The Communication Problem Solver: Simple Tools and Techniques for Busy Managers

The Communication Problem Solver: Simple Tools and Techniques for Busy Managers

by Nannette Rundle Carroll


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Managers need top-flight communication skills to keep their staffs productive and collaborative. But often, those who manage lack the ability to get things back on track once miscommunication occurs. This book helps readers analyze their communication skills and challenges and explains how they can use simple problem-solving techniques to resolve the people issues that derail productivity at work. Easily accessible and filled with real world management examples, the book shows readers how to:

• Set clear expectations
• Ask questions that will help them uncover the facts, meet business objectives, and preserve relationships
• Sharpen listening skills to grasp information better in every conversation
• Avoid imprecise judgments based on emotional reactions
• Provide useful feedback
• Encourage collaborative interactions
• Delegate more effectively
• Improve performance discussions by turning judgments into observable facts
• Build trusting and lasting relationships

This no-nonsense guide is packed with practical tools to help any manager be immediately effective, as well as a handy list of common communication problems and corresponding solutions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814413081
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 11/18/2009
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

NANNETTE RUNDLE CARROLL (Walnut Creek, CA) is a popular speaker, management trainer, and communications consultant. She is also a top-rated faculty member with the American Management Association.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Power of Relationship

This chapter gives tips on how to reinforce relationships and thus prevent

performance disappointments—even when dealing with people

you don’t like. Good working relationships are pivotal to getting positive

results and developing team harmony. When interpersonal communication

at work is pleasant, people can focus on the projects and tasks instead

of being sidetracked by poor relationships.

The manager’s intention and decision to form good working relationships

is crucial. Leaving it to chance means ignoring a great opportunity

to create an environment conducive to people producing their best


Your staff know what your intentions are. They know whether or not

you value them as persons or just as tools to get what you need done.

They know if you like them or not. Managers need to communicate that

they value relationships with their direct reports.

What Is a Work Relationship?

Simply stated, a working relationship is a connection between people

who deal with each other in some work way. The association can be

required by business interactions or can be desired based on enjoyment

of productively working together and trusting the other person will contribute

and meet deadlines.

Relationships can be kept at the acquaintance level or can involve a

continued connection that develops rapport and mutual trust. Some

people may go beyond the minimum work requirements and enjoy coffee

or lunch together to learn more about each other’s backgrounds and

interests. Others may choose friendship based on compatibility and

common pursuits. I have enjoyed friendships with both my managers

and my direct reports. Some of these friendships took place only at work.

For others, we chose to socialize outside of work and were close friends.

Sometimes people keep up the relationship after they cease working together

and sometimes they do not. So there is a wide range of acceptable

work-related relationships.

The word ‘‘relationship’’ intimidates some managers because they

think it implies friendship or getting close to someone. They don’t want

to invest time in a relationship and they don’t want to get personal with

coworkers. In reality, it can have a minimal meaning of being respectful,

friendly, and courteous and getting the work done together. It does not

have to be personal.

Some managers do want to be somewhat personal but want to know

where to draw the line. How personal can we be in establishing work

relationships? One senior executive asked, ‘‘Most people do want to talk

about their kids, but how friendly and personal can we be without being

nosy?’’ Managers do want to play it safe and not offend direct reports.

There is no one way to define work relationships. The work must get

accomplished and the manager needs to create a comfortable environment

with open communication so coworkers can trust and help each

other. The types of relationships developed depend on the people and

the situation.

Types of Relationships

Years ago I had a friend named Jerry who liked to shop at the corner

grocery store. Every time he shopped there he complained about how

high the prices were. ‘‘Why don’t you go to the big chain grocery store?’’

I asked. ‘‘It’s two blocks closer to your home.’’ ‘‘No,’’ he would always

say. ‘‘I go to the mom-and-pop store because they know my name.’’

Jerry felt good because the corner grocers treated him as an individual

person. He could not expect this treatment at the chain grocery store

where the checkout people would ring up his groceries but not show any

interest in him. He was willing to pay more and walk farther because he

enjoyed the relationship at the mom-and-pop store.

On the other hand, a relationship can be based on the quality of the

work. I have used the same dry cleaner for years because I like the consistent

results. Ownership and employees have changed, but the standard

of quality remains. My relationship with the current woman at the

dry cleaner is friendly, cordial, and surface.We smile, exchange pleasantries,

and nothing personal is discussed. Our brief but regular interactions

deal only with the task at hand—the dry cleaning of my clothes—and

perhaps comments about the weather and other small talk. If there is a

button missing or a shirt that needs to be re-ironed, I bring it up in a

friendly, nondemanding, nonaccusatory way that leaves the door open

for her to suggest the solution. Our relationship is based entirely on the

business transaction. If I didn’t like the quality of the work, I wouldn’t

patronize the shop.

Relationships vary depending upon how much both parties want to

know about each other. Many neighbors have relationships. Typically

they entail showing respect and meeting mutual community goals—

cleanliness, safety, and regulations, if the neighborhood has an association.

Maybe neighbors collect each other’s mail and papers and care for

animals during vacations. One household might have neighbors they

only say hello to, ones they see only at neighborhood social functions,

and others they are friends with. One size does not fit all, because there

are at least two people deciding how much to interact and how much

personal information to share.

It’s the same thing at work. What brings people together is a task or

project. Then colleagues choose how much interest to express in getting

to know about where their coworkers are from, where they worked before,

other places they’ve lived, hobbies, families, travel, and so on. And

they each choose how much to tell. Despite a manager’s best intentions,

a particular employee may not want to discuss anything personal. Even

some managers have said they don’t want to disclose personal information.

Work relationships don’t need to be personal, but they do need to be

congenial. Some managers have mentioned that they don’t want to listen

to direct reports’ stories. But those few minutes of listening can be

the bridge to employee commitment and enthusiasm about the work

and the manager. Taking a little time to express interest, to show compassion

when employees are sad or bereaved or ill, and to feel happiness

for them when they celebrate a work achievement or personal feat can

make life at the office more pleasurable and productive for everyone.

Smiling, laughing, and using open body language show the manager is

congenial. Setting a climate of courtesy and cooperation enables teams

of coworkers to exchange their thoughts and ideas on common tasks.

The better the relationships, the better the chance of collaborative results.

Relationships can make the difference in whether people want to

come to work and in how willing they are to help others. A comfortable

workplace invites people to be their authentic selves.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Michael Soon Lee—ix




Chapter 1: The Power of Relationship—3

Chapter 2: Setting Expectations with Turbocharged Clarity—20

Chapter 3: Communicating Your Expectations: What to Say and How to Say It—44


Chapter 4: Workflow Management: Communication Tools—69

Chapter 5: Top-Tier Questioning Techniques—81

Chapter 6: How to Break the Judging Habit—101

Chapter 7: Common People Problems—A Handy Reference—129


Chapter 8: Giving Feedback—Sweet or Sour?—175

Chapter 9: Compelling Coaching Techniques—196

Chapter 10: DREAM Delegating Ensures Clarity and Collaboration—220

Chapter 11: Don’t Have Time to Listen? Try These Tips—240

Conclusion: Be a Gold Medal Communicator!—250

Appendix A: Basic Job Expectations—265

Appendix B: Communication Issues Unique to First-Time Managers—271


About the Author—285

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