Archive | January, 2014

How Do You Know If A Communication Coach Will Benefit Your Company?

30 Jan

Hopefully, these simple questions will give you the answer:

  1. Do you need your employees, at all levels, to communicate and interact with each other, their managers, your clients and/or customers, etc., in a manner that is well received, professional and most productive? Will your business suffer if they don’t? Will it thrive even more if they do?
  2. Do you agree that for many people, great workplace communication and interpersonal skills do not come naturally, i.e., they are not intuitive, and therefore need to be learned, practiced and ultimately embedded?
  3. Can you name particular employees, and/or do you have a strong sense that there are people within your company, including new employees, managers and/or others who you feel have incredible leadership potential, who would benefit greatly from assistance with their communication and interpersonal practices with clients, customers, coworkers, others?

If your answer is YES to all of the questions above, then please continue reading.

  1. Do your managers and/or other senior employees know how to coach their employees on the various skills, knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, etc., that are required for effective workplace communication and interactions?
  2. Let’s say some of your managers and/or other senior staff already possess great communication and interpersonal skills and also happen to know how to coach their employees in this area. Do you want your prized, perhaps highest paid employees spending time away from their work to provide this type of time-intensive coaching?

If your answer is NO to one or both of the questions above, then it is a wise investment of your company’s resources to hire a communication and soft skills expert to work with your employees. There is no limit to the types of companies, and types of positions within a given company that will benefit, e.g., IT, retail, healthcare, life sciences, law firms, management consulting firms, senior management, new hires, sales associates and managers; etc.

An important final note:

Please don’t waste your resources sending your employees to one-time, large-group trainings if you are not going to follow-up with hands-on individual and/or small-group coaching. At best, your employees will walk away from a large-scale, generic training with some knowledge of what is needed to be a great communicator, but knowledge alone does not change behaviors, attitudes, etc. Hands-on, individualized (as well as some small group) coaching that includes personalized, candid feedback and reinforcement is essential for employees to translate knowledge into practice, and to integrate their new behaviors, thought patterns, etc. into their overall professional persona and performance on a permanent basis.

I am a communication and interpersonal skills consultant who works with employees at all different levels, in many different industries. If you think some coaching would be helpful, please feel free to send me an email at daragoldberg@ymail.com  

The #1 Reason Doctors Should Be Concerned About Their Communication Skills

29 Jan

As a consumer of healthcare in the United States, and a professional in the field of communication skills development, I was thrilled to find an article in the Wall Street Journal called The Talking Cure for Health Care, which highlights the growing attention being given to a critical issue in healthcare: The need for doctors to possess stellar communication, listening and interpersonal skills with their patients.

The article draws on findings from studies and input from experts in communication skills development for physicians, such as Adrienne Boissy, Director of the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication at Cleveland Clinic, and Leslie Hall, Interim Dean of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, that shed light on the negative impact of poor doctor-patient communication and interactions:

  1. It hurts the quality of care and directly impacts patient outcomes.
  2. It drives up the costs of care.
  3. It increases the risk of lawsuits.

As the article notes, further driving the medical community’s growing interest in improving doctors’ ‘bedside manner’ with patients are new rules under the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) that tie compensation to patient outcomes; under the ACA, the Federal Medicare Program will withhold payments to hospitals that receive poor results on the now-required patient-satisfaction surveys and/or have too many preventable readmissions. By the same token, hospitals can avoid cuts and stand to earn additional payments if they perform well on patient-satisfaction surveys.

While all of these factors make a great case for significantly increasing the emphasis on doctors’ communication, listening and other interpersonal skills with their patients, the single most important reason that doctors (and the medical community as a whole) should be concerned about ‘bedside manner’ must not be overlooked:

It is the right thing to do.

Of course, making money and avoiding lawsuits is critical; abiding by the new ACA rules really matters; and career advancement is understandably a key priority for physicians. If the likelihood of achieving these business priorities increases with a greater emphasis on doctors’ communication, listening and other interpersonal skills with their patients, then that’s great for all of us. But, let us not lose sight of the fact that the greatest driving force behind our efforts to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship should always be a genuine, humane concern for the person in need of medical care. 

Clearly and thoughtfully communicating with people; treating them with respect and compassion; reading their non-verbal cues; ensuring the capacity to reflect on our own behavior; active listening; etc., are all so essential because they are, quite simply, what people need and what they deserve. It is these qualities and so many others that, when all combined, make a physician a consummate professional and, sappy as it may sound, a good human being.

It is not enough for hospitals and physicians to embrace the importance and engage in communication and other soft skills development programs solely as a necessary action to avoid financial loss and increase financial gain. Physicians need to view exceptional communication and interpersonal skills as critical to their overall professional persona, as a core part of their personal code of ethics and standards for exemplary care.

The good news is that there are so many physicians, newcomers and longtime professionals alike, who already feel this way; they treat their patient as their most important stakeholder and make tending to that relationship a top priority. Also exciting is the growing number of universities that are offering high quality communication skills training programs for medical students and practicing physicians, with the University of Missouri and the Cleveland Clinic among the leaders in this area.

My hope is that this greater focus on physicians’ soft skills and the quality of the doctor-patient relationship is not simply a short-term trend in response to the current business model for physician care, but rather a move towards a permanent, more people-sensitive shift in the provision of healthcare overall.