Thursday, January 10, 2013

Being Blunt: The Art of Being Helpful, Not Hurtful

We would all love to be considered completely honest communicators.  It feels good to be transparent, straightforward; someone who says what they feel, and tells it like it is.  But, sometimes that is hard to do effectively, without hurting the other person.  That’s why people often refer to it as being “brutally honest.”

The recipients of our opinions, our wisdom and advice, don’t want us to “should” on them.  They don’t want to be bruised by our words.  And why do we dispense these opinions, often without being asked?  A few people might do it for gratification of their own ego (those are the ones that come across as brutal), but most people have good intentions – we see something the other person doesn’t see; we know how they could do something better; we want them to have a happier/more productive life.  The key is to do this selflessly – for the betterment of the other person.

There is an art to being blunt and always helpful.  I asked someone who is really good at it – a co-worker who can be blunt and never hurtful; who can dispense advice in a way that I can receive comfortably, and in a way that is useful to me.  Here’s what I learned:

Empathy:  Bluntness requires that you genuinely care about the other person, and what will happen if you speak up.  Empathy is not sympathy, not the same as feeling sorry for someone.  It comes from a standpoint of equality and collaboration: being on the same side; wanting the same outcome; and not being hierarchical (one up / one down).

Reflective Listening:  Good listening in general follows the “two ears, one mouth” principle.  A good advisor will be talking a mere fraction of the time, and mostly listening.  Also, it is very helpful to repeat what you’ve heard, to ensure you understand what you are commenting on, before you pontificate.

Selectivity:  Pick your moments.  Don’t comment/advise on everything.  Wait until the issue is something on which you really can have an impact, and make sure the other person will be really receptive.

Affirmation / Validation: Enable the other person to hold their feelings securely.  Validate your understanding of where they are coming from.  Affirm the value of a successful outcome.  This is key in avoiding “shoulds.”

Tailoring the Message: Most importantly is communicating in a way that is meaningful to the other person.  Do they deal well with ambiguity and subtlety, or do they need to hear things in a concrete, specific way?  Can you be instructive in what you say, or is it better to “what-if” with them, and let them verbalize the solution (your suggested solution) themselves?  If you are close enough to the individual to be giving opinions and advice, the odds are, you already know how the person will best receive your information.  The art of bluntness requires that you express things from their point of view, from their style of learning, not necessarily your own.

For many years, I thought I was the only one who knew what was right for me.  By experiencing bluntness delivered exceptionally well, I’ve been able to open up and hear more from others.  I’m still far from perfect in delivering blunt communication – I often sound more judgmental than I want to be or even than I feel.  So tone is important too.

This is a skill I’m still working on, and I thought some of our readers might appreciate what I’ve been learning on my journey.

Now be nice!  (Too blunt?)

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 11:39 AM

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Possibilities

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  There are some interesting articles today about what might happen if the fiscal cliff in fact occurs.  Of course, we all harbor hope that Congress and the President will reach agreement.  Obama is in fact on his way to Washington from his Hawaiian holiday vacation, to see if he can negotiate a deal by week’s end.

In reading these articles, it becomes apparent that the fiscal cliff might not be sudden or economy-threatening, at least not to the extent we may fear.  There is the possibility of a soft landing – dates could be extended.  An agreement could be reached after 12/31.  The IRS is not even directing employers to change withholding yet.

Take a look at what might happen in the articles on CNN/Money, and Yahoo Finance (AP Article).

I’m betting that a deal is reached, and hoping that we don’t have a belated apocalypse (having averted the Mayan 12/21 prophecy).

Best wishes for a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.  Happy New Year.


Posted by Mark Bregman at 3:11 PM

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Mixer Links Aero Leaders

Once again, the annual BOB Search Holiday Mixer, co-hosted with Janes Capital Partners, was a huge success.  The elegant event, held at the Pacific Club, brings together leaders from Aerospace companies to network and celebrate the holidays.  As the OC Executive Magazine puts it: “The Stars of SoCal’s Aerospace Industry Shine at Holiday Party”.

Michael Boyle of BOB Search, and Steve Perry of Janes Capital

People talked about the budget, looming sequestration possibilities, but mostly were there to get acquainted, exchange info on their companies, products, roles, etc., and look for new business opportunities. The event is so well appreciated and anticipated, some execs from more remote companies work their travel schedule around it, to be sure to attend.

If you are in leadership in an aerospace company, and you want to be on our invite list for the annual holiday mixer and other aerospace executive networking events during the year, please let us know.  The more the merrier.  Ho-ho-ho!  Happy holidays!

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 2:25 PM

Friday, October 12, 2012

Your Body Language Says What You Think and Feel

Last night’s Vice Presidential debate had as much to do with body language as content.  We were treated to a split screen at all times, so we could see the reaction of the person NOT speaking as much as observe the person who was speaking.

Pundits had a lot to say about Joe Biden’s incredulous looks, smiles, laughs, shrugs, eye-rolls, etc., but you must admit, if he didn’t do any of that, it would have been far less entertaining.  Rep. Ryan had all he could handle to maintain his cool, his gravitas and not appear flustered.  I got a little tired of counting the wrinkles on his furrowed brow, and I worried if his back would hurt from hunching his shoulders.  The power of all that body language had a significant impact on your perception of the debate, no matter who you support.

Same thing is happening every day in business!  Sit around a conference table, and watch your fellow meeting attendees, and you can hardly concentrate on what is being said, because there is so much going on for the people listening!  Arms across chests, scowls, eye-rolls, smirks, shrugs, tapping fingers, eye lids closing, harrumphs of protest.  Our bodies and faces are a veritable stage show for others.  You usually know how others feel even if they don’t say anything.

This applies to interviews as well.  Both the interviewer and interviewee are letting each other know how they feel.  Is the interviewer leaning back, or on the edge of his seat?  Eyebrows relaxed, or contracted?  Mouth tightened or smiling?  Of course, our body language is also heavily related to our inner experience as well as being responsive to the words and actions of others.  Interviewers can be as nervous as interviewees, and this can be reflected in the way they sit and the expression on their face.

If it comes naturally for you, try mirroring others in your next meeting or interview.  It increases rapport! If the other person is leaning back, lean back.  Even tilting your body in the chair in a similar manner can be perceived unconsciously as alignment.  If the other person speaks more slowly or more quickly than you do, try to match their pace.  People who are able to use mirroring are almost always more popular.

The author of this recent article Your Body Language Speaks for You in Meetings (in the Harvard Business Review) could not have anticipated that Joe Biden would reinforce his theories, but he correctly points out that most of us are not that aware of how we look to others.  I’m sure we will all be watching Obama and Romney even more carefully next week!

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 4:15 PM

Friday, October 12, 2012

BOB Search at Miramar Air Show

The BOB Team: Nick, Kaitlyn, Amanda and Michael

BOB Search is co-hosting a chalet today at MCAS Miramar Air Show.  The theme for the 2012 show is
“Marines in Flight: Celebrating 50 Years of Space Exploration.”

Guests will be enjoying a thrilling show highlighted by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, plus an amazing line up of military and civilian performers, including the F-22 Raptor, AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and vintage aircraft.

Live ordnance drops create an extra thrill!

At our Chalet on the flight line, guests will enjoy refreshments and mingle with other top executives from our aerospace client companies.  The flight line will also feature static displays, including past and present military equipment exhibits, and air show memorabilia.

We are pleased to be co-hosting this exciting day with Janes Capital Partners and Sheppard Mullin.

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 2:06 PM