our parents become frustrated with our millions of questions and tell us to stop asking them or make us feel bad for asking them?  Is it when our teachers, who haven’t got the time or means to answer the myriad of questions thrown at them, dismiss them or make students feel like they aren’t smart enough because they don’t know the answer?  (I for one remember feeling this way).  What about the question that Mr. Turak raises “yeah, but what on earth are you going to do with it?” (We have all heard that one more than once!).

“Jobs wasn’t curious because he wanted to be successful.  He became successful because he was so curious”.   Successful leaders are curious.  We know this to be true.  They ask questions, they listen to new perspectives, they test assumptions, and they are open to new possibilities (sound like when you were a young child?).  Some people’s best work happens when they stumble upon it by accident because they were curious – apps that are created, products that are developed, recipes concocted, science discoveries, and as Mr Turak noted, diseases cured.

When talking to a friend the other day, she said she had met someone who worked for Oprah.  Excited about this, she asked what it was like to work for her and she was told “amazing”.  What was so amazing about it?  She said that Oprah was curious to know everyone’s perspective, at every level, and that she was open to changing her mind.  It made her and her colleagues feel valued, that they were heard.

Before you say no, dismiss an idea or ignore a perspective, ask yourself ‘What could I be curious about?’  ‘How could it change my business or my relationship?’   Based on the success of Steve Jobs and Oprah, what have you got to lose?

Want to know more about being a successful leader?  Check out: 3 levels of listening,  Strategies For Challenging Conversations, Gaining Perspective – how is yours serving you?,  Are You a Teller? How it affects your relationships, Telling of a Leader,  AND follow this space Mondays for weekly tips, tools and communication strategies.