February 2001

Hello everyone,
Welcome to the first newsletter of 2001. I guess it’s safe to assume that everyone has recovered from the end-of-the-year holidays. If those February blahs are getting you down, hold on, spring is coming. And remember that every day, there is a little more sunlight than there was the day before.

Team-building through Sports

In the middle of January, I participated as a speaker in a team-building weekend organized for a local company that had recently gone through a merger.

Anyone who has experienced a corporate merger knows that merging two corporate cultures into one can be one of the most difficult challenges of any company. Like most successful firms, this one is strongly customer-oriented, which means it is difficult to find the time in a working day to focus on learning the language of the other culture. The weekend was an intensive course in building communication channels to facilitate better teamwork. Participants took part in my seminar, where we discussed the importance of recognizing not just individual systems of values, rules and beliefs, but how each corporate entity has its own set.

After the classroom exercises, the team members competed to climb a mountain. They had to decide on what equipment was needed, put together fund-raising proposal and then participate in a variety of physical activities which would give them points toward reaching their goal. In the end, both participants and organizers had a great time and even managed to learn something that could be utilized in the workplace.

Coaching as a Management Tool Seminar

An updated version of the coaching seminar was presented on February 3. The group included a number of “industry professionals” including fellow trainers and a psychologist, which brought the discussion of training vs. managing vs. coaching to a new level


Jan. 30– The Prague All Stars began their fourth season. There is a game every Tuesday evening.

Feb. 20– Coaching Presentation to the Czech-Canadian Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Communication Tip of the Month

Using Praise and Constructive Criticism

Jeffrey Gitomer writing in the Prague Business Journal, observes that parents are much more likely to use praise as a motivator with small children. But as they grow older, that praise turns more critical. Imagine a parent encouraging a toddler to walk with: “I’m giving you one last chance to get that step right, young man.” But something happens as we get older, and those threats and criticisms take the place of “you can do it,” and “well done.”

The result is that we begin to build communicative walls, until we stop listening to our critical parents. The wrong kind of criticism in the workplace can have similar results.

Negative, unconstructive criticism, is often fueled by emotion, which interferes with our ability to use reason. Acknowledging what an individual has done right in a problem situation is just as important as pointing out what is lacking. In order to learn to accurately evaluate his own performance an employee needs a full picture of the situation, not just what wasn’t done right,

Take Lenka, for example. After spending hours of overtime putting together a report on the telecoms market, her boss calls her into the office to go over the report. The report falls short of his expectations. “How could you have missed that? What were you thinking?” her boss groused.

Lenka leaves the meeting discouraged, and where she once attacked the project with zeal and curiosity, she now glumly fills in the holes, with no attempts to think beyond what her boss has told her. The next time she has contact with him, during a departmental meeting, she makes no attempt to make eye contact. Instead of taking notes, her boss notices her making random doodles on the side of her page. As a result of being injured by criticism, she has built a communicative wall.

Lenka’s boss focused on what hadn’t been done. He let his own anger and frustration about the situation dominate his communication to her.

So how can you use constructive criticism and praise to your advantage?

Use rational thinking over emotional. If an employee makes a mistake that you bear the responsibility for, does it make you angry/frustrated/saddened? “I was so mad! His screw-up meant I spent the entire weekend in the office.” Sound familiar? The natural emotional response is to cause pain when one suffers pain. But a good manager will know to take a moment and let that first emotional wave pass. This will allow you to really focus on the entire issue, not just the problem.

Ask questions that will lead the employee to own up to his mistakes.Remembering to praise what has been done, acknowledging what he/she has done right will encourage the employee to accept responsibility for the parts that failed.

Agree with the employee what is to follow.Give him the opportunity to suggest ways to salvage the situation. This “coaching” approach may take a little more time than simply telling him what to do, but in the long run, he will be better equipped to problem solve on his own on the next project.

Follow up. Send a memo a day or two later. Again remind the employee what was done right, and remind him that you always expect his best effort. People tend to deliver what you expect.

Until next month,