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Managers: 6 tips for being a good communicator

(MoneyWatch) Do you give your employees meaningful feedback?

Of course, that all depends on what is meant by meaningful feedback. On Monday, I wrote about an employee who was asked to resign, but not informed as to reason for the proposed termination. I got comments and emails from people who had “been there, done that”: sudden terminations, bosses turning from friend to foe overnight, people fired for ridiculous or trumped up reasons.

All of these problems boil down to a communication problem between boss and employee. As a general rule, people are nice. We don’t enjoy hurting other people’s feelings, and we want to give people another chance. But then resentment and anger build, and we end up rashly yelling, punishing, or firing.

Pictures: Body language — 23 must-know moves

Don’t be that person. To that end, here are five tips to help you improve your communication as a manager:

1. Remember that negative feedback is a good thing. No one likes hearing how they screwed up. But if you don’t tell your employees what they are doing wrong, they can’t fix it. You don’t need to be mean, and you should give positive feedback as well, but you must tell employees where they need to improve.

2. Subtlety is not an effective tool. A lot of people don’t get subtle hints. Demonstrating how you’d like it done without saying specifically, “I’d like it done this way!” leaves a lot of people thinking, “Jane does it this way and I do it that way,” and not, “I’d better do it how Jane does it.”

3. Set concrete goals. When your employees know what you think is important, the communication problem is largely solved. It also makes for less awkward conversations when there are failures.

4. Listen to your employees’ complaints. Yes, some people are just whiners. But how do you expect them to listen to you when you won’t listen to them? Yes, I know, you’re the boss, so of course they should listen. But in real life, respect has to be earned. If your employees are saying they don’t understand why things need to be done in a specific fashion, it may well be that they have an idea for a better process.

5. Document, document, document. Theoretically, communication is a separate thing than documenting what happens in the workplace, but in an employer-employee relationship this documentation is critical. People often hear what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. (And people often present a diminished or sanitized version of what the problem is, and then persuade themselves that they had the frank conversation required to fix the problem.) Not only should you make notes on what you said and when, but if you’ve had a conversation with an employee, follow up with an email to the person listing the key points that were discussed, as follows:

John, 

Thanks so much for meeting with me today. I just wanted to write down what we agreed on today so that we’re all on the same page. 

1. The Jones account is the highest priority. If you feel like something else is more urgent, please double-check with me.

2. Stephanie is responsible for the Smith account. Do not contact Mrs. Smith, and if you receive any emails from her, please forward them to Stephanie. 

Thanks, Jane

This way, John can’t claim you never told him to forward Smith emails to Stephanie. And if in the heat of the moment you did forget, it’s documented now.

6. Don’t do important communication via text message. I love texting as much as the next person, but it’s not a good tool for dealing with employee problems. Face to face, phone, and even email are better tools for important information.

If you include these simple techniques in your daily interactions with your employees, no one will be taken by surprise, you won’t experience as much frustration, and if you do need to fire someone, it won’t be without fair warning.

30 Smart Tips to Improve Workplace Communication

In nearly every aspect of life (both professiona

l and personal), communication is crucial to success and happiness.

Relationships cannot thrive without open communication, and the same goes for businesses both large and small.

The quality of a business’s internal communication often says a lot about the company itself. Let poor communication get worse, and your organization’s days may be numbered.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can improve workplace communication in your business.

1. Check in with Employees on a Regular Basis

Checking in with employees is essential. Meet with them regularly either in-person or online every few weeks or months, inviting them to discuss their thoughts on their projects, tasks, and the organization as a whole. They want to be heard, and they want to share their thoughts and opinions. This will improve internal communication throughout your entire organization, as well as empower your employees and keep them comfortable in their positions.

2. Make Internal Knowledge & Documents Easily Available

For newer employees, it can be difficult to learn the ropes of an organization and how it truly operates. Since most companies work from a specific set of internal knowledge, there’s usually already a built-in training program at your disposal. Making internal knowledge easily available via documentation on your social intranet is a great way to keep communication flowing.

3. Assess Your Current Internal

Communication Methods

It’s not easy to improve something if you don’t know what’s holding you back. Communication methods such as email, telephone, messaging, in-person communication can all serve a

valuable purpose and come along with a variety of benefits. However, some may be more useful than others. Email, for instance, is probably not the best way to have a conversation with someone. Many organizations are replacing email with social intranet software and collaboration tools. So make a list of your current internal communication methods, and you might find that your organization is missing something or relying too heavily on one particular method, in which case it might be time to make some changes.

4. Implement Social Intranet Software

When attempting to improve workplace communication, social intranet software is at the top of the list. Comprised of a variety of tools that can help improve daily business processes, an intranet also features a robust internal communications platform that allows for easy retrieval of old conversations. It also empowers employees to bounce ideas off each other in a judgement-free environment. The popularity of social intranet software is growing at an exponential rate, and the technology is continuing to move in a forward direction.

5. Have an “Open Door” Policy

One of the biggest obstacles that employees face is how they can communicate with managers and CEOs. They may not feel comfortable approaching the boss, and as a result of this apprehension, many employees may choose to avoid bringing up important points, thus blocking the flow of communication. Having an “open door” policy where your employees feel comfortable bringing anything to your attention, at any time, can be immensely beneficial to your business’s internal communication, not to mention make you more approachable. It is also a great way of motivating employees in your organization. But if they’re not approaching you, always remember #1 above … check in with employees on a regular basis.

6. Take Advantage of Social Media

Social media has proven to be a powerful aid for businesses to communicate with customers … yet it often goes overlooked how effective it can actually be to improve workplace communication. Employees can like, comment, and share with one another interesting posts that may relate to your organization. You can use social intranet software in the same manner. Allow employees to share their interests with each other to create meaningful, work-related conversations. This is a great way to combine relationship-building with your business’s goals and philosophies.

7. Create an Internal Language

Sometimes, the best way to improve workplace communication and your employee engagement strategy is to create an internal language. This could range from being a set of acronyms/monikers that are used throughout the day to describe certain aspects of business to a host of made-up slang words based off of inside jokes or company principles. It’s a fun way to keep things interesting throughout the week and can no doubt help to improve the flow of communication.

8. Identify a Common Goal

Within every organization, there exists a common goal, which can depend heavily upon the focus of the business. As it is important for your employees to be on the same page, identifying and clarifying common goals can come along with a number of benefits. After all, there’s nothing more important for a team than for each of its members to have a similar mindset.

9. Send Out an Internal Newsletter

When things get busy, it may be difficult to keep tabs on what’s happening in your organization. An internal newsletter is an excellent tool for ensuring that every employee is up on recent happenings, whether they be small or monumental in nature. Typically, internal newsletters work best when they’re sent out weekly, but you can experiment with how often you push them out.

10. Rearrange Your Office

If you’re working within a physical office, one of the best steps you can take to improve workplace communication is to rearrange the way it is designed. Many offices make use of cubicles and partitions, for example, which can isolate employees and put a damper on communication. Rearranging your office to make it more “open” in design will help open up the floodgates for communication and collaboration, not to mention make the space more enjoyable to work in.

11. Focus on Company Culture

Focus on company culture and integrate it into your workday. This can be a great way to make employees feel more connected to each other and the organization itself. You can do this by learning about employee engagement ideas, incorporating your branding into office decor, your social intranet, or your documentation, among other pieces of collateral. If there are any core philosophies that your business embodies, don’t hesitate to reiterate them on a regular basis.

12. Get Outside of the Office

Being stuck in the office for long periods of time can have negative psychological effects on you and your employees, especially during the colder months of the year. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to perk people back up. Getting outside the office doesn’t necessarily mean wasting valuable work time, either, as you can simply relocate your team to a different location where you can collaborate on a project.

13. Schedule a Work Retreat

Staying with the concept of getting outside the office, there are times when you should stop work-related activity, and instead, allow your employees to get to know each other better. A work retreat is an excellent way to do this, and it can range from being a day at the beach to a hiking trip or other excursion. With all the focus put on helping employees communicate better, it’s important to remember that team-building exercises and employee engagement activities don’t always have to revolve around getting actual work done.

14. Allow Your Employees the Opportunity to Recharge

Working long hours can be exhausting, especially when mindset is considered. When you’re in need of a recharge, it can be very difficult to communicate effectively with others. Give your employees the opportunity to step away when need be. Whether this means taking an extra hour for lunch or simply asking for the occasional personal day, you’ll get better results out of granting your employees the chance to reboot themselves than running too tight a shift.

15. Strengthen Connections Between Managers and Employees

In many organizations, managers and employees work hand-in-hand each other. This isn’t always the case, however, and it’s not uncommon for employees to simply report to managerial staff with status updates. By encouraging stronger, more collaborative relationships between employees and managers, you’ll be doing an important thing for improving internal communication in your organization.

16. Don’t Chastise Mingling

For some managers and CEOs, water cooler chat among employees can seem like wasted time, which can easily equate to wasted money in the mind. Employee mingling is an essential aspect of relationship-building, however, as you can’t expect people to get to know each other if all they’re discussing is work. If your employees feel like mingling and having an off-topic conversation or debate during the workday, let them.

17. Discourage One-Way Communication

Many businesses take a top-down approach to communication, which has been a classic constant for decades. One-way communication may provide an element of control, but it’s not going to do you or your employees any favors whatsoever. Instead, allow for communication to be a two-way street, as you’ll see a number of benefits by taking this approach.

18. Place Importance on Regular Content Creation

Creating content for blogs and wikis can have both internal and external implications, most of which will be positive for your organization. By encouraging your employees to create and publish quality content, you’ll be empowering them to inject their own personality into the company, which in and of itself is a form of improved communication. Plus, employees can “like’ and comment upon their coworkers posts — another effective tool for fostering a productive discussion.

19. Incorporate Mobile Technologies

Today, more and more people are using smartphones and tablets for everything. Mobile technologies aren’t going away, and since many modern employees find themselves outside of the office on a regular basis, embracing them now is of the utmost importance. This could mean creating apps specific to your business or using mobile technology for conferencing among a variety of other approaches.

20. Attend Conferences as a Team

Just about every industry has its own set of conferences throughout the year. Attending conferences as a team is an excellent way to open up communication and discuss with employees how your organization might be able to move forward in your industry. As with any type of retreat, conferences can be great for team-building, and they don’t have to expensive or difficult to attend if you plan things out ahead of time.

21. Use a CRM Platform

Whenever customers are involved, do everything you can to ensure that your employees are communicating with them efficiently. Using a CRM platform is a great way to keep employees on the same page regarding a ticket or inquiry, which will help get your customers the answers they need as quickly as possible. Otherwise, communication breakdown may occur, resulting in a number of hurdles that can have an effect on customer retention.

22. Put Orders in Writing

Putting things in writing is the only way to make sure that everyone understands an order properly without misconstruing things. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a large number of employees. Always live by the philosophy that if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.

23. Schedule Daily Status Meetings

The more you can do to remind every team member of their tasks and the current status of a project, the better. Daily status meetings can be held either in person, via teleconferencing or via the web, and they don’t have to last for more than 10 minutes. If you have the luxury of having everyone on your team located in the same time zone, try to schedule a meeting for the same time every morning.

24. Identify and Reach Out to Shy Employees

No matter how you cut it, some people simply tend to be shy, even if they’re adept at what they do. Identifying and reaching out to shy employees can help break down the barriers of workplace communication they may have imposed for themselves, especially if you show a genuine interest in them. Don’t forget, however, that this can be a lengthy process — shyness doesn’t dissipate overnight, after all.

25. Encourage Video Conferencing for Remote Employees

When you’re managing remote employees, relationship-building can sometimes be difficult. One answer to this all-too-common issue is video conferencing, which helps put a face to the voice of your employees when you might not actually see them in person for a long period of time. This is a great way to get to know the freelancers you work with, especially if you plan on enlisting their services long-term.

26. Use an Anonymous “Suggestion Box”

As old-school as it may sound, this is another way to improve workplace communication. You can benefit greatly from setting a “suggestion box” in your office that allows for employees to anonymously comment on things they’d like to see improved. People aren’t always comfortable bringing up their concerns, after all, and are more likely to do so if they can take an anonymous approach. If you don’t work within a physical office, you can direct your employees to a virtual suggestion box, which can serve the same purpose.

27. Hold Teamwork in High Regard

Many employees like to work on projects by themselves simply because they don’t feel comfortable collaborating with their coworkers. This is exactly the type of barrier you’re trying to break down, which is why you should stress the importance of teamwork at all times. Asking your employees to take a team-based (rather than solo) approach may cause some initial discomfort, but the benefits of doing so are undeniable.

28. Take Inventory of Your Own Communication Skills

Every CEO wants their employees to communicate in as streamlined a manner as possible, but what about your own communication skills? Most people can admit they can work on how they communicate with others, and taking inventory of how you personally approach communication can be immensely beneficial. You want to serve as a model leader, and the only way to do so is if you yourself work on improving as well.

29. Ask Questions

Regardless of the type of organization you run, it’s safe to assume that every employee perceives and internalizes information in their own way. Asking your employees how they like to receive information (through the social intranet, email, newsletters, etc.) can help you create a more effective plan for regular communication. In addition, your staff will appreciate the fact that you’re willing to meet them halfway, which bodes well for employee morale.

30. Celebrate Your Achievements!

Improved business communication can come along with a number of benefits, and it’s important to take a moment to celebrate what you’ve achieved after you’ve put in the work. In many cases, you’ll be able to compile data about your company that actually shows increased performance and productivity. This is a great way to let employees know just how much of an impact open communication has on an organization. Either way, celebrating what you’ve achieved will only boost the moods of everyone.

10 steps to improve your communication skills

Everything we do and say ‘communicates’ a message to our colleagues, friends and loved ones. Effective communication is the number one business skill – if we cannot communicate effectively we cannot do a good job.  Research has shown that managers spend 75% of their working day communicating face-to-face, in meetings, through writing or over the telephone.

We communicate our thoughts, our feelings, our desires and how much we like, respect and trust each other. We communicate happiness, uncertainty, delight, confidence and – yes – even displeasure!  What we say and how we say it is critical to our success.

Here are ten simple steps any manager can follow to improve their communications:

  1. Think before you speak. What message do you want to send? Make sure you have a clear objective in mind and that your words and body language agree with each other. What is important to this person and how can you connect with it? How much or how little information does this person normally want? All the details or just the big picture?
  2. Consider the other person’s position. Listen. Ask questions. Test your assumptions. What does she need? What does he want to avoid? What are their chief concerns? Seeing things from the other person’s point of view will help you to put your own point of view across for greater acceptance. Emphasise what matters most to the other person.
  3. Choose your words thoughtfully.  How can you make your message most agreeable or palatable to the person on the receiving end? How can you grab their attention and put them in a positive, receptive frame of mind?  If you have to convey something negative, try to at least use neutral words that don’t offend.
  4. Look for common ground.  We have goals in common with even our staunchest opponents. Identifying what these are and stating them openly will help you work together better to achieve your aims. Focussing on differences will only serve to separate you further.
  5. Tell them what you want to happen. (Not what you don’t want). Use positive words and images. Negative ones send people running! They put them in a negative frame of mind. If you don’t know yourself, say so! E.g. “I’m not quite sure how the report should be set out but I find this layout confusing and hard to read. Perhaps more headings and smaller paragraphs would help.”
  6. Use praise liberally. Praise makes both the giver and the receiver feel good, so you both benefit!  To be effective, praise should be both specific and sincere. What gets praised, gets repeated. Praise is a powerful, and sadly under-used, management communication tool.
  7. Separate facts from opinions. While both are important, treating an opinion as a fact can lead to trouble. After all our opinion might be wrong or only partially correct! Masquerading opinions as facts sounds arrogant and can rub people up the wrong way.
  8. Don’t TELL, ASK. There are many ways to show respect for others and this is one of them. Respect builds strong, co-operative work relationships.  Could you…would you please…would it be possible… are much more likely to get positive, co-operative responses than: Get this done… bring me that… etc.
  9. Build self-esteem.  Build the self-esteem of everyone around you. Only people who are proud of themselves and proud of what they do can perform at their best.
  10. Share your vision. Help others achieve their goals. Share your vision. What is the goal or result you are after? How can everyone play their part in achieving it?

Being a success in business, and particularly as a manager, depends on people doing a good job. Communicating effectively is at the core of this success.

3 Communication Skills ALL Managers Need

Whether you have just been promoted to a managerial role, or you are simply looking to improve your leadership skills, most sources will tell you the most important skill all managers need is good communication.

It’s easy enough to say that leaders must be able to explain their thoughts clearly and listen to their staff, but what does communication competence actually consist of?

Setting Clear Goals

Yes, it’s important for employers to be able to speak well, and articulate their thoughts, but what many articles fail to mention is WHAT they need to communicate about.

The most important thing that leaders need to communicate about is to set clear goals for their teams.

The role of any manager is to oversee their team; in order to do that, they must plan for upcoming milestones, and set measurable objectives which their staff must meet in order to succeed.

An effective employer always thinks ten steps ahead, always has a backup plan ready, and is able to break down the objective to the minutiae to explain what needs to be done so that everyone in the group is on the same page.

Delegating

Another aspect of a communicative leader is the ability and willingness to delegate.

Communication problems arise when managers don’t trust their staff with information, and don’t let them in on the big picture of a project, leading them to make mistakes.

An effective delegator establishes a hierarchy in their department, picking qualified team members as leaders.

This way, the manager only needs to regularly meet with either one or a few employees to give directions, instead of having to meet with each and every worker on their team.

These team leaders will then pass the information down to their teams, and so on.

When individuals have questions, they can utilise this chain of command to ask their seniors instead of having to bother you every time.

This hierarchy will make sure there is proper communication flow between you and your employees, and that everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities.

Giving Helpful Feedback

The final piece of the communication puzzle is being able to give objective, clear and helpful feedback when it is needed.

Too often, managers don’t realise that their workers are not clear on directions, or have not followed them properly, and don’t have a chance to correct that before a big issue arises.

A communicative leader will utilise delegation skills to make sure that every single employee has oversight from a senior, to catch mistakes early and as they occur.

Then, the manager can get involved to give advice, additional training or mentorship to help their team members thrive in their positions.

4 Communication Tips for Remote Managers

Knowing how to communicate in a remote role is especially important in light of new virtual workplace survey findings from Interact, which reveal that management needs to improve their communication in order to keep virtual workers engaged, happy, and productive. In fact, over two-thirds (69 percent) of America’s virtual employees said that management needs to communicate better in order to keep them engaged. Even more alarmingly, 55 percent of virtual workers reported that their boss communicates with them almost exclusively by email.

Ms. Lou Solomon, Interact’s CEO and founder, says that executives must be intentional and strategic about building a sense of connectedness with virtual workers to keep them engaged and ensure productivity and growth. “Unhappy employees who are disconnected from their managers and the company cannot take ownership of the mission, goals, or big picture, which is the minimum requirement for the kind of engagement that impacts a company’s bottom line,” explains Solomon.

To overcome this challenge, she offers the four tips below to help corporate leaders develop “The Influence Factor™” and find ways to stay close to their virtual employees:

  • Get personal and hit the road. Solomon believes it’s important for managers to avoid getting land-locked at headquarters. “If the entire team can’t be brought to headquarters, corporate executives must go to them,” she says. “Hold in-person town hall meetings, allow people to ask questions, and telecast them to the entire organization.” Solomon additionally recommends finding ways to create a culture of conversation and connection—for example, by sending a Daily Thought to employees like Wells Fargo Capital Finance CEO Henry Jordan has done for decades, or posting regular video messages to employees on the intranet. “Speak with clarity and simplicity and tell personal stories,” she says.
  • Think small and get together. Another strategy to improve connection with your virtual workforce is to pare down the number of people on project teams to allow for more intimacy and trust to develop. “What virtual workers often lack is the satisfaction of what it means to be a part of a trusting team of people connected by purpose,” says Solomon. To create this type of culture, she recommends bringing virtual teams together twice a year to reconnect face-to-face. The group can use this time to decide how they want to work, and identify improvements to make in how they communicate with each other.
  • Discourage an email-only culture. Email ups the probability that people will miscommunicate inadvertently, according to Solomon. To avoid this, she advises that leaders use Skype with members of their virtual team, and encourages people to pick up the phone for real conversations. “People are wasting hours managing email that does nothing to build connections, much less trust,” says Solomon. “Consider ‘No Email Fridays’ and ‘No Email Weekends’ for virtual teams.”
  • Invest in state-of-the-art equipment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the benefits of seeing those you work with on a consistent basis, even if it’s only via video cam. “Invest in great equipment, particularly for companies with a large virtual workforce,” suggests Solomon. “It’s important for teams to see each other on video conference regularly.” When scheduling such meetings, Solomon says to be sure to understand the various time zones of all participants, and vary the meeting times accordingly: “Don’t make all meetings convenient to those at ‘headquarters’ and inconvenient for everyone else.”

With effort and intention, it’s realistic to expect that managers can improve their communication effectiveness with their virtual employees, resulting in better outcomes for all.

Office Communication Toolkit: 10 tips for managers on active listening skills, motivating employees, workplace productivity, employee retention strategies and change management techniques

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #1

Active listening in 4 steps: The best managers make the best listeners

Managers spend a good part of their workday listening to other people. But bear in mind, there’s a big difference between “passive” and “active” listening.

Effective listening includes a four-step process to ensure understanding:

1. Listen to the total message.

2. Prove your understanding by using nonverbal signals.

3. Use open-ended probes.

4. Paraphrase what you hear.

Learn more about the four steps of active listening, as well as five bad habits that impede effective listening, in Office Communication Toolkit.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #2

Motivating employees through realistic deadlines: 4 do’s and don’ts

Without deadlines, employees flounder. They can’t be aware of the urgency or priorities of a project unless their supervisors tell them.

Following are four tips on motivating employees by setting realistic deadlines:

1. Do be specific

Name the target day and time. And mean what you say. If you ask for completion “next week,” don’t complain on Friday that you really needed it on Wednesday.

2. Do clarify priorities

Let people know if this assignment takes precedence over any other projects they’re working on now. Avoid the old, favorite deadline “ASAP,” which usually translates in an employee’s mind as “whenever it gets done.”

3. Don’t set false deadlines

Setting a deadline earlier than necessary (because you don’t trust your employees to meet the real deadline) creates more problems than it solves.

Your staff will soon learn that’s how you operate and will assume there’s always air in the schedule. As a result, they’ll always miss that first deadline, just as you knew they would.

4. Do establish an update schedule

The best-laid plans can go astray, and so can deadlines. You’ll minimize the chance of this occurring by setting up a progress report schedule when you assign the project. This is especially important for long-term projects.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #3

Motivating employees to do their best each day: 6 office communication techniques

Here are six tips for motivating employees to stay on task and work together toward the common goal, according to a report by OnPoint Consulting:

1. Clarify, clarify, clarify.

2. Establish clear expectations.

3. Don’t micromanage your entrepreneurial-minded employees. But do monitor them.

4. Encourage employees to share bad news with you.

5. Solve problems quickly, but not too quickly.

6. Encourage informal and spontaneous interaction

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #4

Managing employee retention: Listen for subtle whispers of employee turnover

Most good employees don’t stand up one day and quit out of the blue. They send off subtle hints that, if you’re listening, you can act on before the good employee walks out the door. That’s why it’s important to listen to statements like these that can act as an “advance warning system” for employee turnover:

  • “This job isn’t what I thought it would be.” Rather than exploring what the employee was originally told or trying to defend miscommunication, focus on the present. Ask, “How do you want your job to be?”
  • “I’m at a plateau. I can’t grow here.” Consider that a plea for job stimulation. Provide the employee with new responsibilities, cross-training opportunities or exposure to influential mentors.
  • “I don’t get any feedback.” Most employees crave regular input from their supervisors. Don’t leave them in the dark. Plan regular sessions to discuss ongoing projects and performance.
  • “This place has too much politics.” While you may not be able to eliminate all dissension and politics in the organization, you can level with the employee. If someone makes this complaint, address rumors head-on, and don’t play favorites.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #5

Maintaining workplace productivity: 7 common employee gripes (and how to silence them)

A recent study says that 40% of managers in the United States are considered “bad bosses” by their employees. Yet most managers assume that their relationships with their employees are running smoothly.

Obviously, some of those bosses are wrong … and that can create major problems for workplace productivity. A Gallup Poll says organizations are 50% less productive—and 44% less profitable—when serious boss-employee conflicts exist.

Editor’s Note: What makes a good boss? Qualities that U.S. workers consider necessary for being a good boss (in order of importance), according to a Yahoo! survey:

  1. Communication/listening skills
  2. Effective leadership skills
  3. Trust in their employees to do their jobs well
  4. Flexibility and understanding
  5. Intelligence
  6. Teamwork skills
  7. Even temperament

Access practical scripts on how to respond to seven common employee complaints in Office Communication Toolkit.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #6

Employee retention strategies: 8 little things managers can do to retain the best

When good employees leave for greener pastures, it makes a manager’s job much more difficult. Managers can prevent this syndrome by doing what they can to make their own pasture the greenest. While compensation helps, it’s not always cash that makes pastures greener. When salaries are equal with the marketplace, other factors take priority.

Here are eight easy-to-plant “seeds” that help keep employees growing and content, according to a KEYGroup report:

1. Keep them engaged. Consider ways to provide opportunities for employees to improve on their skills or learn new skills they can use in their jobs.

2. Give praise where praise is due. Recognizing a job well done isn’t an expensive proposition, but it will mean the world to your employee.

3. Be aware of employees’ changing needs. By recognizing their changing needs, you show sensitivity to what’s going on in their lives. This builds loyalty and helps bring stability to their personal lives, which means they can focus better at work.

4. Realize that great employees thrive under great leaders. Employees won’t leave for greener pastures unless you drive them. The buck starts and stops with their leaders.

5. Conduct regular “stay” interviews. Rather than exit interviews, use regular “stay” interviews to provide an opportunity to compliment high performers on their work and inspire them to do more.

6. Create an environment where people can do their best work. By allowing employees to develop and implement their own ideas, you’ll keep them passionate about their work.

7. Create an environment of trust. Employees are happier and work harder when they trust their leaders. They decide which leaders they can trust based on how their fellow employees, company vendors and customers are treated.

8. Rid your pasture of weeds. The weeds are those poor performers and negative employees who stifle the good attitudes and high performance of their co-workers.

The bottom line: Striving to keep employees happy and engaged is not just a “nice” thing to do — it’s the only way to maximize workplace productivity.

Thoughtful employee retention strategies are useful not just for retaining people to avoid the high cost of recruitment. Engaged employees are creative, productive, motivated and brimming with good ideas.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #7

Confronting poor performers: 6 scripts for managers

No manager enjoys having “the talk” with employees. But ignoring an employee’s poor performance won’t make the problem go away; it will only make things worse.

If you’re apt to take the head-in-the-sand approach to employees’ job failings, you’re not alone: Only 31% of U.S. workers agree with the statement “My manager confronts poor performance,” according to a KEYGroup survey.

And companies that tolerate poor performance will drive away top performers who are unhappy working in such an environment.

The solution: Approach workers about their performance problems in a fair, problem-solving manner. When you confront such people in a tactful way, you’ll find that one of two things happens: They improve or they move.

Find the six rules of engagement for confronting poor performers in Office Communication Toolkit.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #8

Helping employees accept change in the workplace: It’s all about the 4 C’s

To start, you must first understand why people are so quick to resist change. By knowing this, you can make intelligent decisions about how to introduce changes.

Change equals loss. One main reason for the negativity: When things change, you lose something. You may gain something as well, but a loss is usually involved.

Change management requires acceptance planning

To get people to accept change, the first step is to understand what, from their perspective, they feel they’re losing. If you can empathize with their feelings—and possibly compensate for the loss—you’ve taken a giant first step toward acceptance.

Here are four more factors—the four C’s—to promoting acceptance of change:

1. Caring. Listening and responding to people’s reactions is just as important as explaining the reasons for change.

2. Control. People want input into how change will be implemented. But never ask for input unless you plan to consider it.

3. Choice. Employees feel better if they are given options as part of the change process. The more choices they have, the more they feel in control.

4. Competence. Workers are happier about change if they feel they have the skills and abilities to succeed after the change. The faster you can help someone move through the learning curve, the faster they will accept the change.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #9

15 questions to ask employees in their first 60 days

Recruiting, hiring and training new employees can eat up a manager’s time. The last thing a manager wants to do is restart the process all over again because that new hire just stood up and walked out the door after three months.

Make it a point to meet with new hires within the first 60 days. Your goal: Discover their likes/dislikes about the job and environment, see if the job meets their expectations and nip potential problems in the bud.

View these one-on-one chats as a continuation of new-employee orientation and a way to gain fresh insight into your department and the organization. Start the meeting by reminding new employees that you’re glad they’re part of the organization, and that you value their input and observations.

Access the revealing 15 questions to ask new hires in Office Communication Toolkit.

Office Communication Toolkit: Tip #10

Becoming a better boss: 13 steps to success

Managers aren’t only responsible for an organization’s fiscal assets; they’re also responsible for its human assets.

Communication skills for managers and leaders

Communication skills are very important for all managers and leaders

Good communication skills allow managers and leaders to perform their role more effectively.

Their role requires that they communicate. They must communicate many things to many people: they must communicate effectively to the team, to their suppliers, to their customers and financiers.

So it is important that leaders and managers are good communicators.

Communication skills for managers and leaders are different from communication skills for the average person in the street.

Communication skills for managers and leaders consist, mainly, of six subset skills..

  1. The ability to set out the goal or the target to be hit.
  2. The ability to communicate the plan of action that, it is hoped will describe successful action, capable of achieving the goal.
  3. The ability to communicate delegated actions: who is going to do which task?
  4. The ability to give corrective critical feedback to the people who are not performing in the proper manner and, in addition, to be able to get them to correct their performance and get “back on track“.
  5. The ability to give praise and appreciation to those who are doing a good job.
  6. The ability to communicate the need for constant change, adaptation, refinement and flexibility to the conditions, whilst still remaining faithful to the overall goal and plan.

Let us look at each:

1. The ability to set out the goal or the target to be hit

The role of the leader manager is to guide the team to a successful conclusion. And if we define success as, “the achievement of a worthwhile and valuable goal“, then one cannot be successful without achieving a “valuable goal“. And you cannot expect the team to hit the target goal, if they don’t know what it is.

So, the first role of a leader is to set a clear target – or goal – to be hit.

This, the ability to set out the goal or the target to be hit, is the primary communication skill of a leader manager.

Example of this type of communication taken from field marshal Montgomery at the battle of el Aleman,

“Our mandate from the Prime Minister is to destroy the enemy forces in North Africa; I have seen it, written on half a sheet of notepaper.

You must see that this mandate permeates right down through the Eighth Army to the most junior private soldiers. All the soldiers must know what is wanted”.

2. The ability to communicate the plan of action that it is hoped will describe successful action, capable of achieving the goal

It is not enough to know what goal is to be attempted. It is also important to have a detailed Master-plan, which is capable of achieving the goal.

The leader and management team must be able to do two things:

  1. Formulate an excellent Master plan.
  2. Communicate the excellent master plan.

So, the ability to explain and communicate the details of a plan of action is an essential skill. This requires the ability to speak clearly using accurate language, not ambiguous language.

Ambiguous language is language that has more than one meaning.
Accurate language is language that has only one meaning.

It is an important skill in leadership: to have only one possible meaning derived from your message.

But if you use language that is too vague and ambiguous, then confusion, error and disaster will reign in your domain.

Example of leadership language that was too vague and ambiguous, causing confusion, error and disaster.

The charge of the light brigade:

The charge of the light brigade went down in history as an archetypal leadership blunder. It was caused by poor communication skills of Lord Lucan towards his subordinate Cardigan. Lucan simply ordered Cardigan to “attack the guns, down the valley”.

Obviously, this is a vague and indistinct order. And then Cardigan failed to ask the obvious questions: “Specifically, which guns and down which valley?”

Cardigan pointed out the fact there were numerous enemy positions in the vicinity to which Lord Lucan simply replied that Cardigan should “Take the ride down there at moderate speed so as not to exhaust the horses”.

Cardigan failed to ask the obvious “Down where? Specifically????”

3. The ability to communicate who is going to do which task

This is the art of delegation. Delegation is the act of entrusting a task to another. All good managers and leaders are incessant and accurate delegators.

Many managers are afraid to delegate.

Don’t be afraid to delegate.

Here is some advice from Donald Rumsfeld. U.S. secretary of defence
“Find good people and give them the work. If a matter is not a decision for the President, or you, then delegate it. Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure and then delegate.”

4. The ability to give critical feedback to the people who are not performing in the proper manner and, in addition, to be able to get them to improve their performance

It is important to be able to criticise people in a manner that corrects the behaviour but does not foul the relationship.

Many failures have been caused by the breakdown of cooperative relationships within the team. When a dispute causes the members of the same team to regard each other as enemies, then whole project is put at risk.

The ability to communicate constructive criticism is “a must”.

Margaret Chase Smith quote:
“Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought”.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, quote:
“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

5. The ability to give praise and appreciation to those who are doing a good job

It is equally important to be able to praise, as it is to critique.

Well timed and specific praise a one of the social motivators.

Social motivators are those motivators that inspire people into action, but are not tangible motivators, such as money. Social motivators are often words.

Words that inspire positive emotions such as loyalty or pride, or self-esteem.

All good managers are good at giving well timed and specific praise and appreciation

All poor leaders and managers are scanty and miserly in their use of praise and appreciation.

Poor managers say “I pay him, why should I have to praise him as well.

” Good leaders recognise “that money is not the only motivator. And if I am paying them, then I want them highly motivated, not demotivated; and therefore, I will use praise and appreciation as one of my leadership methods.”

Good leader and managers use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the act of associating pleasurable feeling to an event or action, with the intention that that action and ones similar to it will be repeated. With animals, positive reinforcement usually involves giving titbits. With humans, it usually means giving a kind word of thanks.

B F Skinner quotes “The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount“.

6. The ability to communicate the need for constant change adaptation, refinement and flexibility to the conditions that are predominating, whilst remaining faithful to the overall goal (1) and plan (2)

Since no human is perfect, no human plan is perfect. And therefore, plans often don’t work. You find that only part of the plan is working well.

The rest is either, not working well, or is a complete failure!

So now you must be able to do three things:

  1. Keep progressing with the areas that are working well.
  2. Modify and adapt the parts that aren’t working well.
  3. Completely rewrite and change the parts that are a complete failure.

These skills require that you communicate to the team.

You must be able to keep people motivated and feeling strong. Even during the times where the plan is not working well or when it is a complete failure.

You must communicate this message:

Temporary defeat and setbacks are not permanent failure.

We will analyse the facts, formulate a new plan and come back tomorrow with a new and better plan.

Even in the darkest days the leader must communicate that final victory is inevitable.

This is indeed a magical ability. But one that is magical in its effects, not its cause. The cause is the communication skill of the individual leaders: their ability to formulate great sentences that will affect the minds of their listeners, towards the positive, and that will remain in the memory, and resonate courage, long after they were first heard.

Churchill was the best exponent of the ability to keep people going when things are gone wrong.

Quote
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour”.

6 Powerful Communication Tips From Some Of The World’s Best Interviewers

Listening intently isn’t just for journalists. Here’s how to sharpen your interviewing skills to get the most out of your connections.

Everyone knows that particular feeling of dread that accompanies a lull in conversation at a party, networking event, or even a job interview.

You’ve already covered the usual small talk and then, oof, you hit a dead end. What now?

Even the most extroverted among us know that being a good conversationalist doesn’t always come easy–but there are some experts who have had more practice than the rest of us.

Writers, journalists and others who interview sources regularly have developed tried and true techniques that help them connect deeply with people.

Not only can interviews with thought leaders in your field provide a great source of content for your blog or website, the skills honed while interviewing are useful in many types of communication.

For instance, Terry Gross–known for her inviting style on the radio program Fresh Air–admits she wasn’t always so comfortable communicating.

“I feel really lucky that I know how to talk to people now, because I’ve talked to so many people and I know how to get a conversation going. Because I used to be really shy and would have been very uncomfortable doing that.”

We all want to be able to connect with people who are important to us, feel understood when working with a team and get to know new people better.

These six communication tricks from legendary interviewers can help you conduct a stellar interview, build a new relationship or simply become the best conversationalist in the room.

1. First Prepare Notes, Then Toss Them

Good interviewers always study up on their subject’s background – many even have a staff whose job it is to collect those resources.

If you can do so in advance, research the person or people with whom you’ll be speaking. A bit of familiarity will make you feel more confident – and will prime your subject to open up to you.

But during the moment of truth, you rarely see a professional interviewer following a script or referring to notes. A better, more casual approach is to stay in the moment and allow talk to flow naturally, as TV talk show veteran Dick Cavett advises.

“My former boss and idol for many years as a viewer, Jack Paar, called me before I started doing a talk show and said, ‘Hey kid, don’t do interviews.’ And I said, ‘What do I do, then, sing or just read to the audience?’ And he said, ‘No, interviews are boring. That’s just ‘What’s your favorite color?’ and that’s dull. Make it a conversation.’ And that’s almost the best secret. Throw your notes aside, if necessary.’”

A good interviewer knows how to make subjects comfortable enough to open up and reveal something real and true about themselves–and that only comes when both parties get a little vulnerable. That’s why comedian Marc Maron, host of cult favorite podcast WTF, focuses more on connection than research.

“I don’t do a hell of a lot of research. I go on a sort of kindred-spirit bonding that preexists the interview, and just see what unfolds. I’m just looking for authentic engagement of some kind … Some people just want to answer questions, but a lot of times, all of a sudden you drift away, and you don’t remember you’re on the mic, and you’re in something real. That, to me, is great.’

2. Match Your Partner–in mood, energy level, language and body language

“The more comfortable you make someone feel, the better interview you’re ultimately going to get,” says interview veteran Katie Couric.

And how do you make someone feel more comfortable? Great interviewers do it by meeting subjects on their level. That means matching their mood, energy level, language style–even body language.

Calibrating your tone and energy level sets the stage for an evenly matched conversation and puts your subject at ease, while mirroring the body language of the person you’re speaking with is a nearly subliminal cue to show that you’re fully present in the conversation. Just keep it subtle.

Body language can also help defuse a tough conversation or argument (try moving so you’re facing the same direction as the person in question) and let you know when your subject is ready to leave the conversation (Are their feet facing toward the door? Time to let them go).

Just as important, says Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, is matching the right line of questioning to the right subject. The best interviews are never one-size-fits-all.

“There’s no generic one question to me. It would depend who the person is. I think one of the things about interviewing is that you don’t ask the same thing of everyone. It would really depend. Is that person a painter? Are they an avant-garde jazz musician? Are they a politician, a priest? Who are they?”

3. Practice Flexible Listening

What seems like the simplest part of holding a conversation or conducting an interview is often the trickiest. It’s listening–the right way.

Skilled interviewers become adept at listening not just to the words their subject is saying but also the tone in which the words are said, the pauses and nuances of the answer and what’s being left unsaid.

This active, flexible listening lets them know when to move onto a new subject and when the moment is ripe to probe a little deeper with a follow-up question.

Off-the-cuff questions often yield the best answers – but the opportunity only arises from deep, engaged listening. Take a lesson from Katie Couric and stay poised to change direction based on what happens in the conversation.

“Nothing is worse for me as a viewer than to watch someone go down a laundry list of questions and not explore something with a little more depth after someone has answered a question … I think you need to use your questions as sort of a template, but you have to be willing to listen and veer off in a totally different direction.”

Worried about going down too many conversational rabbit-holes and forgetting to pick back up on an important point? Try the “outrageous image” technique from Dick Cavett.

“Eventually, I developed a memory technique from my friend, Harry Lorayne, the memory expert, of creating an outrageous image. Like if they were caught stealing an apple as a kid, but then they start talking about something else, you picture picking up an apple and throwing it in the face of, I don’t know, Mitt Romney or some prominent person. And that sort of startling image will trigger ‘apple’ for you later on.”

4. Activate the Power of the Pause

Remember that dreaded lull we talked about earlier? Sometimes – just sometimes – it can be a useful communications tool.

When a pro interviewer feels a subject is holding something back on a particular topic, they’ll often use the power of silence at the end of the answer to draw out more information.

Here’s how journalist Jim Lehrer describes it:

“If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.”

Try counting to three – or five if you can stand it – after your subject answers a tough or thoughtful question. This method can seem agonizing at first, but – used with empathy – it works wonders to develop a deeper rapport between two people.

Since our natural tendency is to fill in a silence, the pause can also work as a power play in a tougher scenario – say, a salary negotiation. Dick Cavett explains how he employs it tough-love style with interview guests:

“You can hold someone with silence and make them go on. You tend to feel you need to fill all dead air. There are times when if you just say no more than ‘uh-huh,’ and pause, they’ll add something out of a kind of desperation that turns out to be pretty good. Let them sweat a little and then they’ll come up with something that they were perhaps not going to say.”

5. Cultivate Curiosity: The Dale Carnegie approach

All of these techniques are tried and true, but they don’t really work without one simple quality on the interviewer’s part: curiosity.

A true passion for learning more about those around you goes further than any trick or even the most polished communication skills. Take it from Gay Talese, one of the legendary founders of literary journalism:

“I used to wander around. I never knew exactly what I was looking for. I knew vaguely what I hoped to find or I had some rough idea, but I was in the exploratory mode all the time … Just go out and discover and you’ll find by chance, by accident some terrific stories, some terrific people you never thought you would meet.”

You can cultivate curiosity in your daily life by noticing more details, delving deeply into the ideas that grab your interest and being alert to those around you and what makes them light up.

As Dale Carnegie famously explains, the beauty of curiosity is that it makes you nearly irresistible to everyone around you.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

6. Practice Ego Suspension: The Power of Forgetting Yourself

Of course we’d all like to think of ourselves as attentive, curious students of the world, but one little thing gets in the way: our own egos.

It’s not our fault–we’re hardwired that way. After all, talking about ourselves feels as good to our brains as money or sex.

That’s why ego suspension is so essential to cultivating the kind of curiosity that lets you connect with others. Robin Dreeke, lead instructor at the FBI’s Counterintelligence Training Center in behavioral and interpersonal skills training, explains:

“Most times, when two individuals engage in a conversation, each patiently waits for the other person to be done with whatever story he or she is telling. Then, the other person tells his or her own story, usually on a related topic and often times in an attempt to have a better and more interesting story. Individuals practicing good ego suspension would continue to encourage the other individual to talk about his or her story, neglecting their own need to share what they think is a great story.”

At the next gathering you attend, resist the urge to tell that one story that always kills and instead focus on asking questions of someone new. It may be unfulfilling at first, but you might be amazed at the end result.

The Art of Listening: Tips on Nonverbal Communication

Having trouble communicating with a loved one is often the most frustrating part of caring for someone with memory loss or a chronic illness that limits their speech.
However, it is possible for families to learn how to communicate in ways other than words. You can learn how to care for your loved one’s spirit as you care for their physical health by utilizing communication techniques that support and comfort them, rather than frustrate and confuse.
If your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s disease or another condition that limits their use and understanding of language, you can still show them that you care by learning several nonverbal techniques for communicating. A few techniques include:
●Body Language
–Experts agree that those with cognitive imp airments such as dementia can be extremely intuitive and sensitive about the emotions of those around them. Your loved one is likely able to pick up on your frustrated mood and reflect it in their behavior. Pay attention to your body language when interact ing with your loved one, and consider what your body communicates about how
you’re feeling.
●Tone of Voice
– Even if your loved one has trouble speaking, their ability to understand what you say can last much longer. When speaking to your loved one, remember to speak with a calm tone of voice. Enunciate your words clearly and talk at a relaxed pace to help give your loved one time to process what you say.
●Eye Contact
– When speaking to your loved one, be sure to make eye contact. Face them straight on and try to get on their level, sitting down or kneeling if need be. Making eye contact helps them pay attention and concentrate while you’re talking.
● Visual Cues
–If your loved one has trouble understanding your instructions, try to communicate using visual cues to help them follow along. Make gestures, hand them objects or point to things. For example, if you’re trying to tell them tobrush their teeth, make a brushing motion and hand them their toothbrush.
● Physical Touch
– A gentle, caring touch can sometimes communicate more than words. Be generous when making contact with your loved one. However, be careful to avoid startling them from behind or making sudden movements that could seem invasive or threatening. Also be sure to allow your loved one personal space when they need it.
●Humor
–Laughter can lighten your loved one’s mood and help give them asense of inclusion and normalcy. Sometimes, laughing with your loved one can be a great gift for both of you. Allow humor to be a part of your caregiving communication (as long as it’s not at the expense of your loved one).
●Keep Talking
– Even after your loved one has lost the ability to speak, and you’re no longer sure if they can understand what you’re saying, keep talking to them anyway.
Speaking to them shows that you are paying attention and that you still care. Carrying on a conversation, albeit one
-sided, is a small way of maintaining your loved one’s dignity and sense of self
-worth throughout the later stages of their disease.

Mastering The Art of Communication — 3 Tips for Speaking Right at Work

Communication is one of the most discussed topics in context of building business culture. It is something that comes naturally to us humans. But, when it comes to business communication we still lack effectiveness. In fact, stats show that more than one third of the times projects fail due to lack of communication.

‘Don’t let communication become a barrier at work. Start using a project management software

So, what’s the problem? Why do we still lack to speak effectively when we are the only species on the planet with this skill?

While scientists are still trying to figure out the intricacies of human communication and behavior, people like Tony Robbins are doing their bit to help people communicate better. They are helping people master the art of corporate communication.

In his words — “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we all are different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our conversation with others.” In fact last year in an interview during the making of Netflix Original Film — Tony Robbins — I Am Not Your Guru, Tony was quoted saying,”The number one reason people are ineffective speakers is because they’re focused on themselves. If you’re focused on yourself, then you can’t possibly connect with the audience.”

In this post, I’m going to talk about office communication. And how someone can master this art in the easiest possible manner.

Communication is an art

Why do we communicate? To put forward our message across someone — right? Think of it as a painter’s efforts to draw a picture to reflect his point of view. A painter draws a picture crafting each stroke with panache to create a masterpiece which captures the eye in an instant. In the same way, if you master the art of communication people are be bound to listen every time you speak.

But for that you must know how to utter purposeful words to put your point across. Just like an artist knows the right tools for painting a picture that the viewer can connect with.

How to master this art?

Anyone can become a master at office communication. All it takes is practice. And a little conscious effort to listen before you speak. Here are some tips that will help –

Choosing the right words

Vocabulary is your biggest asset when it comes to effective communication. A skillful painter knows which paintbrush is going to create which effect. As a person you must know which words are going to create what kind of impact.

A great example of this is the usage of slang during office communication. What might sound funny to you in slang might be sound offensive to someone else. Try to avoid it as much possible. Also, using office jargons while communicating with clients can confuse them. No one is going to understand your office jargons out of work. Try to keep it simple and effective.

Choosing appropriate, and meaningful words to put forward your point of view is the best way to become an effective communicator.

Choosing the right tone

The right words said in the wrong manner can do more damage than anything. A slight change in speaking tone can change the meaning of what you’ve said. Effective communication is all about the way you are able to weave your emotions into words. So that they can have a greater impact.

For instance, an excitement in the tone on receiving positive feedback from client can make the day for the team. But at the same time if you as a manager convey that message in a disinterested tone, no one in the team is going to enjoy and work with enthusiasm on the project than.

That’s just one of the so many examples of how communication can make a difference at work.

Choosing the right gestures

The biggest myth about communication is that it involves only words coming from a person. Your gestures are as big a part of communication as are the words you speak. For instance, you can use your hands to show what you are trying to say in a better way.

Keeping eye contact with the other person or persons while speaking reflects confidence. We all have met people whose eyes are looking around in a constant manner. The instant thought comes to our mind this person is not confident about what he’s trying to say here.

Remember effective communication involves not just your words. But hand gestures, sitting postures, eye and body movements and lot more. Check out this amazing post on how our gestures play role in effective communication.

Try these tips and get ready to see a positive change in your communication abilities at work!

And if you are a project manager looking to become a master at office communication, then this post is definitely worth a read –

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