Eye Rolling: Five Ways to Keep the Conversation Rolling

By Marcia Reynolds, PsyD

Marcia Reynolds-eyes rolling

“I can handle when they talk back to me,” the HR Director said, “but when they roll their eyes, it just gets under my skin.”

“I know,” said the Training Manager. “I have an intern who does amazing work, but when I try to give him some direction, the eye roll makes me explain myself far more than I normally would. I feel I have to defend myself when I’m just stating a clear expectation.”

“It’s not just the younger employees,” the director added. “I get the smirk and sideways glance from one of my most senior specialists. If I ask if she disagrees with me, or disapproves of my approach, she says, ‘Oh no, I see what you mean’ and acts as if she is the most agreeable person around.”

“I think we need to address how eye-rolling impacts our communications. But I bet they roll their eyes if we suggest it!”

How To React When You Notice Eye-rolling

Most people emotionally react when someone rolls their eyes. The gesture is seen as a non-verbal judgment of your words. If you ask about the gesture, eye rollers generally deny they did anything disrespectful.

Don’t let eye-rolling get by you. Eye rollers have something on their mind. Click To Tweet

Whether in a business meeting or an informal conversation, the last thing you want to do is angrily respond to eye-rolling. If you stay curious instead of defensively reacting, you might find out what is underneath the eye roll. This could be your chance to connect by showing you care about the person’s opinion.

For example, during a tense discussion, you might be focused on making your point heard. You want to influence thinking. Eye-rolling might indicate you have pressed too hard. You might back off and sincerely ask the eye roller to share his or her perspective.

You want the person to surface their anger and frustration, to feel safe enough to vent. You need to hear what they think is missing or what they feel they aren’t getting in the moment. Even if you can’t give them what they want, it is better they feel heard instead of ignored.

So, instead of checking out or having a knee-jerk reaction to eye-rolling, notice your urge to defend, reprimand, or shut off from someone for eye-rolling. Then follow these 5 steps to engage them in the conversation.

Encourage Eye Rollers To Express What Is On Their Mind

1. Exhale your stress and recall feelings of respect and care for the person as best you can. Shift to wondering why they are resisting what you are offering. Even if you can’t feel good about the eye-roller, at least calmly (and genuinely) ask, “Would you please tell me what you think I have done or what I’m not hearing from you?” Then listen silently, resisting the urge to defend yourself. 

2. Even if it takes prompting, encourage eye-rollers to vent. Venting is a way to release frustration. If you accept their words without making them wrong, they might feel you care about their point of view. In fact, letting people vent not only allows them to release their feelings, but you can find what they really want or what is causing them to feel the way they do if you listen. Then, once they feel heard, they will be more willing to try to understand your point of view.

Flip Their Resistance Into Participation

3. Summarize what the person tells you and ask for confirmation. Don’t analyze what they say, just share what you hear. Say things like, “I think you are saying…”, “I see you are upset because you think…”, “I now understand that you think the decision was made based on these factors…”. Let people tell you what you got right and correct you if you are off. They must feel heard before the conversation can move forward.

4. Shift their frustration from blame to desire. Once they feel you are listening, ask them what they need to so they feel their ideas or contribution is valued. Ask questions like, “What has you most frustrated right now?”, “What do you need that you feel you aren’t getting from me or other people?”, “Do you have some ideas we can work on together?”, “What would you like to see people stop doing, and what would you like to see happen instead?”.

5. Agree on what the desired outcome is. You may not agree now on the best way to move forward but if you want the same end result, you might find a way to integrate some of their ideas. Agree, negotiate, or explain your point of view in light of their concerns keeping in mind what they think should happen as an end result. If they aren’t ready to provide an answer, ask if you can come back to the conversation after giving the situation some thought.

Don’t let eye-rolling get by you. Eye rollers have something on their minds. See if you can get them to express their views. Show you value their perspective. Integrate their ideas as best you can.

“I discovered something today,” the HR Director said, “Eye rolling could be a way of getting my attention, not pushing me away.”

“Thanks!” the Training Manager said, “That bit of wisdom could help me with my teenager.”

Vincent Van Gogh said, “Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives, and we obey them without realizing it.” Catch your reactions to eye-rolling. It’s your chance to show them you care about what they think.

Dr. Marcia Reynolds is an award-winning author and world-renowned expert on how leaders inspire change through conversations. She has spoken at conferences and taught workshops in forty-one countries on leadership and transformational coaching. Global Gurus names her number three coach in the world. Her books include Outsmart Your Brain, The Discomfort Zone, and Coach the Person, Not the Problem. Read more at www.Covisioning.com.

Why You’re Not Getting the Most from Your Training Dollars and How to Start Getting a Better Return

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie

Each year, organizations waste thousands of dollars on training that doesn’t deliver what the people who bought it thought it would. Consequently, many of those remorseful purchasers determine that either training has no value to their employees, the training facilitators don’t know what they’re doing, the program designers are out of touch with reality, or all three.

If only the root causes of training failures were as simple as those. Even with willing learners, great content, and strong facilitation, you can still encounter a host of problems that will keep you from realizing strong returns on your training investment. If your training isn’t delivering what you think it should, you may be suffering from one of three major problems that plague organizations big and small.

Problem One: Training isn’t part of a larger learning ecosystem.

Just because people participate in a workshop, it doesn’t mean they will change their behavior back on the job. In fact, even if while in class they demonstrate an ability and willingness to do whatever is being taught, all may be lost once participants exit the classroom.
Why does this happen? Good workshops usually fail to deliver because they are treated as a training solution instead of a component of one. In other words, a workshop isn’t the answer in itself; rather, it should be part of a larger apparatus or ecosystem.

Think about the incentives you can put in place to encourage behavior change and the barriers you need to remove to encourage success. Click To Tweet

Solution: Creating a strong learning ecosystem is an ongoing and often complex endeavor. It takes time to build a holistic structure that supports continuous development. That said, start small. For example, ask yourself:

  • Prior to training, do managers explain to people why they will attend a course and how they are expected to use what’s learned after the session?
  • Will someone with authority (other than the facilitator) launch the session by explaining how the workshop ties into the bigger picture?
  • Are there check-in opportunities after training to ensure that participants are implementing new behaviors?

If you answer “no” to any of those basics, do what you need to do to shift those answers to “yes.”

Next, think about the incentives you can put in place to encourage behavior change and the barriers you need to remove to encourage success, and the corrective action you will take if what’s happening in the classroom isn’t replicated on the job.

Once you start thinking holistically and view courses and workshops as a component of learning versus learning in its entirety, you will have taken the first step in getting the most out of your training dollars.

Problem Two: Continuous learning isn’t part of the culture, and training isn’t treated as a priority.

You have great content, you have a skilled facilitator in place, and half the people scheduled to attend the course don’t attend because training isn’t a priority.

When training occupies a position of “nice to have” and not “need to have,” getting the most from it becomes problematic. This most often happens when people are survival mode instead of on a growth trajectory. In other words, they are scrambling to get through the work instead of thinking mindfully about the work they’re completing and how they’re completing it.

In practical terms, if people are always putting out fires and don’t regularly ask “what have we learned” and “how can we improve,” why should they care about learning new skills?

Solution: Shifting from a reactive culture to one that is deliberate about its activities takes months or even years. However, it’s not difficult to make big strides over time when you begin by asking the right questions up, down, and across an organization.

Start the improvement conversation at multiple levels and at different times. Frequently ask, “what have we learned,” “what do we need to do better next time,” “what do we wish we’d known earlier,” and other such questions after projects, meetings, presentations, and so forth. In the rare instances when something goes perfectly, remember there are still questions to ask: “How can we replicate what we just did,” “why did that work well,” “is there any reason this approach won’t work again in the future,” and so on.

When questioning becomes the norm, the solutions offered via training should have stronger importance and value. For example, if turnover is an issue, a learning organization wants to know why and may ask several questions: “Are we hiring the wrong people,” “are we expecting too much,” “is there something better for the same money somewhere else,” “do our managers not manage well,” “do we need to provide people with better tools,” and so on.

Then, when learning and improvement are a priority, you’ll hear such things as, “Today is a training day for me. I’ll be unavailable until 4:00. If you have an emergency, please see my supervisor Melissa. The workshop I’m attending is of top importance and part of my effort to reduce the turnover in our department.”

Who can argue with that? The logic sounds right and ties into big-picture improvement goals.

To get larger returns from training, use questioning to drive improvement. The answers will help people connect the dots and understand why training is a priority and not just something they do because Outlook tells them to show up in a classroom.

Problem Three: Few annual development plans exist.

The world doesn’t stagnate, and your employees shouldn’t either. If they’re doing their work the same way they were five years ago, and nobody is encouraging or demanding change, why should they care about training or think you care about them?

Solution: Regardless of level, every employee should have a development plan and some learning and growth goals that connect to the big picture and enhance their skills.

“I want to improve XYZ skill to drive ABC result, and 123 is how I plan to grow,” is a quick and easy format to follow when setting development goals and three to five goals is a good number for most people.

Better still, if you can tie those goals to performance reviews, you’ll be amazed at the interest people develop in improvement, training, and implementing new skills.

As with the other two solutions, start small. If your company, for example, has no development plans, choose a department and pilot them.

Act Now

Whether you suffer from one, two, or all three of the problems described, take action now. When thoughtful goals and development plans are put in place throughout an organization, people are conditioned to ask the right questions and drive toward improvement, and a strong learning ecosystem supports learning, it is almost impossible not to realize a stronger return on your training dollars.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

The 3 Disciplines of Strategic Thinking

By Rich Horwath

Rich Horwatch

Do you get it? Translation: Are you strategic? How often have you overheard a group talking about a leader and saying, “She/he just doesn’t get it”? Do they say that about you?

Well, are you tactical or strategic? Does it even matter? A survey conducted with 400 talent management leaders found that the number one most valued skill in leaders today is strategic thinking. Unfortunately, research with 154 companies found that only three out of every ten managers are strategic.

So, yes, the ability to think strategically is essential. The real question is how can you continually hone your strategic thinking skills in order to thrive in today’s ever-changing business landscape? The fact is most managers are now required to be more successful with fewer resources. All managers have resources (time, talent and capital) to varying degrees within their organizations. So, technically, all managers are strategists. The reality, however, is that not all managers are good strategists. Herein lies the pearl of great opportunity: the deeper you can dive into the business and resurface with strategic insights, the more valuable you’ll become to your organization.

Strategic thinking is defined as the generation of business insights on a continual basis to achieve competitive advantage. Strategic thinking is different than strategic planning. Strategic planning is the channeling of business insights into an action plan to achieve goals and objectives. A key distinction between strategic thinking and strategic planning is that the former occurs on a regular basis, as part of our daily activities, while the latter occurs periodically (quarterly, semi-annually or annually). Strategic thinking is using a new lens to view the business. It’s not about adding more work. It’s about enhancing the view of the work and improving one’s ability to perform it.

To maximize your resources and profitably grow the business on a consistent basis, there are three disciplines of strategic thinking you can develop to continually ground your business in solid strategy:

Strategic thinking is different than strategic planning. Click To Tweet

1. Acumen: generating key business insights.

2. Allocation: focusing resources through trade-offs.

3. Action: executing strategy to achieve goals.

Discipline 1: Acumen.

One of the interesting paradoxes of strategy is that in order to elevate one’s thinking to see “the big picture,” one must first dive below the surface of the issues to uncover insight. A strategic insight is an idea that combines two or more pieces of information to create new value.

One of the reasons most people don’t enjoy strategic planning is because the plans don’t contain any new thinking. They are repeating Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity by doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. A key premise in business is that new growth comes from new thinking. Carve out time for you and your team to sit down and strategically think about the business, using the group’s insights to identify new approaches to the business. 

Acumen Question: What are the key insights you’ve learned about the business and how are you using those to achieve your goals?

Discipline 2: Allocation.

While it’s one thing to have a neatly written strategy on paper, the truth is the actual or realized strategy of an organization is a result of the resource allocation decisions made by managers each day. Therefore, it is critical to have a firm understanding of resource allocation and how to maximize its potential for your organization. With multi-billion dollar companies going through bankruptcy on a regular basis, it’s obvious in today’s market that having the most resources guarantees nothing. It’s how we allocate resources that truly matters.

The definition of strategy begins with “The intelligent allocation of resources…”. Resource allocation is at the core of strategy. Discussions of strategy boil down to how to allocate limited resources to maximize business potential. Where are you currently investing your resources—time, talent, budget—and are they focused on your goals and strategies? While everyone has a to-do list, only the best managers also have a not-to-do list. Remember that great strategy is as much about what you choose not to do as it is about what you choose to do. 

Allocation Question: What trade-offs will I make to focus resources?

Discipline 3: Action.

How often has your team invested time in developing a plan for the year, only to see that plan slip by the wayside once the fire drills begin? Fire drills come in the form of customer complaints, competitor activity and internal issues that are urgent, but not important. The key is to let these fire drills flame out and stay committed to the plan you’ve developed by focusing on your priorities, not the flavor-of-the-month tactics.

Action Question: What are my top three to five priorities and am I focused on them or fire drills?

The most important level of strategy is not corporate, business unit, or functional group—it’s YOU. The individual level is where strategy is actually created. Unfortunately, 90 percent of directors and vice presidents have never had any learning and development opportunities on strategic thinking. The good news is that by developing the three disciplines of strategic thinking, you can elevate yourself from tactical to strategic. The better news is that in doing so, not only will you become more valuable to your organization, you’ll separate yourself and your business from the competition. Do you get it?

Rich Horwath is a New York Times bestselling author on strategy, including his most recent book, StrategyMan vs. The Anti-Strategy Squad: Using Strategic Thinking to Defeat Bad Strategy and Save Your Plan. As CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, he has helped more than 100,000 managers develop their strategy skills through live workshops and virtual training programs. Rich is a strategy facilitator, keynote speaker, and creator of more than 200 resources on strategic thinking. To sign up for the free monthly newsletter Strategic Thinker, visit: www.StrategySkills.com.

Flexing Your Leadership Courage

By Dr. Steve Yacovelli

Steve Yacovelli-leadership courage

Remember in The Wizard of Oz how the Cowardly Lion—when he got to see the Wizard—was like, “What? I already had courage? WTH?” It was kind of not cool that the Wizard made the poor guy goes all the way through that drama, only to say, “That gift you want? You already got it!” Well, leadership courage is a lot like that. Often when leaders ask, “How can I get more courageous in my leadership?” the answer is—like the Lion—you already got this; just tap into that which you already have.

At its core, it’s easiest to think of courage as that adrenaline-filled action hero that you see in the movies or when you’re home Netflixing and chillin’. Amazon warriors like Wonder Woman, death-facing young wizards like Harry Potter, countless soldiers and sailors entering the massive battle to win the war: you see these images in media and get an idea of what “courage” is supposed to be. But if you’re not a Navy SEAL or a wand-wielding wizard or an immortal Amazonian princess, you’re in luck! Courageous leadership doesn’t require you to be any of those. But—by nature of being in that leadership role within your organization—there’s a strong argument that you already have some semblance of courage up your sleeve. The challenge is to build and harness that courage to be even more effective as a leader.

When you think about being courageous in the workplace, even if you’re being your bravest self, there’s still a lot of factors that can prevent you from being your most courageous (and effective) leadership self. Time and again, these are the top three “courage-inhibitors” that tend to come up for many leaders:

Leadership courage here is to be OK with failing, with being perceived as that outsider for the sake of doing better work, benefiting your team members and organization. Click To Tweet

1. The Challenge of Fear

If you were to ask around, you’d likely find that a lack of courage and abundance of complacency in the workplace comes down to one simple thing: fear. When you think about this in the business context it can be broken down into two subtypes: (A) Fear of (Perceived or Actual) Failure, and (B) Fear of Feeling Like an Outsider.

With Fear “A,” you tend to strive for perfectionism, where the idea of submitting anything less than perfect could alter the opinion of a boss or trusted ally. Typically, most folks want their best foot forward; they want to be seen as a rock star performer. Anything less is deemed a failure (even if your “C” work is on par with some others’ “A” work!).

But Fear “B” comes from a more personal place, where challenging the status quo may make you feel like an outsider within your own workplace. At some point in your career, you’ve likely had that feeling before (or maybe you currently do). It’s not fun, it’s alienating, and, for some, it’s a feeling they don’t want to ever feel again.

So, in a work context, this desire to avoid the feeling of being the “other” leads you to be compliant, even if in your core you know the idea at hand really needs to be challenged for the good of the organization. Having leadership courage here is to be OK with failing, being OK with being perceived as that outsider for the sake of doing better work, benefiting your team members or moving your organization forward.

2. The Challenge of Assumptions (or “Filling in the Blanks”)

As humans, it’s common to fill in the gaps when presented with a situation where all the data isn’t available. It’s easy to connect the dots between one problem and the next, even when the two aren’t related, without taking the time to examine your own approach. It’s how humans are wired.

When you think of this in the context of courage, you’re either avoiding truly understanding the situation, or you’re scared (back to fear again!) to dive deeper into the truth of the situation. Having leadership courage means lifting up those rocks and seeing what’s underneath. Lack of courage here is making assumptions about the situation without knowing all the information.

3. The Challenge of Being Locked into Current Behaviors  

Let’s talk about change for a minute. Here’s a little secret you probably already know: most people don’t like change. On a fundamental level, change is a really awesome idea: it’s fresh and new, it expands horizons, it allows for innovation and to have new experiences. In the workplace context, you initiate change so that the organization can grow and prosper. But the hard truth?

The vast majority of people hate change. Why? Well, on one hand (at an unconscious level) humans don’t like to change because it hits a part of our brain that likes safety and security. As our cave-ancestors survived and grew as a species, they (like us) were wired to be fearful of changes. Engaging in something new could lead to a dangerous situation. 

Now, flash forward to today: you’re still wired like this in changing situations. When most people engage in change, it leads to an unsettling feeling of vulnerability. On the other hand, your conscious self doesn’t like change because it’s difficult. There’s a tendency to simply get used to situations and know how to act and adjust to them, even if the situation isn’t ideal.

You might have heard the old adage: “The devil you know versus the devil you don’t,” meaning that we as humans tend to be OK with even bad situations/bosses/friends/ relationships/etc. because we know where we stand in this context. Some people don’t like change so much that they’d sooner stay in a bad situation because it’s familiar rather than make a move to newness. So, whether unconscious or conscious, for most people change is hard! It takes courage to try something new, something different, and individual resilience to keep at it when it doesn’t work perfectly the first time.

As a leader, courage should be the bedrock that’s your foundation—the courage to challenge the status quo, and to be your authentic and effective self in front of the world. It’s a super power that every leader has within them: it’s just a matter of avoiding the three “courage-inhibitors” and channeling that courage just like the not-so-Cowardly Lion did.

Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a learning and development, leadership, change management, and diversity and consulting firm based in Orlando, FL, USA, with affiliates across the globe. With over twenty-five years’ experience, Steve is a rare breed that understands the power of using academic theory and applying it to the “real” world for better results. His latest book, Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle came out June 2019.

Job Candidate Ghosting: Three Ways to Minimize the Risk

By Jeremy Eskenazi

Jeremy Eskenazi

The Urban Dictionary describes ghosting as “the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date.” While dating and interviewing candidates is not the same thing, they are very similar in the early stages and can elicit very similar behaviors. Candidate ghosting is when you are actively engaged with a prospective employee, and at some point before their first day of work, they cease all communication. Ouch!

The market for talent is hot right now and this goes across all industries and career levels. It means candidates have more choices than ever and might be entertaining multiple offers. Even if you assume that job candidates have the best intentions during the recruiting phase of the relationship, sometimes good manners and their own candidate brand fall to the side when there is a lot of interest in their skills. When candidates stop communicating with you, it’s not only frustrating—it’s costly too.

Your candidate experience is so critical to your success. Click To Tweet

To avoid being ghosted, you must focus on the overall candidate experience. While there is as much head (clear processes and accountability), as there is the heart (being respectful and kind) in this process, there are efforts you can make to minimize job candidates ghosting you. Let’s start with these four areas:

  • Go deep on expectations. Provide a level of detail which includes who is on the interview panel (share LinkedIn profiles) and how they contribute to the decision process. Share the timeline for reference checks and background screening and the role the candidate will need to play, and any tests that might be part of the hiring process with a detailed description of the reason and approach.
  • White glove travel experience. If the candidate will be traveling for their interviews, make it seamless and build your policies with their experience, not your cost at the forefront. For example, don’t ask the candidate to pay for their travel and wait a period to be reimbursed. Book direct flights (not the cheapest that involve a connection), and book them at reasonable times. A day trip with a morning flight, back to back interviews, and a red eye return flight is not an ideal way for a candidate to learn about your brand or put them in a good headspace to think about entertaining an offer from you. 
  • Stay connected. Check-ins and pre-selling during all points of the process is critical. After every step, you should be asking the candidate how they feel the interview went, what they are thinking in terms of the company and the role, and how interested they would be in getting an offer at this point. You can use scales to ask them to rank from 1 to 10, and then follow up to understand why their interest is where it is. This shows you are invested in their success and they are not lost in a tunnel of endless interviews. 
  • Ask about shopping. Building trust with the candidates and then boldly and directly asking about their interaction with other companies is critical. Ask what other roles they are considering and what about those roles is potentially more appealing than what you might offer. This will help you be more effective at making an offer that targets their needs and is more attractive.

When planning for the steps above speed is paramount. We live in a world of instant feedback and immediate reaction. While the interview process can take time, if you focus on the candidate experience, they can assume you’re not interested and stop replying. Much like waiting for someone to call after the first date, what used to be a four-day standard is now more like a same-day follow up. Candidates need and deserve to know how long you will take to consider them for the next step in the recruiting process, and that you will get back to them either way.

Now, let’s assume you have made it past the interview stage and extended an offer. A certain way to get ghosted is to make an offer that is less than competitive. In hourly jobs, 1 dollar makes a big difference. For top candidates in middle management, certain perks are now standard, and multiple offers are common at all career levels. Sending an offer that is too low or not at all competitive increases the chance that you will be ghosted and remove the opportunity to even improve the offer or negotiate. This is where market data and non-salary perks become important as well. Not every company will be able to get into a salary war for their desired candidate, so knowing what other non-compounding benefits you can offer to sweeten the deal will help your chances of keeping the candidate engaged and interested through the recruitment process.

Suppose you got through the first two milestones and your candidate is ready for their first day. Would it shock you to learn that candidates today are increasing their first-day ghosting tactics? What a horrible experience to expect a candidate on-site for their first day of work and they never show up! All the work that has gone into welcoming and planning for their onboarding is for naught. Many employers try calling, emailing, and even try to contact the new hire through social media—they are often perplexed as to why someone would just not show. At this stage, the reason for ghosting often is because of a terrible onboarding program. After spending weeks of cumbersome processes and silence once signing their offer, they no longer want to be part of your brand. It’s possible they received another offer in that time while your team was not fully invested in them. While it’s certainly not good for their personal brand to ghost, it seems to be the non-confrontational option of accepting a role where they feel more valued. It was too hard before they even started.

Unfortunately, ghosting seems to be a growing practice. You rarely see it coming and there is no profile to predict who will ghost and who will not. Therefore, your candidate experience is so critical to your success. If you aren’t already, have a look at your practices at all the key touchpoints. Pressure test your process and think about how easy and exciting it is (or isn’t) for a candidate to move through. Think about how you can drastically reduce your chances of being haunted by the ghost of offers past! 

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of RecruitConsult! Leadership, and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique Recruitment/Talent Acquisition Management and Optimization Consulting Firm. Jeremy is not a headhunter, but a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies. For more information on Jeremy Eskenazi, please visit: www.RivieraAdvisors.com.