Handle Tough Convos via E-mail like a Pro

by Joseph Grenny

When email was novel 20 years ago, managers began asking us if it should be used for sensitive conversations, such as performance problems or salary negotiations. For years we said “no way.” But as work became more and more virtual, the question changed. People no longer asked, “Should I?” Instead, they demanded, “How can I?”

So our stance has changed too, in large part because we identified people who seemed to be able to raise risky issues in remarkably effective ways over email.

While you should still limit its use for sensitive communication, there are best practices that allow you to benefit from email’s efficiency without suffering much from its constraints. But before you do, ask yourself: “Can I do this well without email-logoseeing her face—and without her seeing mine?”

This is because faces matter. A lot. They are the primary tool we use for discerning the intentions of those around us. Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske finds that our primal programming urges us to assess any being that enters our visual neighborhood. The two questions we involuntarily ask are: Do they intend me harm? and Could they carry it out? We make these judgments largely by reading nuances in faces.

How tools are changing the way we manage, learn, and get things done.

Not only do we use faces to gather information, but looking others in the eye also causes us to behave more ethically and empathetically. When someone is out of sight, they are much more out of mind. Have you ever been insensitive to someone in traffic then craned your neck in desperation to avoid eye contact when your victim pulled beside you at the next stoplight? Have you suffered the humiliation of saying something negative about a colleague only to discover she was standing behind you? Have you ever said something in writing that you would never have said in person?

Sure, I have a few relationships where I can text almost anything and get away with it, even something terse like, “Your last report was light on facts.” I can do this because, in these rare instances, if their face puckers up in some unpleasant way, they’ll tell me. They know me well enough that they can imagine the face I had on when I wrote it (curious, but not angry), and if they doubt the mental picture they have of me, they’ll ask.

But these are rare relationships because we tend to trust visual data more than verbal. If someone says, “No, I’m not angry at you,” but their lip is twitching while they say it, we believe the lip not the words that passed over it.

This is problematic in virtual conversations because the massive mental resources that would ordinarily be occupied with scanning a face have nothing to see, so we make it up. We might read the words, “Your last report was light on facts” and imagine your face filled with disdain and your lip curled into a snarl.

In the absence of the accountability and trust that seeing someone’s face promotes, you have to be especially careful. Here are four rules to keep in mind:

Match your history to the bandwidth. If you have enough of a history with a person to accurately predict their reaction to the communication, you can try having the conversation over email. If you don’t know the person well, then you’ll have to bump up the bandwidth of your connection with them. Being in the room would be best. Connecting visually with video conferencing or Skype might give you sufficient visual data.

State your intent before content. You can often head off defensive reactions by opening with statements that clearly communicate your good intentions – or even your fears about your colleague’s potential misunderstanding of your intentions. For example, you might say, “I have concerns I want to express about the Bangalore team. I want to describe them – but I worry you may think I am trying to take the work to Dublin. I am not. I just want our customer to get the best we have to offer. May I describe my concerns?”

Write your email twice. Write the first time for content – get your message across honestly. Then read it slowly, imagining the other person’s face. This will humanize them for you and help you avoid minimizing the strong possibility they will construe something differently than what you intended. Try to put yourself in the other person’s chair and think about how they might feel at each point in your message. Then re-write it with safety in mind. Don’t compromise the content by sugarcoating it or watering it down. Rather, notice those places they may misread your intentions and clarify what you do and don’t want them to hear from you (or see on your face). For example, you might have written, “On the last three software releases the Bangalore testing team has missed 71 errors.” You imagine their faces as they read it – so you add: “I have no question about the Bangalore team’s desire to perform. And yet…” In less formal relationships, we’ve seen skillful communicators even describe the facial expression they are wearing as they write something to help control others’ interpretation.

If you feel triggered (or they seem triggered), bump up the bandwidth. The instant you read emotion in their response, or feel it yourself — change mediums. Even a phone call lets you hear nuances in tone, silences, and other data that help you address emotions. Skype or video conferencing gives you even more information. The temptation when emotions flare is to hunker down and respond from the self-deceptive safety of email. But don’t deceive yourself. It things are going badly with email, they never get better by continuing that way.

It is possible to handle sensitive topics without the benefit of seeing faces, so long as you can accurately imagine them, and discipline yourself to respond to those imagined cues. When it becomes clear either your imagination or interventions are insufficient, make visual contact as soon as possible.

Joseph Grenny is a four-time New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance. His work has been translated into 28 languages, is available in 36 countries, and has generated results for 300 of the Fortune 500. He is the cofounder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and leadership development.

Boardroom Etiquette

By Patricia Lenkov

Could your Community Association volunteers benefit from these boardroom manners?

Emily Post is one of the best known experts on etiquette and manners. But there are countless others providing advice on how to behave. There are trainings, books and a myriad of articles on business etiquette, social etiquette and manners of all types.

This guidance tends however, to end outside the boardroom doors. Perhaps, we assume that by definition board directors have reached the pinnacle of business and as such have their manners down pat. Think again. Discerning board directors, like many others in positions of power and influence, need to regularly check in with themselves and measure their awareness of and adherence to the following basic boardroom manners:

1. Don’t be late

Board meetings typically have an agenda packed from beginning to end. There are presentations to be made and decisions to be reflected upon. It is simply bad form to show up late. Late not only refers to the beginning of the meeting, but post breaks for lunch and other refresh activities. Aside from the disruption that one late director can cause, this behavior sends a message of discourtesy to the others in the boardroom.

2. Curb the online correspondence

We have all seen the signs: fervent downward glances, subtle finger movements and most obvious, a lack of engagement in the conversation. To preempt this, some boards have begun requesting that smartphones be left outside the boardroom. We should be able to control our impulse to look at our inbox every 90 seconds even if there is a lull or the meeting veers into the mundane. Directors come together for a very short time period and if everyone is distracted by their online correspondence the effectiveness of the meeting decreases exponentially.

3. Do not monopolize the conversation (a.k.a. let others participate)

I have been repeatedly told stories of the director who hijacks the conversation at every turn. Yes, this must be managed by the Chairperson or Lead Director but it can be fraught with challenge. It requires an enormous amount of diplomacy and tact to redirect a conversation without alienating anyone.

Monopolized conversations can be especially difficult for a director newly joining the team. It takes time and experience to understand the company, industry and nuances of the board. Add to this a fellow director with a need to commandeer the conversation and the challenge to integrate and effectively participate becomes almost insurmountable.

4. Don’t interrupt

We may know exactly where the person is going in their thought. We may have reached the end of their sentence 30 seconds ago. We may be impatient to move the conversation along or even in the different direction. Nevertheless, don’t interrupt the speaker. Give him or her the courtesy of finishing their sentence or train of thought. We all process our ideas in different and unique ways and being gracious enough to let a speaker finish can lead to all sorts of learning and new insights. P.S. you may be wrong about where they were heading anyway!

5. Come prepared

Read and even reread all materials sent to you prior to the board meeting. Reflect and formulate your thoughts and appropriate questions. Your input will only be as good as the groundwork you created. As a board director one of your primary fiduciary duties is the “Duty of Care.” This refers to the idea that directors must act in a prudent and informed manner. You cannot do this if you don’t prepare. It is central to your responsibility as a board director not to mention good manners in that you can aptly participate in the conversation.

These five boardroom manners are about as elemental as possible. They are also indispensable to your work as a board director. Actually, these behaviors are recommended and appropriate to almost any type of business meeting. So, practice them regularly and when the time comes to join a new board you will be way ahead with many less things to worry about. And that is when the real work can begin!

CMCA Recieves Re-Accreditation

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) re-accredited CAMICB’s CMCA credential for a five-year period during its recent meeting.

Founded in 1995, CAMICB is a professional certification organization acting in the public interest by establishing and enforcing education, examination, experience and ethics requirements for certification. Currently, almost 15,000 individuals are certified to use the CMCA certification. The CMCA first received NCCA accreditation in 2010.

CAMICB received renewal of NCCA accreditation of theNCCA_accredited program logo FINAL CMCA program by submitting an application demonstrating the program’s compliance with the NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (formerly the National Organization for Competency Assurance). Since 1977, the NCCA has been accrediting certifying programs based on the highest quality standards in professional certification to ensure the programs adhere to modern standards of practice in the certification industry. To view the standards visit http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/ncca/ncca.htm.

There are 254 NCCA accredited programs that certify individuals in a wide range of professions and occupations including nurses, financial professionals, respiratory therapists, counselors, emergency technicians, crane operators and more. Of ICE’s more than 330 organizational members, over 100 of them have accredited programs.

ICE’s mission is to advance credentialing through education, standards, research, and advocacy to ensure competence across professions and occupations. NCCA was founded as a commission whose mission is to help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public through the accreditation of a variety of certification programs that assess professional competence. NCCA uses a peer review process to: establish accreditation standards; evaluate compliance with these standards; recognize organizations/programs which demonstrate compliance; and serve as a resource on quality certification

Note from CAI

Are you coming to CAI’s Annual Conference?  CAMICB will be in attendance and we hope to see you there.  If you’re coming – Book your room now!

If you’re coming to the 2015 CAI Annual Conference and Exposition, April 29–May 2 at Caesars Palace Las Vegas—and we hope you are—there’s no time to delay! The MGM Grand is hosting an historic boxing match May 2 between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. The fight is predicted to be the most watched in the history of boxing and the most wagered in the history of sports. Thousands of visitors (including VIPs) will be flocking to Las Vegas for the event. In addition to a stellar conference, it will be an exciting time to be in Las Vegas. Register and reserve your room today. Call Caesars Palace at (866) 227-5944 and identify yourself as a CAI Annual Conference attendee.

If you’re interested in learning more about the conference, check out this video.

In the News: VA Passes Homeowners Bill of Rights

By Antonio Olivo

Homeowners Bill of Rights legislation unanimously passes Virginia house

Legislation protecting property owners from overzealous homeowners associations passed the Virginia House of Delegates unanimously Thursday, action that sends it to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) desk for approval.

State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), sponsor of the bill known as the “Homeowners’ Bill of Rights,” which sailed through the Senate last month, said the legislation puts into one place measures that are already available to Virginia property owners through various state statutes and court rulings.

Among them are the right to inspect all books and records kept by a homeowners’ association, the right to due process during a dispute with an HOA and the right to cast a vote on matters affecting one’s neighborhood.

Petersen said he pursued the legislation after receiving complaints from homeowners who were caught up in fights with homeowners’ associations that appeared to be over-aggressively enforcing their covenants.

“Homeowners’ associations have really become the newest form of government, particularly in Northern Virginia,” Petersen said. “I don’t see why someone living in any community should give up their rights. They should have the right to participate in how it’s governed. They’re paying dues. It’s their money.”

Perhaps surprisingly given the heated nature of some disputes related to homeowners associations in Virginia, the bill had no opposition.

Bill Barfield, a vice president of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations, agreed that some homeowners’ groups that are part of the umbrella organization are overly aggressive.

“For every color of the rainbow, there’s an HOA with its own internal problems,” said Barfield, noting that they arise because the groups are usually run by a small group of volunteers while other members choose not to participate. “Perhaps every citizens’ association or HOA should have more turnover in its officers and board.”

Flora Nicholas, a resident of Reston, said her local homeowners’ association unfairly fined her for what she described as fabricated violations after she and her neighbors complained about how the Reston Association handled another complaint.

“It’s a horror story,” said Nicholas, who said she had liens placed on her house totaling about $1,000 for citations she received about her house gutters and other problems.

Cate Fulkerson, chief executive officer of the Reston Association, declined to discuss that case.

But, she said, her organization is in favor of the “Bill of Rights” legislation.

“Providing our members with a fair hearing and an opportunity to have the rules given to them and have them understand them is in­cred­ibly important to us,” Fulkerson said.

New Year – New Board!

The CAMICB Board of Commissioners will be having their first meeting of 2015 next week.  The new year brings new Commissioners to the Board.  Our Commissioners come from diverse geographic locations and backgrounds representing industry and consumer interests.  CAMICB is governed by a nine-member Board of Commissioners.

Officer elections took place in December 2014 and CAMICB would like to welcome Judy Rosen, CMCA, AMS, PCAM into the role of Board Chair.  Drew Mulhare, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM will step into the role of Vice Chair, while Ronald Duprey, CMCA, AMS, PCAM will retain his position as Secretary-Treasurer.

Board of Commissioners

  1. Judy Rosen, CMCA, AMS, PCAM (Chair)
  2. Dennis Abbott, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
  3. Marilyn Brainard
  4. Jeevan J. D’Mello, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM
  5. Ronald Duprey, CMCA, AMS, PCAM (Secretary-Treasurer)
  6. Kelly Moran, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
  7. Drew Mulhare, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM (Vice-Chair)
  8. Ronald Perl, Esquire
  9. Wendy Taylor, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM

CAMICB would like to thank Beverly Scenna and past Chair Robert Felix for the outstanding service to the organization and industry.

CAMICB would also like to congratulate Ms. Rosen on her recent award.  The Heartland Chapter of CAI presented a “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Judy Rosen for her more than 35 years of service to the industry.   Award presented by Patrick McClenahan, Chapter President, and Cathy Roth-Johnson, Chapter Executive Director.
judy

The Ideal Work Schedule…

rhythm…As Determined by Circadian Rhythms

By Christopher Barnes

Humans have a well-defined internal clock that shapes our energy levels throughout the day: our circadian process, which is often referred to as a circadian rhythm because it tends to be very regular. If you’ve ever had jetlag, then you know how persistent circadian rhythms can be. This natural — and hardwired — ebb and flow in our ability to feel alert or sleepy has important implications for you and your employees.

Although managers expect their employees to be at their best at all hours of the workday, it’s an unrealistic expectation. Employees may want to be their best at all hours, but their natural circadian rhythms will not always align with this desire. On average, after the workday begins, employees take a few hours to reach their peak levels of alertness and energy — and that peak does not last long. Not long after lunch, those levels begin to decline, hitting a low at around 3pm. We often blame this on lunch, but in reality this is just a natural part of the circadian process. After the 3pm dip, alertness tends to increase again until hitting a second peak at approximately 6pm. Following this, alertness tends to then decline for the rest of the evening and throughout the early morning hours until hitting the very lowest point at approximately 3:30am. After hitting that all-time low, alertness tends to increase for the rest of the morning until hitting the first peak shortly after noon the next day. A very large body of research highlights this pattern, although of course there is individual variability around that pattern, which I’ll discuss shortly.

Managers who want to maximize their employees’ performance should consider this circadian rhythm when setting assignments, deadlines, and expectations. This requires taking a realistic view of human energy regulation, and appreciating the fact that the same employee will be more effective at some times of the day than others. Similarly, employees should take their own circadian rhythms into account when planning their own day. The most important tasks should be conducted when people are at or near their peaks in alertness (within an hour or so of noon and 6pm). The least important tasks should be scheduled for times in which alertness is lower (very early in the morning, around 3pm, and late at night).

Naps can be a good way to regulate energy as well, providing some short-term recovery that can increase alertness. A large body of evidence links naps to increases in task performance. However, even tired and sleep-deprived employees may find it difficult to nap if they work against their circadian rhythms. Fortunately, there is a nice complementary fit; naps are best scheduled for the low point of alertness in the circadian rhythm. Thus, smart managers and employees will schedule naps around 3pm, when they are less useful for important tasks anyway, such that they will be even more alert later on during the natural high points in their circadian rhythm.

Unfortunately, we often get this wrong. Many employees are flooded with writing and responding to emails throughout their entire morning, which takes them up through lunch. They return from lunch having already used up most of their first peak in alertness, and then begin important tasks requiring deep cognitive processing just as they start to move toward the 3pm dip in alertness and energy. We often put employees in a position where they must meet an end-of-workday deadline, so they persist in this important task throughout the 3pm dip. Then, as they are starting to approach the second peak of alertness, the typical workday ends. For workaholics, they may simply take a dinner break, which occupies some of their peak alertness time, and then work throughout the evening and night as their alertness and cognitive performance decline for the entire duration. And in the worst-case scenario, the employee burns the midnight oil and persists well into the worst circadian dip of the entire cycle, with bleary eyes straining just to stay awake while working on an important task at 3:30am. All of these examples represent common mismatches between an optimal strategy and what people actually do.

As I briefly noted above, there are of course individual differences in circadian rhythms. The typical pattern is indeed very common, and the general shape of the curve describes almost everyone. However, some people have a circadian rhythm that is shifted in one direction or the other. People referred to as “larks” (or morning people) tend to have peaks and troughs in alertness that are earlier than the average person, and “owls” (or night owls) are shifted in the opposite direction. Most people tend to experience such shifts across their lifetimes, such that they are larks as very young children, owls as adolescents, and then larks again as they become senior citizens. But beyond this pattern, people of any age can be larks or owls.

These differences in circadian rhythms (referred to as chronotypes) present some challenges and some benefits. The biggest challenge is matching patterns of activity to individual circadian rhythms. A lark working a late schedule or an owl working an early schedule is a chronotype mismatch that is difficult to deal with. Such employees suffer low alertness and energy, struggling to stay awake even if they really care about the task. Some of my own research indicates that circadian mismatches increase the prevalence of unethical behavior, simply because victims lack the energy to resist temptations. This is bad enough for an employee who is working alone. In the context of groups, finding a good time for a team composed of some larks and some owls to be at optimal effectiveness may be difficult. However, it does also provide opportunities. For organizations or tasks that require around-the-clock work, if managers can optimally match employees with different chronotypes to work different shifts, the work can be handed off among employees who are all working at or near their circadian peaks. This requires knowing the chronotype of each employee and using that information when developing work schedules.

Flextime provides an opportunity for employees to match their work schedules to their own circadian rhythms. However, managers often destroy this opportunity to capture value by punishing employees for using schedules that match an owl’s rhythm. In my own research, I found that supervisors tend to assume that employees who start and finish work late (versus early) are less conscientious and lower in performance, even if their behavior and performance is exactly the same as someone working an early riser’s schedule. Managers must see past their own biases if they want to optimize schedules in order to match the most important activities to the natural energy cycles of employees. Managers who do this will have energized, thriving employees rather than sleepy, droopy employees struggling to stay awake. Your most important tasks deserve employees who are working when they’re at their best.

Christopher M. Barnes is an assistant professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. He worked in the Fatigue Countermeasures branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory before pursuing his PhD in Organizational Behavior at Michigan State University.

CMCA Recertification

CAMICB sent second reminder notices this week to individuals who need to recertify and/or pay their annual service fee by April 1, 2015. Here are a few helpful links:

A few things to note:

  1. It is the responsibility of each CMCA to provide documentation of their 16 hours of continuing education at the time of recertification. CAMICB does not track your CEs. If you took a class with CAI, please log into their website (caionline.org) to print out a certificate of completion.
  2. Only courses completed between April 1, 2013 and April 1, 2015 present will count as continuing education.
  3. If you have held an active AMS, PCAM, FL CAM, NV CAM or NAHC-RCM for at least a year, this will satisfy your CMCA continuing education requirement.
  4. Credit hours may be earned only for education that meets either of the following criteria: It pertains to community association operations or management and/or it contributes to the professional development of the CMCA.
  5. The CMCA Annual Service Fee is $105.00. Oftentimes this fee is confused with CAI’s individual manager membership. Recently, CAI increased the rate of the individual manager membership from $130.00 to $134.00. While CAMICB maintains an affiliate relationship with CAI, we are an independent credentialing body: separately incorporated, governed by an independent Board of Trustees, and guided in the administration of our program by the standards of our accrediting body, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. We are not a membership organization; we do not collect membership dues. We assess our credential holders an annual maintenance fee which is used to support the development and delivery of our core exam and the operation of our program in accordance with best practices in professional credentialing.

Roland Richardson, Certification Assistant, is happy to assist you with the recertification process. Contact Roland at rrichardson@camicb.org with any questions.

4 Magic Words to Improve Conversations

By Alex McClafferty

Choose your words wisely and you can save time, improve relationships and spark creativity.

Words are powerful, but often misused.

In this post, I’ll share four words to help you rapidly improve your conversations.

“Specifically”

The word specifically is kryptonite to jargon, buzzwords, and loose language.

You’re time-poor. Instead of dreading the next meeting that has no agenda, ask the organizer what specifically will be achieved from the discussion.

You can also use specifically to give feedback, challenge ambiguous statements, and drill down into the cause of a disagreement.

“No”

We’re wired to please people and default to yes instead of no.

Let’s say someone offers you an exciting opportunity, but you know in your heart that it’s not an ideal fit or the timing is wrong. Trust your instinct and be upfront by saying no, and then give a brief explanation of why it doesn’t work now and express your gratitude for the opportunity.

If you want to introduce no to your quiver and uncover the psychology of the word, read this introductory post by James Altucher–he wrote an entire book on the subject.

“What if…”

Kim Nicol, an attorney turned meditation and mindfulness coach, introduced me to this simple framework.

For example:

  • What if… I could find an investor for my startup?
  • What if… I could offer the best service in the world?
  • What if… I could believe in myself and take this idea all the way?

This phrase is great when you’re working through the “figuring it out” stage that we all find ourselves in.