Trail Safe Lesson 8 - Communications & Assertiveness

Ice Age National Scenic Trail


Hi welcome back. We're on the final list now. Communication service communication makes the operational leadership process work. This lesson links all the previous lessons together. It will allow you to work more effectively.

Our objectives in Lesson 8 are to describe the difference between passive aggressive and assertive behavior. Prepare and use an assertive statement prepare and present an effective briefing and prepare and present an effective debriefing or after action review.

Communication is the process of exchanging ideas through a common system of verbal and nonverbal symbols. Think for a moment about all the different ways you communicate with your fellow trail volunteers. Certainly there is face to face verbal communication during meetings and work events. Often we share written communication in the form of volunteer newsletters and emails about upcoming trail projects. Volunteers also communicate by phone texting and sometimes radio transmissions in the field. Even the blazes we paint on the trees and the trail signage we install our forms of

communication. Even with all the forms of communication we have available to us. Information can still be incomplete or misinterpreted. Studies show that words alone such as text or emails account for only 7 percent of a person's ability to fully understand a message. Vocal tone such as during a telephone conversation contributes another 38 percent to our overall understanding of what is being communicated to us. Believe it or not Body Language accounts for a full 55 percent of how we interpret information being presented

to us in other words. Communication is made up of 93 percent of things other than words alone with so much importance in the message coming from things other than just words. What are some potential barriers to effective communication that you can think of. There are many potential barriers to effective communication. The first and most important is the inability or reluctance of the receiver to be able to provide feedback or ask questions of the information center. How often have you been given instructions on what was expected of you to do and you

needed to ask questions and get clarification on some aspect of the task so that you felt comfortable knowing what was expected and could point out possible roadblocks to your success. Other barriers to communication can include things like age differences non assertive behavior which will discuss in more detail momentarily aggressive behavior which will also cover in more detail personal bias so-called rank or experience differences cultural differences organizational structure and so on.

Can you think of others.

There are three main styles of communication. There is the passive communication style where people operate from the viewpoint that their input doesn't count only the input from others is valid. There is the aggressive style of communication where people come from a position that only their input counts not input from others. And thirdly there is the assertive style of communication which is the one we want to strive for where everyone's input is valid and we create win win situations. Let's briefly review the characteristic traits of all three communication styles.

Passive communication results when someone allows their ideas or writes to be restricted by another individual or situation. Passive communicators often exhibit excessive courtesy. They often make ambiguous statements. They may express concerns in the form of questions they're reluctant to challenge what they know are questionable procedures and they don't feel they can openly address other team members. Passive communicators often display passive mannerisms such as downcast eyes shifting their weight back and forth or exhibiting a slumped body posture.

Aggressive communication results in someone invading another's boundaries or individual rights. Aggressive communicators often use statements that are confrontational abusive ridicule others or exhibit general hostility. Aggressive communication often attempts to belittle others aggressive mannerisms may include leaning forward pointing fingers or a raised tone of voice. The assertive style of communication is the desired form of communication. People with a sort of communication styles ask questions and gather information.

Assertive communicators will be respectful advocates for their positions or opinions of the topic. They keep an open mind to the opinion of others and may be convinced that the other point of view is correct but only based upon facts rather than personalities of others. Assertive communicators work toward a common goal. Suggest alternative solutions and are comfortable in stating their own opinions. Assertive communicators avoid letting their experience or position of authority dissuade others from offering their opinions. Assertive communicators also know how to respectfully decline an unsafe or

unreasonable request. Be sure you don't confuse assertive communication with aggressive communication. There are very different things. Some people mistake assertiveness as aggressive behavior. A challenge to their position or authority or a questioning of their judgment. Knowing that these potential problems may exist.

What should we do.

It's important that team leaders both promote and manage assertive communications and behaviors. Effective leaders of volunteer groups establish rules for both when to speak up and how to speak up. First let's review the when of assertive communication volunteers should speak up when they're unsure of the events going on around them. They clearly believe they have the answer to a problem or the situation they perceived as situational change during an operation that may affect the team

or they believe that they are other team members are in danger. Now let's review the How absurd of communication the proper level of assertive communication is entirely dependent upon the level of threat involved. Just as we discussed various aspects of risk management and earlier lessons assertive communication has a graduated scale of appropriateness depending upon the situation at hand. In most situations. Simply pointing out a need to do things differently will be sufficient. We should always provide our rationale for offering our opinion. If there is still

disagreement it's important to review our options and assertively discuss the facts of the matter. Once in a while we may be required to respectfully insist that the facts of the matter are on our side especially when safety of ourselves or others is at risk. In the rarest of cases when imminent harm is likely to occur we may need to elevate or some sort of communication style to the level of taking control exercising the stop work authority we covered in operational risk management.

Now let's watch a film clip from the movie Crimson Tide. It does a good job illustrating the escalation process. Gene Hackman plays a Navy captain resorts to aggressive. Not assertive aggressive. Uses his position of authority to try to intimidate his executive officer Denzel Washington and launching nuclear weapons. Denzel Washington clearly takes us through escalating scale of assertive communication. From pointing out his opinion in the beginning. To insisting that his opinion be honored based on

facts. All the way up to having taken. It to take control of the ship. It's a good concise example of the difference between assertive and aggressive. Fair warning on this movie clip as Word does show up two different times. So if that's uncomfortable anybody in the audience or we have people in the audience shouldn't be exposed to that. So please skip ahead on this next slide and pick up again after this. I. Think.

Nothing on this. So this is an am pertaining to the nuclear missile. Mr. Hunter. That's a message fragment. Because it got cut off during the attacks and the message can mean anything it could be a message to a board it can be missed it could be a fake Russian transmission. Exactly why we need to confront them. So. All I'm asking for is the time we need to. Calm down and. Start.

Getting security. Step aside. Yes.

We have orders in hand. And those orders and make a preemptive launch. Every second that we lose increases the chance that my time our missiles arrive. Their silence could be empty because it flung their birds and struck us first. Yes sir you know as well as I do that any launch or seek without authentication is in order. Our number one rule number one is the basis for the scenario we've trained on time and time again. Yes. So we will we follow without exception.

Captain. National Military Command Center knows what sector we're in. They have satellites looking down on us to see if our birds are locked in if they're not then they give orders to somebody else. That's why we maintain them when some is what they call redundancy. I know about redundancy restaurant. All I'm saying. Is that we have backup. It's our. Duty. Not to. And we can control.

You're presuming that we have other submarines out there ready to watch. This. Captain I must assume that our submarines could've been taken out by other schools. We can play these games all night Mr. Hunter but I don't have the luxury of your presumption sir. Mr. Hunter. We have rules that are not open to interpretation. Personal intuition. Gut feelings hairs on the back of your neck little devils or angel sitting on your shoulder. Captain we're all very well aware of what our orders are and what those orders mean. They come down from our commander in chief. They contain no ambiguity. Mr. Hunter. Had made a decision. I'm captain of this boat.

Back up. Weapons come. Twice to. The Captain. Captain I can I can. Repeat my command so we don't know what this message means our target package could have changed. Why. Do. You want your position removed from the control room. Can you tell us when you're right now.

No sir I do not concur and I do not recognize your authority to relieve me under command of the Navy regulations stop arrest this.

Man. Operating procedures governing the release of nuclear weapons we cannot launch missiles unless both you and we know this is expressly why your command must be repeated. It requires my assent. I do not give it and furthermore you continue upon this course and insist upon this lot without I me this message. First of all by the rules of precedent. It's an act like a Navy regulation. You can rest. On a charge. You.

Got to please the XO is right we can't launch unless he concurs.

So to bring things back down from the stream of nuclear war to a more realistic drill related scenario let's create an assertive statement that we can all relate to sort of communications should always contain these five elements an opening statement a specific concern a problem statement a solution and a request for feedback. So now let's create our own trail relate an assertive message using the five elements we just outlined are opening statements can be as simple as. Excuse me Jim.

Next we provide or specific concern. I have a concern about the forecast and heat index out here today. Now we give our problems statement. It's supposed to be a heat index of 90 degrees today and I don't think the crew has enough water along. Now we offer a solution. I think I should go to town and get more water and even some Gatorade. Finally we always request feedback. I'd like to leave right now. Do you agree. Now let's move on to the topic of briefings. You may ask why we bother to conduct briefings at the

onset of volunteer tril activities. After all we pretty much all know each other and we've done this before. Why be so formal. Well think back to lesson five. When we looked at the concept of stress and performance remember how we learned in our response time to stress was greatly reduced and the impact stress has upon us is lessened when the situation isn't brand new to us. Briefings are a way for us to prepare for the unexpected. Briefings also help provide us with a shared mental model like we discussed in Lesson 6 situational awareness. A briefing provides a shared mental plan or a

model. If we encounter a problem we can reduce our reaction time and choose an alternative in as little as one to two seconds Briefing's not only really with how things are supposed to go they should provide us with contingency plans when things get off track.

So what does an effective briefing look like. Let's watch a series of video clips where a briefing is being presented. Notice throughout the briefing that we point out various core objections from our previous trips safe lessons once again helping to tie everything together in this final lesson on communications.

Answer. Welcome everyone. It's a beautiful day here. Thank you for coming out to this great troll project. We have a lot of work to do today and we couldn't be doing this without you. I'm joined today with two other leaders Joe and Brad.

They'll be doing more of the technical descriptions later.

But today we're going to focus on where rebuilding Iraq was to help with some erosion issues. The trail edges falling off building the rock wall to help support that. And then we're also doing some trail pruning and rushing to open up the court or to increase airflow and to define the trail a little bit. Better. We have a lot of work to do today. So if we don't get it all done that's completely fine. We want to be safe and work at a comfortable pace. With that I'm going to hand it over here to Joe is going to talk about the rock crew.

I'm Joe and my crew is going to be delivering a rock retaining wall today.

We'll be moving very moving and placing very heavy stones. So it promises to be a very physical day in our press corps.

We conducted a thorough assessment of this project and it was in the Green Zone. Cell phone signals are generally good in the area in case you find yourself in a dead zone. We will have radios and you can communicate with other crews and other leaders as we know that I consider our contingency needs.

And we have a product safety plan in place and the hospital is about 20 miles from here. Speaking of emergency needs it we've had in the past we've had family problems in this area and we would like you to be sure and report it right away. Fine.

These are a problem that you find around the fire to that the to back.

Thanks Joe. Good morning everybody my name's Brad. I'm going to be your crew leader this morning for the light pruning and brushing task that we have before us just a couple of things about the day. We're off to a warm start today and temperatures are going to climb probably up into the upper 80s low 90s so just a reminder that we don't want everybody drinking lots of fluids and staying hydrated today with those warm temperatures. We also have the possibility of some thunderstorms and we'll have folks monitoring that throughout the day and just know that if

we do have to call the work because of thunderstorms we will make that decision as soon as we can and get everybody to a safe location. As the day goes on here we're going to about midday. We're going to take a break. After lunch we're going to switch up our crews and those of you that were doing the late duty work pruning them brushing. We're going to switch them around and have the two groups switched between brushing and the rockwork. So with that in mind. Anybody have any questions about how the day is going to play out here.

Yeah I've had a history of the back issues and I cannot work on the rockwork at all.

Is that a problem.

No that's not a problem at all and thank you for bringing that up because we want people to be working safely and working within their physical limitations. So thanks Ted for bringing that up.

Really appreciate it.

Any other questions that we might have for the rest of the day. All right thank you.

Just as it's important to provide briefings prior to trial work events it's equally important to conduct debriefings sometimes called after action reviews after the event in order to even further reduce risks. The briefings allow us to check if our original objectives were met and if not why is the best way to identify and record any problems we experience and learn from our mistakes and near misses. Remember Lesson 3 about recording near misses and attacking the accident ratio triangle from the bottom while a de-briefing is never used as a form of personal criticism. Punishment

is a way to embarrass other volunteers. It does focus on the who what when where and why of the event to review and critique both positive and negative outcomes. Debriefings offer an opportunity for feedback from all team members and make it possible to continuously seek improvements to the way we do our work on the trail.

Hey we did it. This wraps up our trail safe series. I want to thank each and every one of you for your participation. And I'd like to close out this entire series with three thoughts. First it's my sincere hope that everybody found at least a few things in trail save that resonated with them. And I'd like for you to please take those pieces of knowledge with you out on the trail and put them to use in whatever creative way you can. Secondly it's important. Now you all become ambassadors for trails. And help make sure that more and more volunteers get to learn about it. Please

share it with the folks you know those who haven't seen or haven't heard about it. Maybe even. When you hit your trail meetings chapter meetings and so on. You can get together and watch this series one at a time throughout the course of numerous months. And get a little discussion going about it and benefit from it that way. And lastly if what you've seen in these trail safe lessons has piqued your interest in any way I wanted you to learn more about it please consider getting in touch with your national park service rep. To request. Your full operational leadership training be brought to your area.

Again thank you for your attention and participation. Good luck to everyone. Let's go out there and be Trail Safe!


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