Talk To Me

Communication reveals and often challenges our most cherished values.  Some of us value, above all things, the absence of discord among friends and coworkers.  For others, the most important value is fairness, and those who are passionate about fairness might be willing to risk a difficult conversation to achieve it.

We all bring our own set of values to the workplace, which, in turn, has its own culture and values.  As such, most of us have a daily opportunity to communicate positively and constructively with those who may not see the world or a given situation precisely as we do.

Some of these conversations, such as those that include constructive feedback, can feel daunting.  The great news is that these conversations do not need to be unfriendly or confrontational.

Last Wednesday at Volunteer Maryland In-Service Training, we learned about several models for providing constructive feedback.  One is the Feedback Sandwich,  and another is the DESC (Describe, Express, Specify, Consequence) model.  The feedback sandwich can be described as gentle coaching sandwiched between a compliment and a few encouraging words.  It’s designed to incorporate what could be interpreted as harsh criticism into a bigger chunk of feedback, most of which is sincerely positive and all of which is sincerely constructive.

Similarly, the DESC model, with its neutral language that focuses on detailed information about an action and its consequences, provides the opportunity to solve a problem rather than place blame.

As I have supported the Volunteer Maryland Class 25 members through the first few months of their service year, I have witnessed many of them honing this all important professional and life skill:  Solving problems without placing blame.  Whether it is spotlighting volunteers in an internal newsletter to inspire staff to implement volunteer programs in their departments, or improving the experiences of volunteers to make sure they keep coming back, VMCs have done an amazing job of communicating in a way that solves problems and strengthens their programs.

In the wise words of Patricia Barger, Community Services Manager and Site Supervisor to Connie Pulliam at The Family Tree, “We don’t need to have a problem; we just need to have a conversation.”

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