About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

28 May 2010

How Did You Do That?

Aubrey Daniels, founder and chairman of Aubrey Daniels International, is an expert on behavior in the workplace. In a recent interview he talked about the cynicism that develops when managers try to use one complex technique after another to reinforce and shape worker behavior:
"You know, a lot of the Dilbert strips go over my head, but I use my all-time favorite in one of my seminars. The boss is giving a performance appraisal. He says, 'I'll raise your appraisal from four to five if you eat a bug.' The employee says, 'What?' The boss says, 'Eat a bug. How much clearer can I be?' Then the boss says, 'I didn't have much luck with the other management techniques, so I'm kind of winging it now.'"
Daniels believes the answer is to use measurement to find out the few simple things that really work to shape behavior, and then employ them in an open, honest way. One of the things he's found that works is a very simple idea that can lead to very big results. Kathryn Cramer of The Cramer Institute remembers Daniels describing it in a presentation she attended:
"Our research shows the most reinforcing question you can ask somebody is, 'How did you do that?' It's reinforcing because it helps the person who just did something right pause and reflect. If you ask yourself or someone else that question, almost always people will pause and say, 'Well, I don't know exactly. I just did it.' It prompts you to think it through, step by step. This is a great way to help the integration process, where we really have a deeper knowing of what we did. We get confidence as a bonus."
  • What management fads or techniques have driven you nuts?
  • Some experts believe annual performance reviews should be abolished because they do more harm than good. Do you agree or disagree?
  • How do you feel when you sense someone is using a technique to interact with you?
  • What is the best way people can compliment you on your work?
  • How do you handle compliments?
  • How do you compliment others?
"The man who carries a cat by the tail learns something that can be learned in no other way." - Mark Twain
"Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." - Louis L'Amour
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good news, who proclaims peace and brings glad tidings of good things." - Isaiah 52:8
"Don’t ever cuss that fiddle, boy, unless you want that fiddle out of tune." - Willie Nelson

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