How important is communication in the workplace?
Very important. Communication in general is a real concern in the workplace, mainly because many employees perceive that their managers don’t listen to them. We’ve found that when problems arise, only 10% of them are due to an actual issue.
The other 90% are a result of the way things are addressed, and what people hear and feel rather than what’s actually happening.
Managers who learn to communicate well become highly effective leaders with high performing teams because their people know what’s expected of them and feel their needs are addressed.
As a result of these improved relations, they focus more on the work and getting things done, and less on perceived issues.
How does poor communication play out in the work environment?
A daily example is when accusations are made before checking facts, resulting in very reactive behaviour.
Another is the generation gap and how this shows up, particularly in the way Gen X and Y Millennials communicate via email and converse in short ‘text’ language.
This is particularly problematic when we see younger managers interacting with their older colleagues. Other factors impacting good quality communication include stress from fear of job security, tightening legislation and economic and social complexities.
These are just some of the factors that contribute to the disconnect in communication. It’s no wonder workplaces have the potential to become toxic unless proactively managed.
How do managers affect revenue growth?
Managers should be setting goals and ensuring there’s alignment between the company’s strategy and the tasks that teams are engaged in.
Managers who are drawn into task-type work instead of managing people are not effectively managing revenue growth.We refer to this as transformational versus transactional work.
Transactional tasks are all about the details of doing things right. Transformational tasks are about leadership and doing the right things. Like most things in business, this should follow the 80/20 principle: 80% of what a manager does should be transformational, and 20% transactional. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
A focus on transformational activities requires a manager who has excellent delegation skills. It also requires staff to do the transactional work, and clarity in terms of what’s expected of them. Murkiness filters from the top down.
Is the manager clear on what their leadership requires? If they aren’t, they can’t prioritise for their own teams.
Is there such a thing as working too hard?
Definitely. No one can be on 24/7, and the trouble today is that with Internet access and smart devices, we’re all reachable anywhere, receiving a constant stream of information we feel compelled to reply to.
Leaders tend to want more and more, but good managers should encourage their teams to take time off to recharge, and to encourage daily down time by making a habit of going offline.
There’s also a multitude of studies proving that being ‘always-on’ negatively impacts your ability to be effective and that downtime leads to higher productivity.
How can teams use their time more effectively?
As a manager, start by understanding that many people have a ‘monkey on their back’ or an issue that is causing them stress.
You’re the manager, so naturally they’ll come to you. It’s not your role to simply solve the problem for them, particularly if you can see the solution.
Instead, take care to train and empower your team so that they don’t need you to make every decision for them. As a manager, you tie a noose around your neck by creating co-dependency.
Managers who have a fear of letting go or difficulty trusting others will also buy into the idea of being ‘on’ 24/7. It’s a poor management style – it doesn’t work, and it generally leads to a high staff turnover.
Dealing with people and creating trust is all about personal boundaries. Start by discussing issues openly. For example, if you think it’s okay to contact your team at 11pm, they’ll think it’s okay with each other too, and before you know it, no one has boundaries, everyone feels burnt out and not in control of their time or lives and productivity plummets, despite 50+ hour work weeks. What example, and ultimately what culture, are you as the manager creating?
Are there any in-office tricks that help with productivity?
One of the best productivity tips is to zone your time. Focus exclusively on specific outcomes and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by tasks that appear urgent, but aren’t a priority.
We advise setting up automated email responses that outline specific times when you answer emails. This way no one thinks you’re ignoring them, and they know when they can expect a reply.
It’s important for this to become a company policy though, as it can create internal conflict if one department is expecting an answer to an urgent email and feels they are being ‘ignored’.
The world won’t end if an email remains unanswered for two hours – it just means everyone has to plan ahead and be proactive about their time, rather than reactive. With this one simple system, productivity should skyrocket.
Should leaders adapt their style to the situation?
We’re strong supporters of Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model (see sidebar), which does advise matching leadership style to the situation at hand. However, while different situations require a different response, such as taking control, or teaching and coaching, ultimately the most successful organisations encourage senior managers, middle managers and all employees to feel empowered.
To achieve this, you need to develop an organisation with a listening culture, and accountability structures.
A place that builds relationships and people with respectful boundaries, where staff are heard and acknowledged. The best thing you can do is make someone feel valuable: Hear them and allow them to exercise what they’ve brought to the table.
Can you give an example of where this goes wrong?
Something we often see in corporate situations is a manager who presents an idea that a team member came up with to the board, and then takes credit for it.
It’s a very short-sighted form of leadership, because while the manager might temporarily look good, the person who had the idea in the first place becomes discouraged and disengaged, which ultimately affects the overall creativity and productivity of the team.
Great ideas shouldn’t be conceived in isolation. They should be nurtured and developed and this can only happen in an environment of collaboration and trust.
A manager who takes credit for ideas that weren’t theirs does the exact opposite. Grow transparency around ideas so that everyone knows where they originated, and also feels comfortable adding to them.
The best cultures are built around ‘we’ thinking. They reward managers whose teams excel, instead of managers who shine independently of their teams. It’s important to get the whole team involved.
Is there a larger cultural issue at hand?
Trust, ego and a sense of autonomy can cause real stumbling blocks in organisations. Do you reward individuals or team success? Remember that what you reward is what you’ll get.
It’s a simple truth that most ideas aren’t highly sophisticated – the greatest strategies tend to centre on simple ideas of motivation and recognition, so encourage idea sharing and idea building within your team. Your people are your most valuable resource and so it’s important to find creative ways to tap into this.
Do all employees contribute to the bottom line?
Absolutely, and this is one of the single biggest mindset shifts an organisation can make. Imagine what would happen if the cleaner never came to work. Rubbish overflowing, dirty restrooms, no services for maintenance and client visits.
Once you understand the value that the cleaner adds to the organisation, you’ll start valuing everyone’s contributions to the overall whole. Encourage your managers to not only understand their own value, but encourage this thinking in their teams as well.
How important is it for teams to connect to corporate goals?
It’s incredibly important, but it’s also a double-sided issue. On the one hand, the organisation and its management are responsible for sharing the company’s goals.
You can’t expect everyone to connect to the company’s vision if they don’t fully understand what it is and how the goals contribute to attaining this.
Properly understanding and then connecting to the organisation’s goals is the difference between reactive and proactive employees, and dependant and co-dependant thinkers.
There’s a certain amount of responsibility for the employee as well. Employees need to know how they are adding value, and what the company is paying them for it. As the manager, encourage the team to find their motivators, their ‘why’ and to take ownership of their role in the organisation.
Too often we see a victim mentality where individuals see situations as happening to them, instead of how they can impact the world around them and their success within it. It’s all about an internal locus of control.
Encourage your team to engage with their own positions – make them a part of the solution. Ask them how they add value to the company, and expect an answer – get them to think about it.
A great way to foster engagement is by asking pertinent questions: What can contribute to this day? What will this day contribute to me?
Should organisations expect everyone to buy into their value systems?
Organisations need to look for value alignment. If an individual’s values are met (the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor), then by default they will buy into the business’s values. However, for this to work, each team member needs to be able to identify their own values, and evaluate how the company is helping them to achieve those values.
We only ever do things that serve us. Don’t expect buy-in on an organisational level if you don’t tap into that.
On the flip side, there will be some individuals whose values do not (and never will) align with those of the organisation. The situation won’t change, so it’s better for all parties involved if those employees move on.
In our courses, we run everything with full teams, and inevitably someone leaves after the course is complete. Invariably, the energy of the whole team and even the office changes for the better.
The organisation wins by rather utilising resources and energy on people who add value to the company as a whole.
Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team
The question every successful business leader needs to consider – How do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.
Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:
“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”
A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture? These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –
How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?
Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.
This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:
Have a united and focused purpose
When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.
To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.
It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…
Servant heart and attitude
Rabindranath Tagore famously said:
“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.
Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.
When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.
Respect for people and their worldviews
My favourite poet Rumi said:
‘The wound is where the light seeps in’
Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.
My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.
Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.
15 Ways To Command A Conversation Like A Boss
If you’re the one talking, it’s your responsibility to make sure others are listening.
Conversations can elicit a range of emotions. They may be daunting, or they may be dreaded. They may be awkward, or they may be monotonous. The good news is, you, as a participant in any conversation, have more control than you think about whether these emotions overtake the dialogue.
Having a successful conversation is about striking the balance between preparedness and flexibility, between explaining your thoughts clearly and knowing when to pause or check in. It’s about being upfront about your preferences and ideas while being open to adapting them based on what comes of the discussion.
A fruitful conversation stems from establishing a rapport with someone. Show them you know where they’re coming from. Clarify that you understand what they’ve said. Be respectful of their time and don’t dictate back to them how you perceive them to be thinking or feeling. Keep questions open-ended. Experiment with new conversation settings or styles. And don’t give in to the internal voices that try to convince you to defer too much or suffer in silence.
To help you get your points across and help others convey theirs, read through the following 15 tips, which expand more on the ideas above.
Being A Born Entrepreneur Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re A Born Leader
The person who has the vision to start a company might not be the person to grow the company.
More often than not, we tend to think of entrepreneurship and leadership as synonymous qualities.
Entrepreneurs are expected to break new ground, be innovative, start something new. It only stands to reason they would naturally take charge of what they’ve created and lead it.
However, it turns out that the required skills of an effective entrepreneur are almost entirely different from the required skills of an effective leader. As many CEOs of growing companies can tell you, there’s a vast difference between creating a business and growing one.
One of the primary reasons great entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were so influential was precisely because they were both master entrepreneurs and leaders.
To successfully grow a business, an entrepreneur must learn how to become an effective leader. Here are the five leadership skills every entrepreneur must master:
Entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, who run growing businesses are eventually shocked to realise it is impossible to do everything by themselves. Most entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with the idea of delegation. They want to do everything themselves because they have a natural sense of ownership over their work. They find it difficult to believe anyone else would do what needs to be done. After all, they were the ones who built the business from scratch all by themselves.
The reality is, though, as a business grows, so does the amount of work that needs to go into running it.
Leaders understand their own time and energy are finite resources. Great leaders understand that, to be most effective in the company, they must play to their strengths and delegate their weaknesses to others who are more qualified.
Steve Jobs famously played a very small part in building the OS and designing the original Apple computers. He knew how to grow a business, so he focused on what he could do and wisely left it to Steve Wozniak and his team to execute his vision.
The perk of being a lone wolf is that you know exactly what needs to be done and the right way to do it. But, that has to change when you find yourself a leader.
We all have horror stories of working for a manager who didn’t communicate instructions effectively, which inevitably leads to confusion and frustration from both parties. As a leader, you’ll need to clearly and succinctly explain everything from your vision to administrative tasks to your employees.
But, communication is not a one-way street. You need to know what to say and how to listen. Effective leaders don’t simply give orders. They accept feedback and criticism, as well.
A constant bridge of communication between a leader and an employee not only reduces inefficiencies but also leads to a healthier and more productive workplace for all.
Entrepreneurs seldom lack in the inspiration department. They were passionate enough to start a business themselves, but not everyone shares their enthusiasm. A key skill of any good leader is to inspire the people around them.
It’s not enough to simply tell people what their job is and expect them to do it. To get the most out of your team, you have to make them believe in your vision and feel like they’re actively making an impact in their role. This is especially important when working in a start-up.
The good news is that anyone can become an inspiring leader as long as they create a clear culture around the company’s vision, values, and beliefs.
When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO, he quickly realised the majority of his employees were no longer focused on providing customers with a positive experience. This led him to shut down 7,100 stores one day to retrain all baristas on making an espresso. This bold move not only sharpened his employees’ technical skills, but also quickly brought Starbucks’ ultimate vision back into focus.
As an entrepreneur, you should be well aware of just how powerful a mentor can be to personal and professional growth. As a leader, if you want your employees to be as effective as possible, you need to do more than just give them orders.
Along with giving them the resources they need to do their job well, you also need to be able to help them move forward in their own careers.
This can be as simple as offering them training in skills they are interested in, giving them more responsibilities, or spending more one-on-one time with them. Leaders should be able to do more than just lead from the front; they have to be able to provide support from behind as well.
By adopting a coaching mentality, you can be assured of your employees’ loyalty to you and your vision. Plus, helping your employees achieve their full potential means they’re more likely be an asset to you and your business.
It should go without saying that being innovative and adaptive is key for entrepreneurs. But, instead of only using their knack for problem-solving on market opportunities, leaders are also focused on providing solutions for problems within the company.
A large part of running a growing company is learning how to deal with internal problems like employee disputes, disorganisation, or a lack of motivation. Employees will always look to the leader to solve these issues.
When no clear-cut solutions are present, leaders need to be able to think outside the box. One surefire way to quickly lose both the respect and trust of your employees is to outsource the solution to someone else or avoid responsibility by blaming others.
Last-minute changes and mishaps happen in any business, so it’s up to the leader to adapt quickly and show everyone else the right way to handle these situations.
If entrepreneurs who have the passion and innovation to start their own businesses can develop these five skills of great leaders, they will be most effective in leading those businessess into growth and a bright future.
Read next: What Kind Of Leader Are You?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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