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: 9780814434475
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 09/16/2013
Pages: 306
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.75(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 work.

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 a 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?’’ a 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 a 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 a 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 a 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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