Tuesday, December 27, 2011

how we say what we say is as important as what we say

(excerpted from an interview with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, author of Infants and Mothers, by Harvard Magazine): "How did you come to understand that how doctors communicate was just as important as what they communicate?

I learned very early that if you tell somebody what to do, they withdraw, set up defenses, and don’t listen. If you wait until the patient finally says to you, “What do you think?” then you have permission to answer their question and say, “What would you like to know from me?” Then they take control and tell you what they need. Waiting for this moment is the hardest thing to do in medicine, because we think it’s going to take a lot of time. The truth is, it takes less time than you’d think. I found, in my own practice, that if I spent an hour in the first two or three visits with patients, then it would never take me more than five or six minutes from then on for each visit. So in spending time at first, I’d cut down on what it took later on."

Managers, leaders, parents -- I'll assume that if you're reading this, you are asking me, "what do you think?" I am answering: listen to Dr. Brazelton! What is true for a doctor with his patient is true for a leader and his team. Build the relationship. Avoid giving advice unless asked. Take the time up front to coach.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What do you deserve?

Because we don't have a working television, I don't watch much, so when I recently spent 4 nights in a hotel with a million channels, I watched what is for me a year's worth. I found I was riveted more by the commercials than by the shows. Who knew there were so many things out there we need! Now!

What has struck me recently is how often the word, "deserve" is used, as in: "you deserve this" or "you deserve the best".

So, what makes any of us deserve any specific thing -- be it a new car or a life hardship? The word "deserve" connotes worth and merit. One who deserves a thing is entitled to that thing. To what are we entitled?

While the vacations and cars were benign, the most egregious of these was a commercial showing a person drinking too much, getting arrested for drunk driving, and hiring the advertised lawyers because he "deserves the best legal team." He does? He could have killed someone. Yes, he is owed a trained lawyer for his money, but what has he done to "deserve the best"? In fact, couldn’t we argue that he doesn’t deserve the best?

People complain a great deal that the current college-age generation acts like it is entitled. These students are more likely to complain about an A- or a B+ than students from years past; they ask for lightened homework and delays in due dates. Maybe they've been influenced by the near-constant advertising message that they are deserving.

Yesterday, a group of girls in the Barnes & Noble bathroom were commiserating (loudly) with their friend who's father had insisted that the puppy he'd given her for her birthday also counted as her Christmas present. "That's unfair," protested one friend. "You deserve a birthday present and a Christmas present."

I held my tongue but wondered if the father could count the puppy’s future veterinarian bills as this year's Christmas present: doesn't he deserve credit for that expense?

My in-laws asked how much I earned and upon hearing the (paltry) sum, gasped and my mother-in-law exclaimed, "But you deserve so much more!"

"I do?" I asked, grinning at how much like a recent ad she seemed.

"Of course," she said. "And soon you will earn so much more. Why, they'll pay you twice that when they see what you've done."

Given that I've asked for and been denied a raise in the last 6 months (“you’re an exceptional instructor but you’re earning at the top of the pay range”), a doubling of salary is as likely as a trip to the moon.

How often do people use that phrase with you: you deserve more / better? Does it leave you feeling dissatisfied with something when previously you were not?

Do we not need to merit something to deserve it -- have these two concepts been divorced of each other?

What does society or life owe us? What have we merited?