Posts Tagged ‘listening’

Mind the “Gaps”

Do you realize that there are people representing at least four generations in any given workplace right now? How does that impact a team’s ability to work and communicate effectively together?

Jim and Susan work on the Quality team at a large manufacturing company. Jim is 57 years old and has been with the company for 22 years. Susan is 28 years old and has been there for two years. They regularly butt heads at team meetings and are causing a lot of tension within the group. Most recently, Jim has commented that Susan won’t put her Blackberry down long enough to listen to anyone. Meanwhile, Susan steams that Jim is a dinosaur who holds everyone back with his refusal to use the newest technology to communicate with the team.


If you will indulge my sweeping generalizations for a moment, I would postulate that every generation has distinct ideas about modes of communication as well as attitudes that dictate what values tend to be most important to their group. And of course, there are as many exceptions to both of those generalizations as there are exceptions to the rules that govern proper use of the English language! 

What would benefit both the overall Quality team as well as Jim and Susan as individuals would be an opportunity for the two of them to sit down and talk (preferably without any sort of electronic devices present). Three things should happen in that conversation.

  • Jim and Susan should both have the opportunity to express their concerns/frustrations/complaints. As much as possible, this should be done using “I feel…” statements to avoid hostile accusations.
  • Jim and Susan should both engage in active listening with each other. This entails mirroring back to the one speaking what you have heard them say. This allows you to demonstrate that you are indeed hearing them and their concerns, as well as allowing them the chance to correct anything that you may have misheard or misunderstood.
  • Finally, Jim and Susan would benefit greatly from establishing some ground rules by which they are both willing to abide. These ground rules should be as simple as possible. They should dictate how they will behave towards each other in order to achieve greater team success. Also, Jim and Susan should establish clear lines of accountability so that should a ground rule be violated in one’s opinion, the course of action to remedy the problem is clear.

Having multiple generations working together in the work place can be a tremendous asset to a company and a team! It doesn’t have to be a source of pain and conflict. Each generation brings something important to the table. If we can understand our differences and appreciate what each one has to offer, then we can move towards finding the opportunities to achieve greater success.

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.

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Gain Cooperation: Encourage and Facilitate Two-Way Conversation

Education is a kind of continuing dialogue, and a dialogue assumes, in the nature of the case, different points of view. -Robert Hutchins


Two Way CommunicationOprah Winfrey was the most successful daytime TV star of all time and is still one of the most influential people in America.  When she promoted a book on her television show, it would typically be on the bestseller list within a week.  However, I’d wager that Ms. Winfrey’s success would have been far less dramatic if she had spent all those years lecturing her audience for an hour a day.   One of the characteristics of her show that has made her so influential is the fact that she created a one-on-one dialogue with her guests as well as with her audience.  Her audience, and her influence, grew year after year.

We can learn from her success.  We too can have more influence over others if we create two-way communication.  One of the most common complaints I hear from front-line employees is that top management does not take their ideas seriously and does not address their concerns.  Many companies today have a top-down communication in place that can stifle creativity and build resentment in front-line employees.

Many of these employees have ideas that could revolutionize the company, but far too often, the ideas are overlooked because the people at the top are too focused on the status quo.

Herb Peterson was a McDonald’s franchise holder in 1972 when he had an idea to add breakfast to the menu.  At that time, McDonald’s was just a hamburger place without a lot of additional items, and no one would want to go to a hamburger place for breakfast.  Herb went ahead and crafted a Teflon circle in his garage in order to be able to easily cook eggs Benedict on a hamburger grill, and he took the idea to the McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago.  Today, it’s estimated that McDonald’s sells about $4 billion worth of breakfast per year.

Those dialogues that we create with the people who work for us can provide us with valuable information – both good and bad.  This information is critical in helping us make solid decisions in the marketplace.

If you want to influence others in a positive way, take a lesson from Oprah and McDonald’s and create dialogues rather than monologues. Practice good listening skills and communication skills, and create two-way communication to build a good team.



Gain Enthusiastic Cooperation:  Encourage and Facilitate Two-Way Communication


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