ALA Chicago 2013 – Communicating with Confidence

Communicating with Confidence: One Year to Success: One Year to Success

Speakers: Catherine Hakala-Ausperk, Executive Director, Northeast Ohio Regional Library System and Marti Peden, President, Peden and Associates

Catherine shared that she was inspired by being an adult literacy volunteer and that the goal of her book “Be a great boss : one year to success” is to encourage others to follow Curtis’s example and commit to our own, ongoing learning.

Both Books – Be a great boss and Build a great team – emphasize “Read, exercise, application

“If you are a professional and you can’t find just one hour a week to ‘just think’ – you’re in trouble.”

Marti walked us through the First Lesson – Need accountability and commitment – put it on calendar (or I say make it a point to share the goal with the Board and report on it monthly)

Example: Difficult Conversation – Start by writing down pertinent details

Difficult people: Don’t listen | Saccarine sweet | butt in | behavior patterns (shotgun effect) | Anger shows 8 places on the face – eye roll, tension, gritted teeth, lowered eyebrows

When you are in the process of having a sensitive conversation – 3 Crucial Steps:

  1. Identify the goal you would like to achieve
  2. Separate your facts from stories
  3. Nail your start

Goal –

  • what are my intentions | What result am I after? | What relationship do I want? | What do I want to accomplish?
  • Write your goals for the discussion – Respect, good working relationship, trust, honesty
  • Conversations with peers are more difficult than with bosses/staff
  • If you hear, “I’m done.” – it means you spoke without respect
  • Respect is a continuance issue.
  • Goal suggestions: ‘just to talk and contribute’ – ‘overcome automatic defensiveness’ – Defensiveness is like armor and constraints/stumps communication – ‘foster buy in’ – ‘overcome ‘know-it-all’ tendencies’ (development goal on evaluation – ‘nail her on that part, OK?’) Give them time to think of goal, put it in writing, follow up – don’t let them off the hook.
  • Put the goal on an index card – to hold yourself accountable.

Do you know what makes people stop arguing?

Empathy” (Use it on your spouse). What’s empathy? Feeling what the other person is feeling – acknowledge what the other person is feeling. Put yourself in their shoes. State or acknowledge what the other person is feeling, “I can appreciate that this is a stressful situation.” “I can appreciate how frustrating it is when you need…and you are not getting the support you need” (Anger always a secondary emotion – shame, frustration, fear, etc.) Anger is best dealt with by also letting the person go first. Every story starts with A and goes to Z and if you interrupt them at P? They go back to A. Listen. Empathy.

How do you determine where they are coming from?

Let the person go first and maybe they’ll tell you. Best move is to let them go first. Be specific. “I’d like to talk about = Last Friday around 3 pm at the copy machine, there was a difficulty that happened. What do you think?”

Verbal Judo – Security are trained – redirection of difficult situations – using empathy

How to begin the conversation when the person is defensive.

  • Facts versus Stories
    • Facts are visible, audible, verifiable information
    • These are external to your brain
    • Describe behaviors: “rolling eye balls, voice tone, clenching”
    • Lead with facts, “you argue” is a judgment
    • Re-read your written description of the problem and underline the ‘pure facts.’
    • “you are not showing up for meetings.” good, not “we have communication issues” is a judgment
    • “you close your eyes at meetings.” – the person who doesn’t speak up at meetings
    • “staff member says ‘whatcha want?’ when patrons come to the desk” – tape them on the cell phone (might not be legal, so do role play) How they sound / how it looks like – must be seen.
    • “Go to the exact words when dealing with sarcasm – it’s a tone – so start with the words and get into the tone later.”
    • 93% of message is tone and body language
    • Focus on the effect of the sarcasm – how it was interpreted by the patron – the reaction is seen/heard – then ask, “what do you think about this?”
    • Stories:
    • judgments, interpretations, assumptions or conclusions we make from the facts
    • These are internal to our brain
    • Write out the conversation, underline the facts, start the conversation with those.

Nail Your Start

  • The beginning is a big opportunity
  • Start indicates whether you are there to argue or discuss
  • Signal your intentions

If you think they’re going to get defensive, then start by letting them know you have positive intensions (signal your intensions). “I want to give constructive feedback” – I want you to be successful. “I want to go over a few things that I think will help you be more successful.”

How much good you can do in the first 15 seconds – are you here to tell me off? Where are we going with this? “I really value our relationship, I want to go over a few things that may make it go even better.


  • Goal is a big deal. Underline your facts and start safe.
  • Signal your intentions.
  • How do you control your own tone? Start with facts and your tone doesn’t go off.
  • Discipline – “open face sandwich” – get to the positives after. Tough first, nice second.
  • Recipient may be glaring at you.
  • Redirect – “this may be totally fair in terms of overall performance because I’ve not covered the good things that you do.” Talk about the positives when they’ll actually listen to it.

Self-Paced Learning

  • Chart the way to develop better communication style over a year.
  • Wet our appetite that if you focus on something for just one our a week, you can make a difference.
  • What about next week? | How can you fill that hour? | Start with an even dozen (categories)
  • FREE UP THAT HOUR – think and develop and do your job better as a result
  • 12 = a different category for each month. Brainstorm the various key topics to year of learning for communication. Introducing change, budget present, speaking, staff meetings, interviews, evals, emails, coaching, recommendations, discipline, etc.
  • Modeling development to entire staff as you do this.
  • Design a plan – every month, consider each topic 4 ways. 4 questions you ask every week
  • Articles, talk to colleagues, find mentors, build relationships, ‘goldmine of information’
  • Take notes, take time, be concrete

Example topic: Discipline

  1. What do I do really well? – research, articles, ‘appreciative leadership’ topic, for example
  2. What do I do not so well? – Goal setting and supporting the achievement of goals (for example)
  3. What’s new? – read blogs, management and HR blogs, exposure to new ideas (TedTalks)
  4. What can I do now? – how can you make it matter to work? Apply what you’ve learned. Brag a bit

Stay committed to the project – get through one year – privilege and a challenge to supervise other people, so we h need to give them the very best we have to offer

Spend so much time with our colleagues, what can we do to make this the best environment possible?

Learn about Empathy

Getting to Yes, Good to Great – continual ongoing commitment to learning (break up the book).

Q & A

  • Signal positive intention – ‘not going to get yelled at’ – no email for conflict. “I really like working with you, just want to go over a couple of things that will make it better.
  • Nasty Disparaging comments – have a meeting to bring parties together with a mediator or a facilitator – Friends v. Board, for example.
  • How do you incorporate feelings into the conversation? Quit taking it personally!
    • Library, goals of the library, professional reflection on what you are there to do.
  • It’s all hear-say…what do you do? You have to watch and learn – hang and observe

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