The Importance of Communication –Part IV
Next week we are facilitating a meeting with a group that has not met since May 2018. Prior to that last session the group had been meeting almost on a monthly basis for the previous several years. So, as in the previous blog in putting together this meeting, decisions were made who would participate, an agenda was developed, previous ground rules were reinforced and logistics on how to conduct the meeting were determined. And, of course, all of this was communicated to the participants.
And as we work with that group, we understand the importance how to run that meeting to meet their objectives. In moving from preparation of a meeting to actually running the meeting, we will continue to need effective communication skills. For that we break down “running the meeting” into two steps a) opening the meeting and b) running the meeting. For this blog, our focus will be on opening the meeting. Now this should be simple yet many a meeting can go off track because we don’t take the time to properly start/open the meeting.
We both have been in meetings where whoever is “in charge” says let’s begin and starts talking immediately about the issues. We say stop. Because there are some important questions that have not been answered, Is everyone else ready to begin? What exactly are we doing? How will we get there?
Opening a meeting also requires preparation and communication because to move forward requires “buy-in” from the group. So, whether you are the group’s facilitator or chairperson (co-chairs) there are some basic tenets to getting a meeting started.
First, have everyone introduce themselves. Sounds simple, but don’t assume everyone knows each other. Especially if the meeting involves others from different parts of your organization. Also, in our meeting next week, there are four new participants from the May 2018 meeting.
In our experience we use introductions to ask these questions like,
1) tell us your name;
2) what you do;
and 3) what your expectations for the meeting
Let’s focus on #3. Why is that question important? The best way we can answer that is while I know why I am in this meeting do I really know why you are there? Don’t guess and don’t assume; let them tell you. Even if their response is “I don’t know” or I am here to find out, at least now the group knows that.
Now, you may ask doesn’t this take time and we may be on a strict time constraint. Short answer is yes. Also, you may have a lot of people in the room (which in itself may be a problem) therefore, getting expectations may not always be realistic. However, should you do this, remember this one rule, these expectations are not up for debate. Your only objective here is to listen and learn what others expect.
Once introductions are done it’s a good idea to reinforce and/or establish roles and responsibilities. Is there a group leader(s) who will lead the discussion, does the group have a facilitator and recorder, who is the group’s timekeeper ensuring you have enough time to discuss the issues? These are critical roles to any group’s success. Everyone needs to understand and be on board with who is doing what. The same applies to reviewing/reinforcing behaviors (ground rules) for the meeting.
So, we have introduced each other, established roles and reinforced our ground rules. Now, and maybe most critical we need to review the agenda.
Most meetings occur at least several days and/or weeks after the agenda has been prepared and sent to the group. Workplace issues can and do change during that time and these changes could impact your meeting. There can also be new issues that arise after the agenda has been prepared that could also impact your meeting.
Connect with us today. Follow this link to take advantage of our discount price for first time Clients. We look forward to assisting you.By taking the time to review the agenda we can make everyone aware of these issues and allow the group together to amend the agenda to reflect these changes. Remember the Agenda is like GPS in that while it guides you, we still do the driving. And haven’t we all because of unforeseen circumstance needed to change directions to get where we want to go.
And once again even with the “simple” task of opening/starting a meeting, we can see the importance of effective communication in helping us meet our objectives.
So, until next time I & I Resolutions remain committed to helping groups resolve their issues and become more productive.
We’d like to hear from you. Are you finding it difficult to navigate through your meetings?
Does communication seem to be a challenge?
Why not take advantage of our First Time Complimentary Consultation Service? We are standing by to get your questions answered!
The Importance of Communication - Part III
We hope everyone has been having a wonderful New Year thus far.
In the last several blogs, we have emphasized the importance of communication as it relates to the work environment and that good communication is about muscle memory, preparation and practice. So, let’s put that to use.
Recently, we did a workshop at Federal Dispute Resolution Conference called “OMG, Not Another Meeting”. Haven’t we all had that reaction when we are told we are going to meet. Regardless of reason for meeting (task force, problem solving, information) too many times we think this will be a waste of time. It’s fair to say that most of us hate meetings, yet we are a meeting society. So, assuming we are not going to eliminate meetings, then our focus should be on making them productive and that does require us to prepare and communicate.
Both of Thomas and I have attended hundreds of meetings, and we have facilitated hundreds more. The most successful are those where the parties have prepared (agenda, ground rules) and communicated the purpose of the meeting.
Let’s think about preparation. First, if you determine you need a meeting, what is its purpose? More important, have you communicated that purpose and gotten buy-in from those who are attending (stakeholders). If you have not, good luck with having a successful meeting. You will need it. Now, as to stakeholders. These are individuals who are affected by the meeting’s outcome and they need to participate. It is good practice to keep meeting numbers small, however, always ensure those affected by the meeting’s purpose or their representatives attend.
Your meeting has a purpose, you know who is attending. Now it’s time to do the actual planning. This includes date, time & location of meeting, logistics, room-setup, equipment needed. All of these are important and should be taken care of before you decide to meet.
Maybe the most important element in planning is developing the agenda. We view an agenda as a game plan that will both provide a structure for your meeting but also be flexible enough to make changes if needed. Now, before we talk about specific items that go into the agenda, remember the following: 1) develop the agenda with participant input and/or participant buy-in and 2) create the agenda early to ensure such buy-in and 3) everyone has the agenda ahead of meeting.
So, what goes into an agenda? Well, first, always define the meeting’s objective/outcome. In other words, what do you want to do at this meeting? Next, have specific topics/items and If you have more than one item (and most do) then prioritize. One point as to number of topics: please be realistic. Even if you have a 2-day meeting, having over 50 agenda topics could be described as an ineffective meeting. We speak from experience.
Also, for each topic, do the following:
1) Allow enough time for discussion and/or any action taken;
2) indicate what action is needed for each topic. This could be sharing information, making a decision, assigning the item to individual(s) for a later report out
and 3) identify who is responsible for leading the discussion for each item. This again, only reinforces the importance of communication before your meeting begins.
Having an agenda is like GPS. Helps you get there but you have to do the driving. Is it important to a productive meeting? Of that, there is no doubt. Yet, there is another component also important to achieving effective meetings. Remember the previous two blogs where I talked about how before each baseball game, and each team plays 162, umpires and managers get together to discuss the ground rules. I mean, why do they do that, they know the rules and it takes time. Think of it this way, everyone understands them and the behavior or players in the game are within those rules.
Same principle for meetings. Too often, the difference between productive or non-productive meetings can be determined by our behavior. Having behavioral ground rules, accepted by the participants, increases the chances of a successful meeting. While there is no “one size fits all” regarding ground rules, we have found these to be very effective.
Keep in mind that when putting together a meeting, you can use some or all of these ground rules or you may have others. What’s important; establish ground rules and before each meeting review them for understanding and commitment.
So, until next time, we at I & I Resolutions remain committed to helping groups resolve their issues and become more productive through effective communication, including meetings.
We specialize is helping organizations determine their own unique requirements and challenges in the area of communication. Connect with us today. Follow this link to take advantage of our discount price for first time Clients. We look forward to assisting you.
Connect with us hereI have come to learn by through our new millennial friend(s) that it is or can be much more specific and targeted with the hope that the receiver will buy the product or service the advertiser is marketing.
Yet, we come back to the same constant for this dysfunction. What is your organization’s greatest obstacle, problem, issue that impedes the efficient production of your organization? Almost universally the answer is always the same, COMMUNICATION!
So, if we are looking to increase productivity (best case scenario), or just escape the bad habits of dysfunction, how much time and energy do we place in this effort?
The irony here is while groups we have worked with recognize how important these skills are, too many still do not feel it’s worth making the time and effort or even if it is fiscally sound to improve communication.
It is the perfect set up for failure. We want our organizations to work as a team and have productive meetings, yet we do not prepare agendas, have ground rules as to how we engage each other, develop a process to identify and resolve issues, make decisions or even how to do follow up. So, when these groups fail, problems arise, or meetings become dysfunctional, we are angry & shocked.
Remember our baseball example? 160,000 games and counting and each and every time those that participate know what the rules are, and how to play the game. Again, we need to train people in these skills and once trained these skills requires practice, proper use and the eventual development of “muscle memory”. What some may view as repetition, we view as reinforcement.
As we move forward, our next blog(s) are going to take the focus of communication and how it applies to effective team building and meeting management.
In the meantime, there's no need to wait to create a communication strategy for your company. We are here to get you started. Connect with us here
First, we hope everyone enjoyed a very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.
Here we are in the beginning of December. There are a couple of things we native New Englander and former New Englanders live, pray and hope for! One is the magnificent art show (also known as the best foliage anywhere) displayed by Mother Nature, the Creator, Zen, Buddha, (feel free to fill in here!). The second was far less as reliable and was only a dream until 2004, and that is the Red Sox winning the World Series!
The color in the Adirondack, Catskills, Greens and Whites and even the Berkshire Mountains put on quite a show and the Red Sox won the 4th World Series in our lifetime, we can die in peace!
This backdrop is the thought process on this ….and a few of our blogs to follow!
I had occasion to travel and the above was my backdrop. I was amazed to see how much advertising there was all over the place for just about anything!
Now I am no marketing or advertising expert or guru of any kind. But I did pause and think: what is advertising? Money, big money spent by businesses, in the “hopes” that you will recognize their product or service, ultimately buy their product or service and keep their business in business! If it works, great! Money well spent. If it doesn’t work, still money well spent and try again!
Yet many, if not all businesses or groups identify their number one problem as poor or dysfunctional communication. So, stay with me here, we are going to talk in this blog and a couple of others a 101 so to speak on how to prepare and execute a better strategy for meetings that includes communication and all types of business encounters with customers both internal and external!
Let’s go back to baseball for a moment. During the World Series, many thought the turning point was taking out Rich Hill who had a 4-0 lead. Once he left the Sox outscored the Dodgers 9-2, winning pivotal Game 4. After the game, there was a controversy over the words “watch me” used by aforementioned Mr. Hill. His manager interpreted those words to mean, “watch me I may be tired”, while Mr. Hill said he meant “Watch me, I am dealing”. Just two words and yet they caused two people to interpret them differently.
Now, think about your work environment. Do people come up with different meanings to words or phrases? Safe answer would be yes. Now move forward with that and what happens because we do see different meanings and DON’T GET CLARIFICATION. Good bet that it can cause conflicts to arise, projects to fail, deadlines not being met.
So how does this tie in to meetings? We are a meeting society. In our 60+ years in the federal sector we attended thousands of meetings. Facilitated hundreds more. Think of those that failed (too many) and more important why they failed. And those reasons for failure 1) didn’t communicate our needs/interests, 2) people left those meetings with different ideas of what was said, 3) failing to understand what needs to be done after meeting. And there are many more. And the one factor seems to be communication.
And so the next several blogs will focus on meetings, how to manage them and the importance of communication to ensure they meet your objectives. Until then we leave you with this:
The Red Sox have played in Fenway Park for over 100 years. That is well over 162,000 thousand games. Each game is known, what’s to be played, number of innings, and before each and every game, they meet at home plate to go over the ground rules that have not changed all that much in 100 years! That says something! That’s prepared!
Until next time, both Thomas and I suggest that at least one time you visit these areas during fall. You will not be disappointed.
So, with that, we at I & I Resolutions remain committed to helping organizations, like yours, resolve their issues and become more productive through more effective communication. Start here, Click and get your
First, Andy and I wish everyone a happy New (Fiscal) Year! We really didn’t know if there would be another Government shutdown, but Mother Nature had other plans that superseded! Also, since last we heard from our parties in the labor dispute, things have changed!
On September 21st, 2018, the headlines read: Medical Center and Nurse settle contract, includes 16 percent salary increase, needs approval from union members. On September 30th, 2018, the contract was ratified by members and the new agreement was signed, valid to July 09, 2021!
The above clearly illustrates, as Andy and I always say, we would rather be lucky than good! While Andy and I would always welcome, encourage and applaud ANY agreement mutually agreed upon as opposed to one imposed on the parties, this journey bears further examination!
Let’s take a look, if you will, with us, at what we like to call the metaphoric autopsy of this labor/management interaction. We want to see what maybe we can learn, going forward!
When we last left our parties, they were at impasse. There had been 10 months of non-productive negotiations. Hard and bitter, I can only presume! A two day strike had cost in excess of 3 million dollars and the parties were no closer to an agreement than when they started! They agreed to keep talking!
Suddenly, talks break off and the parties announce they cannot proceed any further and will seek help from FMCS!
Then, again, suddenly, the Chief Negotiator from the Union announces she is quitting leaving the entire process in disarray, as it is quite unclear in the media who will be speaking for labor! I can only imagine that talks continued without third party assistance and this only furthered frustration, ill will and harmed morale!
Then, there seemed to be media silence for quite some time! Occasionally, showing the nurses picketing, while continuing to talk and all of a sudden, September 21stheadlines appear! Unfortunately, issues remain for staffing and best possible patient care, will continue, the fight goes on! The press release reads!
So let us take a look, metaphorically, post mortem, at what was gained and lost. There was the strike, at least 3 million dollars, and that does not include all of the intangibles like, continued lost productivity, lack of respect, relationships harmed if not destroyed! And we contend to you that while the differences in pay may have been agreed upon, there is still a basic lack of understanding by all involved as to the real issues and interest of each party!
And on that pay issue. The Union wanted 21% and Management offered 14 %, I believe from the beginning. They settled on 16%. We are by no means mathematicians, but spending 3 million plus, to get where you probably would have got to for a whole lot less, and possibly avoided the strike, does not make sense to us!
We all think we are great listeners and negotiators but the fact of the matter is, we work better, more effectively when we work collaboratively, with the help of a trained, neutral third party! It produces better agreements, and the overall process is cleaner, less personal and NO ONE loses any rights or is forced into anything! We have seen it work and there are several business models that also echo proof of the success that we profess!
As always, we at I and I can NEVER guarantee results (an agreement). What we can and do and promise, is a process that will allow you to identify issues, interest and foster a professional, respectful negotiation/meeting environment! You may even find it leads to effective, more permanent solutions!
So we would rather be lucky than good! Mother Nature avoided a shut down and this labor dispute played out, gave us something of a teachable moment! By the by, I and I did offer our services to the parties, we have yet to hear back! We wish them all the best on their agreement and until next time!!
Don't hesitate ...connect with us today.
This Nation recently lost, mourns and continues to mourn the loss of a great Iconic American Hero, Senator John McCain.
In Senator McCain’s final goodbye and advice to the America he so loved was to return our Nation's discourse on all levels to that of civility and understanding that we have more in common that we do in difference.
In his classic stoic way, Senator McCain, either by accident or design, lived his life with a template that could easily be identified as a practitioner of the Interest based or collaborative based approach to problem solving!
He was always open and honest, ready to identify the problem (issue) and listen and seek help in the problem solving from the other side of the isle. (interest)..
To me, consensus is easily defined and horribly a misunderstood word in our field. What it should mean, is that you and the other affected parties work together to come up with a solution that meets as many of BOTH parties interest and this is critical; support that decision after it is released! It DOES NOT mean a majority, 2/3 majority or anything else! All parties’ must agree and support the collaborative decision made!
Many times on the Senate floor, Senator McCain would loudly and publicly proclaim that he needed the other side of the isle to be listened to and the views incorporated in the decision (again, the other sides interest!). Without this consensus, the Senator knew and proclaimed that he would not have buy in and by our previous definition could neither agree and then ultimately support.
His honesty was profoundly tested in the election of 2012 when at a town meeting in Arizona. A constituent ready to ask a question identified then candidate Obama as an Arab.
The Senator could have played politics as usual but he didn’t! He corrected the woman, at his own peril, and stated she was incorrect, that his opponent was a good family man, and not what the politicos had attempted further discredit Obama as a US Citizen, which the record reflects and the Senator knew to be untrue!
This was not a one time abrogation from an errant politician! Whether it was as a young man, naval aviator, POW, Congressman or Senator, John McCain realized the interest of the United States transcended Party, office or government entity.
Another example of the Senator putting Country first and consensus building was the Senator’s unlikely alliance with Senator John Kerry. These men came from completely different backgrounds and points of view, especially on the war in Vietnam. Senator McCain realized that both men believed in and loved their country and both men wanted to put their Country first. Normalization in relations with Vietnam met that end and the Senator used these building blocks to start building consensus. Both Senators put country first, recognized each other’s interest and built consensus to where we now have normal relations with Vietnam.
He realized that only by identifying issues and interest and striving for true consensus, was the only way we should act when seeking what was best for our Nation.
We at I & I Resolutions want to acknowledge the Heroic life of this great American. We believe, like the Senator, that we have more in common than we do in conflict. Whatever your workplace environment is, there is a potential for conflict or dysfunctional communications. We at I & I cannot guarantee results but we can guarantee that we will work tirelessly for you to identify your problems, issues and interests and that our actions together will put your Organization in a better place to possibly come to a decision that includes and will be supported by all! That is the best we can all hope for and that is what the Life of Senator McCain was ultimately all about!
Thank You Senator McCain for this and may you rest in Valhalla, the mythical final resting place for heroes and warriors!
Until next time……
Andy/s/ and Thomas/s/
Like most non-metro areas (polite way of referring to us hill people, I say as a proud native Vermonter!) A strange phenomenon has been occurring. The medical industry in what appears to be greed and glory or centralized better care, depending on your point of view, is moving like locust on an unprotected field! They own and have been the single medical provider for a huge geographic area. Where I live, the name is the University Health Center of Vermont! The moral bankruptcy or argument for better, centralized care, again, depending on your point of view, could be debated in infinity. I use this example, merely but this is merely as backdrop to our tale!
Labor conditions, specifically with their nursing staff had been ongoing and was becoming bad to worse! . Talks of a strike loom and Vermont is one of the few bastions where EVERYONE can exercise their right to strike. Management on the other hand, has issues with the nurses and is also refusing to bend. The parties are both engaged in perception and reality of extremely hard traditional bargaining! In this paradigm, there should be a winner and loser, right? Well, I will tell you what happened and you be the judge! I say there were two losers in this case!
STRIKE- a strike is threatened in the public form which only hardens the parties. At no time, in my research, did either party utilize alternative bargaining or the help of mediation and or facilitation services; during prep, actual contract negotiations or seeking certification of impasse on what the issue(s) are were and still are. They just continually talked past each other in forums and through the press. The strike lasted 2 days and the parties agreed to end the walk out and return to bargaining. I still do not know, nor do they, I believe, what all the issues are! The cost of the 2 day walkout: 3 MILLION dollars! And that does not take into account intangibles like the relationship between labor and management, patient standard care, etc. etc……
We at I & I think this is such a terrible, replication of wasted effort by good people! Our services can NEVER guarantee results, but we can guarantee active communication and a clear simple process of helping parties identify the issue, improve communication and maybe, just maybe work hard, understand the issue, and even solve it with just a little help!
Compared to 3 million dollars, our fee is budget dust, and well worth the investment! If you are reading this, think about it and Schedule a Call with us! Can I get a cumbia! Till next time
From the bargaining table of Thomas and Andy
Just came back from Montreal Jazz Festival. Survived heat wave while listening to incredible music with artists from Canada, US, England, Columbia and even Australia. In thinking about our next blog, realized that playing music in a band is a lot like being a team member in your organization.
How, you ask. Well consider you have a diverse group of musicians, and they play different instruments. Yet, their goal is for each of them to contribute to music you will listen to. Now in your organization a diverse group of employees with different skill sets. And you each contribute to what the mission is. Further even when one musician steps out for a solo, it’s done within the context of the whole song. Again, when an individual takes a lead on a presentation or project, it’s done within the context of the whole project.
Also, I think we all agree musicians do not simply come together and make great music immediately. Just taking a wild guess, took many hours of practice. Having to learn each other’s needs & strengths and how to mesh them towards the music. Another guess, that journey had some conflict and they had to work through that also.
Now, in your organization, don’t you need to learn each other’s needs and strengths to reach your objective. And to reach that goal, won’t there be conflict you must deal with and resolve. The answer to both those questions is YES.
So, the next time you are listening to and enjoying music, just think about what it took to make that music and how that is similar to what we all should be should be doing.
At I & I Resolutions, we cannot make you great musicians, however, we can help your organization work together, including helping you resolve those conflicts that can prevent you from accomplishing your goal. So, let's connect and discuss ways we can bring you closer to your objectives.
Until the next time from the table of Thomas and Andy, to quote the Doobie Brothers, “Listen to the Music.” Take care and talk soon.
We recently attended a conference on labor-management relations where one of the topics was labor-management cooperation. Part of that discussion was on why the Obama Executive Order 13522 to create labor-management forums was rescinded with the reason being the goal of cooperation was not working. And our reaction was, what???
For the hundreds of groups, we have worked with, not once has their objective been collaboration. No, they wanted to solve a problem, make a decision, come up with a recommendation, tangible results. Collaboration was the right strategy to reach those objectives.
One of our pet peeves (we have a few) is when people who don’t believe in working together describe collaboration as that “touchy feely” stuff or singing kumbaya. Yes, we believe in working together and we believe an interest-based approach is the BEST way to resolve problems. Now let’s actually look at what an interest-based approach is, a process by which participants work to SOLVE PROBLEMS while simultaneously fulfilling their needs and attempting to satisfy the needs of others.
Let’s be clear, the objective when using an interest-based approach is to solve a problem. And by solving that problem we need to work with others to address and meet each other’s interests. Easy to understand, hard to do. Try to get together with family & friends about where you want to go to dinner. See what happens when you don’t agree on the same place and have to work to come up with a solution.
When it works (and it does work) the tangible result is the problem being solved, the intangible result is learning to work together to resolve the problem (collaboration).
So, to wrap up, we believe the best results come from working together. We also believe that collaboration has to result in agency, company, organization working better. At I & I Resolutions we can help you design those strategies that can help you resolve issues while also improving your relationship. Connect with Us
Until the next time from Thomas and Andy, have a great day.
Long ago, I heard the following story. A manager asks a scientist, mathematician and labor relations specialist/lawyer or union official (pick one) what is 2 +2. The scientist goes through many scientific equations and theories and comes up with 4. The mathematician does the same. The labor folks look the manager in the eye, close the door to the office and asks, “What do you want it to be?”
That story resonates when you think about labor law v. labor relations. Many of us know the law, and we can read the cases. But who determines the law? Arbitrators, judges, administrative agencies. Even if they are deciding “precedent” setting cases, should that decide what our relationship should be. So, let’s ask the critical question, who determines our work relationships?
Several weeks ago, we did some training for an agency and union officials that included communication/problem-solving training. After the session, a manager told us that he recently asked his employees & managers what prevented them from doing their job and the #1 response was the inability to work with others, lack of communication and trust. In other words, the RELATIONSHIP, not the law.
So, again not diminishing the importance of knowing what our rights are or having the technical skills & equipment to do our jobs, the key component to doing our jobs effectively is our ability to work with others and develop those relationships. It’s those pesky soft-skills that have too many rolling their eyes when they hear that term. Another question; if these are soft skills, why are they so hard to learn and implement? We can answer that question for another time.
However, back to the question of who determines our relationship. The simple answer is easy, we do. The more difficult question is what kind of relationship do we want? We can choose to have third-parties make decisions for us. Pretty easy. Or we can make the effort and develop a relationship that benefits everyone involved. Pretty hard, yet not impossible.
At I & I Resolutions, we will work with you to develop that relationship by providing the skills that will allow you to do your jobs. Our slogan, “We care because you matter”, is not just words. It’s a philosophy that we believe in, and work towards.
Until the next time from the table of Thomas & Andy, Happy Memorial Day.
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