Two Ears, One Mouth: Such Good Advice

Listening comes first in effective communication

I am honoured when people find my work useful to them in their everyday lives. I am particularly honoured when those people are other professionals whom I respect deeply. One such is Patricia Evans. She generously attended a workshop I presented recently, and has blogged about her experience. You can read it here:

And while you’re on her site, check out the rest of the information. She is a highly accomplished professional, and a darn fine lady, too. I am pleased to call her friend.

By the way, don’t forget the advice: we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. They are meant to be used in that proportion. Best wishes to all.


Copyright(c) 2015 Carol J. Sutton Cert.ConRes.

Get Buy-In Up and Down the Organization

Try A More Effective Communication Model: You Go First 

What is “buy-in”? For me, it is when a group of people have worked through the most likely possibilities for their situation, and agreed on what seems to be the best option at the time. You cannot make someone “buy into” your ideas unless you have the communication skills – and maybe conflict resolution capabilities – to illustrate why cooperation with you is in their best interest.

We help our teammates and direct reports – and even those to whom we report – reach this important stage by remembering that it is not change, per se, that people resist. It’s actually the sense of “being changed” that results in most people digging in their heels. Being told what to think about and which perspective to take is a sure way to get my back up. You, too? (Yes, I thought so.)

Furthermore, recognize that any change worth making is bound to generate some resistance, if people are actually thinking for themselves. No push-back means that the change probably isn’t very important. The vital point is whether the people who are pushing back are raising valid points. Are they intelligent, engaged people whose resistance challenges us to search for better answers? If the answer to such questions is yes, then invite the resisters into the tent where they can be useful. They obviously care about the outcome.

So, buy-in is not about swearing undying loyalty to a cause or suppressing one’s own ideas and concerns. For me, buy-in is the flip side of resistance, defined as the “negative expression of an unmet need.”

Self-knowledge is the foundation

The first step in building buy-in is to acknowledge and work with one’s own needs, strengths, and style preferences. And then comes the really hard part – practising what we preach. One of the most important things to understand is one’s pre-disposition toward authority.  Do you tend toward counter-dependent behaviour – i.e., resent and rebel; or over-react in the other direction and become strongly compliant? That’s just as damaging. The latter assumes a parent/child relationship, and that does not lead to good business decisions.

If we want to create greater buy-in, the onus ultimately is on me and you, the subordinates, first to understand ourselves to the best of our ability, and then to extend similar understanding to those in the organization who depend on us –  above, below and all around.


Copyright(c) 2015 Carol J. Sutton Cert.ConRes.

Good Communication = Big Payoff

Eliminate Barriers to Effective Communication to Reap Rewards

When I say “good communication” do you think I am talking about people being polite to each other?

Sure, that’s part of it. No one wants to collaborate with people who treat us rudely. And yet effective communication is so much more than that.

It is senior management having the confidence to allow employees to speak up about things going wrong without shooting the messenger. It is middle managers who make it safe for employees to push back – reasonably, of course – with empathy for the effort required to change. And it is employees who strive to make their greatest contribution, even when we feel we might be doing more than our share on any given day.

Why should anyone put all this effort into behaving in ways that help other people feel comfortable? Because it not only eliminates barriers to effective communication, this level of skill reduces the chances of unwarranted conflict arising. That makes it a crucial factor in managing people well, and good people management increases individual and group productivity, as well as quality levels.

Think of it as treating your employees right, demonstrating the behaviour you would like them to show toward the people who buy your products or services. Customer service expert Jeff Disend says,  “How companies act toward employees largely determines how well employees will serve customers.” *

There is no sense in taking employees through customer service training – or any other type for that matter – unless we allow them to exercise the new behaviours they have learned. Without permission to integrate the changes, people just snap right back to their previous ways.

So, who goes first? In Is Silence Killing Your Company, Leslie Perlow and Stephanie Williams look at the price of silence in several different types of organizations. They assert that, “We all have the power to express ourselves and to encourage others to speak freely. … We need to be willing to take the first step ourselves – to bring differences out into the open so that they can be explored.”

Bringing differences out into the open requires the confidence that can come from having mastered basic communication and conflict resolution skills. Their lack is often a barrier to effective communication as people retreat back into the silence.

*    How to Provide Excellent Service in Any Organization: A blueprint for making all of the theories work; Jeffrey E. Disend; 1991

*    Is Silence Killing Your Company, Leslie Perlow and Stephanie Williams (Harvard Business Review, May 2003)


Copyright(c) 2015 Carol J. Sutton Cert.ConRes.