Psychologist John Gottman can observe a married couple for fifteen minutes and predict with 95 percent accuracy whether they will divorce within five years.
How does he do it? Body language? Eye contact? Whether or not they hold hands? Nope. He listens to what they say to each other, and then counts the ratio of positive to negative comments. That’s it. Couples with fewer than five positives for every negative are headed for disaster.
For a truly good marriage, the ratio needs to be 20 positive comments for every negative one.
Businesses are alot like marriages in this way. Focus on maintaining a good 5-to-1 ratio with customers and colleagues, or disaster looms. And if you want truly great relationships in your business—and who doesn’t?—aim even higher, How about 20-to-1!
Gossip is the mother lode of dysfunctional behaviors—the worst poison in a workplace culture.
And it’s an epidemic. In a survey by the American Society for Training and Development, 85 percent of people admitted to gossiping in the workplace, and 21 percent reported gossiping frequently.
This crazy and dysfunctional behavior has been “normalized.”
In fact, a survey by Equisys found that the average employee spends 65 hours a year gossiping at the office. That’s a week and a half that’s completely non-productive. No, it’s worse than that—the average employee spends a week and a half each year actively undermining the health and productivity of the workplace!
There comes a time when we have to grow up, and that time is now. That means no spreading gossip and no listening to gossip. Commit with every cell in your body NOT to participate.
If someone comes to you speaking negatively about another person, it is your ethical obligation to say something like, “I can see you’re concerned. Let’s get a productive result here. Let’s go together right now to talk to Janet and make sure you hear each other’s concerns so something changes.”
Now THAT’S a healthy agreement.
David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge, makes a powerful case against the apology. Well, that’s not exactly right. He makes a case against apologies that are really just lies, which is most of them.
When someone drops the ball and says, “Sorry about that!”, it’s usually just something to say. Most of the time it doesn’t literally mean, “I regret that I did that, and I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” It’s just the thing people say to get past an awkward moment.
If we accept that response in ourselves or in others, we normalize the lying apology. We get stuck in weak results, lose trust, and reduce our chance of a real breakthrough.
So the next time someone apologizes to you, go one step further to ask if their apology includes a massive commitment to fix the problem and avoid a recurrence. And if you’re the one apologizing, snap out of the automatic response. Make sure your apology has substance and meaning, and a massive corrective action plan to back it up.
You’ve probably heard the old joke about the man stopping a cabbie in New York to ask for directions. “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Sure,” said the cabbie. “Practice, practice, practice!”
Nice gag, but practice by itself in any field will not guarantee success. Practicing the right things in the right way will. Winners find the best of the best as their mentors and coaches and are relentless in applying and practicing the guidance they receive. The greatest artists, scientists, and athletes hook up with teachers that know more about the craft than anyone else, then they follow their advice.
The same thing applies to business. Don’t think that doing something over and over is enough to achieve mastery. Find people who’ve been there before who can tell you where to focus your attention and how to practice your skills. That’s the ticket to success that really works.
Have you seen the TV series Lie To Me? The main character is an expert in micro-expressions, including the subtle signs that someone is not telling the truth.
When it comes to disengagement at work, a lot of the same signs are in play, and you don’t have to be an expert to spot them. You just have to care enough to look for them.
When people are disengaged, they make eyes at others during meetings as if others can’t see it. The person playing with a pencil, not making eye contact, or even texting during a meeting is disengaged. They might stand off to the side after the meeting is over, speaking under their breath, or even leave early without permission.
Forbes columnist Kevin Kruse suggests an intervention as early as possible. Engage the disengaged person by asking for input or opinions during the meeting: “Michelle, how do you think we can approach this in the most effective way?”
If the person doesn’t snap out by the end of the meeting, have a quick chat right away: “I couldn’t help noticing that you seemed a little distracted during the meeting. Do you have any concerns about the way this is being done?”
This can be done no matter who you are. You don’t have to be the project leader to address disengagement, just a team member who cares.