Category: Strategy

Common Causes of Miscommunication in Workplace Teams

“I thought that was obvious.”

“What did he/she mean by that?”

“I thought he/she was working on that!”

If you’ve ever been a member of a team in the workplace, the phrases above probably sound familiar. They’re all examples of common and frequent miscommunications and they can cause frustration, conflict between team members, and a serious roadblock to productivity.

A lot goes into running an efficient, positive team environment, but effective communication may be at the top of the list as the most important component.

Miscommunication can be blamed for a significant amount of conflict among workplace teams. It’s unrealistic to think all miscommunication can be prevented. After all, people are people and personality conflicts and differences of opinion are going to happen. However, awareness and understanding of the causes of miscommunication can go a long way towards decreasing the number and frequency.

Here are a few examples of the most common causes of miscommunication in the workplace:

  • Making Assumptions: This is the number one cause of miscommunication in the workplace! It starts with assuming that a particular need is obvious, others view a problem the same way you do, or someone knows what to do. If people don’t feel comfortable asking questions or speaking up, issues can escalate quickly.
  • Providing Only The Basics: It may save time to communicate only the bare necessities to team members up front, but you’re going to spend a lot of time cleaning up the results. Workers may be hesitant to speak up and just try to figure things out on their own – often with incorrect results.
  • Using Confusing Body Language: Not all communication is verbal and a lot is conveyed through gestures, facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice. If someone is distracted or having a bad day, a simple request or statement can be easily misconstrued.
  • Failing to Assign Ownership: Accountability is key and team roles must be defined and clearly understood. Otherwise, it can lead to workers dumping duties on others, incorrectly assuming another worker was responsible for something . . . and the list goes on and on.

Language is a tricky thing. It can be difficult to interpret at times, resulting in little misunderstandings that can quickly escalate into big problems. Is your team suffering from miscommunication issues? Or are projects running fairly smoothly, but have room for improvement? Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and we’ll work with you to create a clear and effective communication strategy for your workplace teams.

Ways To Alleviate Miscommunication

If you’ve ever led or been a member of a workplace team, you’ve probably witnessed (or been involved in) a variety of miscommunication issues. What started as a simple question or concern may have quickly ballooned into a full-blown problem, resulting in frustrated, angry teammates. And you’re left scratching your head wondering how things got out of hand so quickly. Miscommunication is one of the biggest problems facing workplace teams and can cause missed deadlines, an erosion in morale, and higher turnover. Fortunately, it can be alleviated with the right approach. Here are some suggestions to help:

  • Address issues immediately and openly: Ignoring a workplace conflict will only make it fester. Address any issues right away and make sure you’ve gathered facts from all parties involved.
  • Set Clear Expectations: No one is a mind reader. Set expectations early, make sure all questions are answered up front, and be available for clarification as the project progresses.
  • Improve Your Listening Skills: Make sure it’s not “in one ear and out the other.” Active listening is an undervalued skill, but it can have a huge impact on how often conflicts arise.
  • Recognize and Respect Personal Differences: Keep in mind that everyone can interpret the same thing in a different way. Understanding how the members of your team communicate can help you diffuse any potential problems.

Miscommunication can happen anywhere at any time, but awareness of the problem and a strong plan can help put everyone back on track. The key is to give your team the right conditions to develop and grow. If nurturing a healthy team culture is important to your workplace, please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and let’s work together to make it happen.

How To Practice Kindness in the Workplace

When we think about how to optimize success in your workplace, compassion isn’t always the first thing that enters our mind. We talk more about things like increasing efficiency, sales numbers, and billable hours. But studies show kindness makes good business sense and there’s a lot of research showing some pretty compelling numbers. For example, employees of companies described as having kind cultures perform at 20% higher productivity levels, are 87% less likely to leave their jobs, and make fewer errors, saving their companies time and money. The companies themselves have 16% higher profitability.

Whether you’re a manager or an entry-level employee, there are many ways to bring kindness into the workplace. Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Get to know your colleagues
  • Offer guidance to a co-worker
  • Build a collaborative environment with idea sharing
  • Check the motivation behind your words, decisions, and behavior
  • Acknowledge co-workers’ strengths and positive characteristics in front of others
  • Lend a hand to someone who is under a tight deadline
  • Encourage employees to openly communicate and share their thoughts
  • Organize occasional teambuilding activities and have co-workers submit ideas and suggestions

Creating a culture of compassion in the workplace is where many successful companies are placing their attention. And rightfully so. For ideas as to how to incorporate more kindness into your company and reap its many benefits, please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss how we can help. And stay tuned for March’s newsletter, when we provide a really fun “get to know your co-worker” activity you can use in your office!

What’s Important To You In 2018?

A shiny new year is upon us, ripe with possibilities and opportunities to make changes. Most of us spend at least some time reflecting on the events of the previous year and what we can do to make improvements over the next 12 months. But too many of us are overwhelmed, disconnected, and feel like we’re going through the motions without a lot of purpose. It can be challenging to figure out what’s truly important in life and even more challenging to make an action plan for change.

If you’re determined to live a more purposeful life in 2018, now may be the time for a “life audit.” It’s a chance to be honest with yourself, think about what’s really important to you right now, and organize your life a little more. So, grab a pen, a pack of post-it notes, and block off an hour or two of time. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Write down every goal, hope, and life necessity on a different post-it note (for example: ‘look for a new job’, ‘move to a different city’, ‘start a family’)
  2. Organize the notes by category as themes start to emerge (for example: career, family, hobbies)
  3. Organize by time (for example: how long it will take to check-off each note)

You may want to set a goal for the number of post-it notes you fill out. Maybe it’s 100 in one hour or more over the course of a weekend. It’s not a revolutionary system, but the point is that you’re thinking about yourself, your future, and how to reach your goals. If you feel like you’re at a loss getting started, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What life do I want now? How about in 5, 10, 25 years?
  • What makes me feel satisfied at work?
  • What areas of my life could be improved?
  • What’s my motivation?
  • What do I believe in?
  • What do I consider essential?
  • When do I feel the most successful? The most energized?
  • How am I using my gifts and talents to help others?
  • What is my purpose?
  • What do I want to leave behind?

The great thing about writing all of this down on post-it notes is that you can hang them on a wall in your office (or wherever you’d like) and look at them everyday. You can move them around into an organizational system that works for you, perhaps by weekly, short term, long term, and lifetime goals.

A New Year is the ideal time to look at long term goals, what’s working, what’s not, and where there’s room for improvement. And we can help you every step of the way! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s 2018 goals.

Finding Fulfillment Outside The Office

We’ve all watched a show or read an article where someone has an epiphany about their priorities and life direction, quits their job, moves to an island, and starts a new life running a bar or giving surfing lessons. Sounds appealing, right? For the rest of us, the mortgage, family obligations, and day-to-day responsibilities makes this type of dream impossible. You may feel like you have no way out or that you will never find happiness because of your career. You’re really good at what you do, but there’s no fulfillment. However, there are ways you can create purpose and fulfillment outside of the office. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create it yourself: Whatever it is you want to do, make time for it! Join a class for beginners or a club with people who share a similar passion. You may even notice your attitude at work changes because you aren’t putting pressure on your job to satisfy every aspect of your life.
  • Make time: Work takes the majority of our time, but not all. Take control of your weekends and evenings again and cut what isn’t absolutely necessary. Make fulfilling activities a priority!
  • Give Back: Using your gifts and talents to help others can be one of the most fulfilling things you’ll ever do. Whether it’s mentoring or volunteering, sharing your talent may be the biggest gift you give in 2018.

Productivity in the office begins with fulfilled employees who understand the importance of a work and personal life balance. A New Year is the ideal time to lay the groundwork! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s 2018 goals.

Prioritizing What’s Important During the Holidays – And All Year Long

The holiday season is upon us and consumer culture is out in full force – think Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the Christmas Eve rush for last minute gifts. Whether it’s trying to score the hot new toy for your child or finding the perfect gift for your spouse, it can feel like our holidays (and even the rest of the year) are more about “stuff” and less about what’s truly important in life. Compared to 50+ years ago, Americans today have more cars, bigger homes, and eat out far more frequently. But are we happier because of it? Or is it a case of more money, more problems?

It’s said that if you take a look at someone’s checkbook, you will know what his or her priorities are. Is it true that where your money goes, so goes your priorities? What better time than the holidays and before the beginning of a new year to take a look at what’s really important in your life. Here are 5 ways to help:

  • Determine what you value most about your life: Try choosing five things you value most as a starting part. By consciously making these choices, it’s a reminder of what things in your life you can’t – and won’t – do without. Consider it the backbone of your life.
  • Assess the way you use your time: After determining the five areas you value most in life, take a look at how you spend your time and evaluate which things are absolutely necessary for these areas. Assess how much time you spend emailing, texting, and staring at a screen. How can you cut back?
  • Cut the clutter in every area of your life: Do you really need everything you have or does it feel like too many possessions are wearing you down? This also goes for emotional clutter! Reevaluate what’s truly necessary in your life for where you are now.
  • Spend more time with people that matter: Assess how much time you actually spend with family and close friends. Is it quality time where you’re truly interacting?
  • Make time to be alone: Do you tend to put yourself at the end of your priority list? If the answer is ‘yes’, take some time to reconnect with a hobby or activity you’re passionate about. There is nothing selfish about spending time recharging alone – it could be the healthiest gift you can give to yourself.

By determining what’s most important in your life and breaking free from the clutter, you will not only see changes in your everyday life, but in your work life as well. An increase in prioritizing and productivity are just a few of the benefits you’ll enjoy! Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to learn more about how we can help you start the new year happier.

 

Keeping Your “To Do” List Manageable During The Holidays

While the holidays promise fun, parties, and time with loved ones, more often than not, the result is mounding credit card debt and exhaustion. Vowing to do better next year, we make a resolution on New Year’s Day not to repeat the same mistakes. But why wait until the New Year? Here are a few ways to ease the stress of the holidays and evaluate what’s truly important. And they don’t involve heavy spending and acquiring more possessions!

Delegate: The holidays are not about perfection and adding more items to your “to-do list”. Let someone else bring a dish to the party. Share the shopping, wrapping, and decorating.

Think Outside the Box: Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Give your time instead of gifts and use your imagination. And above all, make a budget for gift giving and stick to it! There is no joy in being in debt.

Pay It Forward: Each of us can touch another person’s life in a profound manner. Random acts of kindness go a long way! Take baked goods, magazines and /or toiletries to a senior community. Often residents don’t have family to visit them. Many of them are on a fixed income.

Show Yourself Some Compassion: Keeping your body, mind, and spirit relaxed goes a long way in making the holidays fun. Stressing over gift giving does not.

We can help your organization and employees focus on what’s truly important and a top priority and help weed out what’s not. Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s needs.

Tips For Dealing With A Work Slump

Even people who love their jobs experience a slump from time to time. It’s not uncommon and fortunately, it’s something you can fix. It’s easy to blame your manager, co-workers, company culture or industry for your feelings, but taking personal responsibility for your slump and taking action puts you in control and increases overall motivation. Here are a few tips to put that slump behind you:

  • Determine why you’re struggling: Are you bored with your project and know that it’s short term? Problems with your boss or colleagues? Or would you rather be working in another field? Start with the basics and spend some time getting to know what is causing the slump.
  • Identify what matters to you: We discussed this in our previous article on Finding and Doing What Makes You Happy, but think about what interests and values you place above everything else. Is your current job supporting them?
  • Focus on what’s working and going well: When you’re in a slump, it can be easy to focus on what’s going wrong. Take a few minutes each day to think about what went “right” and what you’re grateful for. It can improve your health and overall life too!
  • Stop comparing yourself to everyone else: Step away from social media and stop obsessing over who just received a promotion. Social comparison is a huge barrier to overall happiness and motivation. Redirect your attention to your own standards of accomplishment and happiness.

Interested in creating personal or career development goals that can lead to a happier, more fulfilling work life? Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s needs.

It’s My Co-workers Fault!

Your co-workers may have their own habits and preferences. Sometimes these work habits will clash with yours. In this article, we give tips on how to make it work for all.

I once had an assistant that worked hard to get 90% of the project done, but couldn’t seem to wrap it up. It was frustrating. A project could end up on the to-do list for months, when really, it would only take an hour to put it to bed! I finally figured out the problem. She insisted on doing things her way.

How we work is personal. Some of us create to-do lists religiously. Others work on what’s urgent and forget the rest. A lengthy meeting where the project strategy is presented in detail is perfect for some workers, whereas others would prefer to read a long memo. A CEO might be the big thinker – willing to publish his/her ideas to the company – expecting others to figure out the details. We are all different. Figuring out the best way to work with others can significantly increase your chance for success.

Making changes for the benefit of the team. How we work may depend on our age, culture, experience and geographic location. But at work, we’re all on the same team. The success of that team may depend on how we work with each other and what changes we make in consideration of others. Here are some tips for working with people who have developed habits that are different from yours.

  1. Build a common understanding, trust and commitment. Easier said than done, right? To build a common purpose, it’s imperative that we consider what is important to people, what is below the each person’s surface (what you cannot see), and the inner layers of values and beliefs. As a team, when we create common ground rules we help build trust and commitment in our purpose.
  2. Instead of lamenting our differences, focus on the strengths everyone brings to the table. The truth is, the more opinions, and the more variety of ideas around the table, the more likely we will be more creative and innovative in the solutions we develop.
  3. Celebrate collaboration. If you always have a habit of wanting to do things on your own, think differently. While independence is good in some situations, generally people who are team players experience more success at work.
  4. Listen, and be empathetic. Being respectful builds trust. Knowing how you work, and understanding how others work, strengthens the communication among all team members.

As for my assistant mentioned in the beginning of this article, she insisted on closing the loops in projects through email. It was her preferred method of communication. But many of the people she needed to communicate with were either very busy, or travelled frequently. By adjusting her habit and putting aside an hour to either walk to each office (we were all in the same building), or talk to them on the phone, solved the problem. A simple changed proved successful.

Why Do We Work So Differently?

If you type “successful work habits” in any search engine, you’ll find numerous articles on what habits we should develop if we want to be successful. So why can’t everyone just understand and foster those habits? It’s not quite so easy. There are some habits ingrained in our personalities because of various factors. Consider the following:

  • Age. How old we are dictates subtle differences in work habits. Consider the following. 60% of people 55 years old and older prefer to meet face to face. Of those 24 – 35 years of age, only 35% prefer to meet in person. When asked if they should be promoted every 2-3 years if they’re doing a good job, 43% of those 55 and older agreed, while 61% of 25-34 year old agreed.
  • Culture. Values and beliefs are part of our national culture. Some people may not even be aware of these values and beliefs until challenged by others. Different values lead to different behavior. It’s important to learn these differences in order to work with people from other cultures.
  • Experience. The more experience we have, the more problems we’ve encountered. We believe we know what works, and what doesn’t work. Those with less experience however, are willing to try new ideas. Sometimes we clash over those ideas.
  • Geographic location. Sometimes our culture and our location work together to influence our work habits. You can even see the difference in the continental U.S. Very often Californians are at work early in the morning – as early as 6 a.m. They work with colleagues on the east coast who are sending email and conducting meetings on our side of the country. Consequently, they’re gone from the office by 3 pm their time.

Considering all of the complexities of a team, if we can create some common ground rules for everyone, we can help building trust and commitment.