To become an effective collaborator, there are certain skills that a leader needs to develop, including the skill of communicating effectively in order to build solid relationships.
Effective communication involves listening, something most of us think we do well because we do it all the time. The reality is that even though we spend a large part of each day listening to our spouses, family members, friends, managers, co-workers and customers, most of us are pretty poor at it.
Our listening skills become even worse when there’s high tension or when tempers are about to flare.
A cornerstone of effectively playing well with others is learning to use listening to really understand what people are saying. This partly includes developing inquiry skills so that you can extract information from your colleagues, employees and even customers.
The heart of dialogue is inquiring and advocating, and this consists of sharing our point of view and listening to the point of view of others until we have created a pool of shared understanding.
Advocacy vs empathy
Advocacy has to do with concern for self. People high on this dimension stand up for their own rights, look out for their own needs, and defend their own position.
Empathy has to do with concern for others. People high on this dimension consider the needs of others and try to help others meet their goals.
In terms of these two dimensions, there are four styles of communication that we typically fall into.
When we dominate, we are high on advocacy and low on empathy. There are many examples of how we dominate. These include: Refusing to listen, lecturing, arguing, yelling, defending, criticising, belittling, controlling, blaming, slamming/throwing, gossiping, being sarcastic, and so on. People who use this style of communication tend to be individualistic, opinionated, and verbal.
Dominators communicate the message “I’m okay and you’re not okay.” They also communicate that “if you do not do what I want, I will intimidate, coerce, or overpower you until you do.” At the extreme, dominators go on the offensive and attack other people, trying to win through intimidation, power, and control.
When we accommodate, we are high on empathy and low on advocacy. Being accommodating to others includes being silent, conceding, giving in, appeasing, harmonising, taking the blame, placating and apologising. Accommodators try to get along with people, showing lots of patience, even though they might be struggling inside.
At the extreme they will feel and act like martyrs, pout, get sick, be depressed, or act out their feelings in passive-aggressive ways. They try to get others to change using indirect tactics. Accommodators communicate the message “I’m not okay and you’re okay,” and “You can have your way.”
When we avoid, we are low on both advocacy and empathy. How do we avoid? The difference between avoiding and accommodating is that avoiders disengage and deny the existence of conflicts or concerns.
They tend to tune out emotionally and act as if everything is okay.
Accommodators acknowledge a problem and feel responsible (even over-responsible) to fix it or make others feel better. We avoid by denying, suppressing feelings, leaving, disengaging, being apathetic, rationalising, acting as if it’s business as usual, using humour, distracting and dismissing. The message that is communicated by avoiders is “Let’s pretend that everything is okay.” They hope that by glossing over a situation it will go away.
Related: Team Building Without Time Wasting
The power of dialogue
While one style may be dominant, each of us uses all three styles of communication at different moments and in different situations. Our native tongue is our most natural style and probably one which we learnt at a young age, when in distress.
Are you mostly a Dominator, an Accommodator or an Avoider? It’s important to understand your native tongue, so that you can understand how to shift your natural style into one of dialogue. When we dialogue (collaborate), we are high on both advocacy and empathy.
The concept of dialogue is an alternative to the communicating styles of dominating, accommodating, and avoiding. At DLA, we define dialogue as creating a pool of shared understanding in an atmosphere of respect and goodwill in order to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome. This is communication that seeks to maximise both the dimensions of advocacy and empathy and it’s based on the premise that the more openly we talk, the better our solutions and the more committed we will be to carrying them out.
Dialogue consists of four skills:
- We establish an atmosphere of unity, mutual respect, and goodwill through mutuality
- We then encourage others to disclose their point of view and/or inner experience through inquiry
- We disclose our own point of view or inner experience through advocacy
- We arrive at win/win outcomes through synergy
The heart of dialogue is inquiry and advocacy, consisting of sharing our point of view and listening to the point of view of others until we have created a pool of shared understanding. Only when all the data is in the pool of shared understanding do we go to the step of synergy, in which we make a decision or solve the problem.
Dialogue has three objectives: Mutuality, creating a pool of shared understanding, and synergy. It’s not always intended to meet all three of these objectives. Sometimes the purpose of dialogue is simply to establish mutuality, for example when a resentment has built up between two individuals that keeps them from working together effectively.
On other occasions, the purpose is to build a pool of shared understanding. The US and Vietnam have recently met on a number of occasions to understand each other’s decision process during the war, in order to learn the lessons necessary to prevent future tragedies.
The purpose of dialogue could also be to solve a problem. For example, a management team must decide how to allocate limited financial resources among all departments. This third objective cannot be achieved without meeting objectives one and two. And the second objective cannot be achieved without meeting objective one.
Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here’s How To Fix It
Your team wouldn’t be idle if you gave them anything more important to do.
Employees want to be productive, but sometimes the allure of time-wasting activities is just too tempting. When that happens, it’s up to leaders to keep everyone on track.
According to research from Salary.com, 89 percent of employees waste at least some time at work every day. Thirty-one percent waste about 30 minutes, but the top 10 percent waste three or more hours each day. That extrapolates to more than 15 hours per week of wasted productivity, shedding light on the immense costs associated with poor time management.
The people who waste more than half their workdays on non-work activities are far beyond the help of time management training. Their employers don’t have enough work for them, or these employees need to find new roles.
This guide is for everyone else. While occasional breaks are great for the mind, excessive time waste leads to lost productivity, lower morale and decreased employee retention. Even employees who would otherwise be high performers can get caught in time-wasting traps, so leaders need to step in before things get out of hand.
To avoid low productivity and improve employee time management, follow these tips.
1. Set specific productivity goals
Employees – even the best self-starters – need objectives to work toward. Leaders who don’t set specific goals invite their workers to waste time. Whether it’s a sales quota or the creation of a new marketing campaign, give employees something concrete to achieve.
Don’t micromanage, but do provide consistent feedback to let employees know when they’re on the right track – and when they aren’t. People who don’t feel like they have the support of their managers are more likely to feel stressed than they are to feel motivated.
Give workers the tools they need, and make yourself available for questions and feedback; then, step back and let employees work toward the goals you helped them set.
2. Schedule tasks in chunks
The same type of work should take about the same amount of time to complete. Help employees create timelines for different types of projects so they know how quickly things should move across their desks.
Say your marketing team creates a lot of case studies to show potential clients. Help the team develop a schedule that follows projects from client interview to content development to graphic design. Determine how long each step in the process takes, then assign a deadline to each part of the larger task.
When employees understand how long projects take and how long it takes to complete each piece, they don’t have to scramble at the last minute. This steady stream of effort prevents workers from falling into a cycle of working overtime to compensate for earlier procrastination.
3. Show employees how their work affects the whole
Employees who waste time typically do so because they don’t see the point in working faster. To them, the company and their co-workers do just fine, no matter how well they do their job.
Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct
In this case, the issue isn’t about time management – it’s about employee engagement. Keep employees in the loop about what the company is accomplishing, and tie their work to those achievements. Recognise the contributions of outstanding employees and departments. Constantly communicate the mission of the company and how employees help further that mission.
Financial bonuses for a job well done are nice, but people respond even more positively to personal praise. Write handwritten thank-you notes to employees who go above and beyond. Include employees on customer communications when they solve a problem or provide great service. The more employees see the effects of their work in action, the more motivated they become to work hard.
This is especially true when it comes to teams working together. Some employees struggle to see the connection between their work and the company’s objectives, but when they see how their productivity (or lack thereof) affects their co-workers, they feel more motivated to help their team thrive.
Employee time management has a cumulative effect. Engaged employees who get things done inspire others to follow suit. Those who have little to do (and those who don’t do what they should) bring others down. Use this advice to develop an office filled with productive, time-conscious teammates.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Is Everybody Home? Here’s How To Devirtualize Your Team
In my 30-plus years in HR I’ve learned that people who don’t work together rarely become a top-performing team.
As popular as telecommuting has become, its actual benefit to productivity is still in dispute. Advocates for the practice cite a 2014 survey where 77 percent of respondents reported greater productivity while working offsite, while 30 percent accomplished more in less time. However, all of the respondents were telecommuters, which is sort of like reporting that ice cream is the perfect breakfast food based on a survey of 6-year-olds.
The truth is, telecommuting comes with its own set of organisational challenges. Foremost is maintaining company culture. In general, employees who work in offices tend to bond with their coworkers while absorbing company culture and values. By comparison, I’ve seen firsthand the limitations of work-from-home. When I was working for a Fortune 100 company earlier in my career, we acquired a large group of employees, the majority of whom worked from home offices.
Their arrangement had been put in place for cost-saving reasons. Not too long after they joined our company, it became clear that acclimation to our culture and business norms would be hard. With so few face-to-face connections being made, it was easier to remain in “previous-company mode.”
The upsides of telecommuting for employees are obvious (no sitting in traffic or worrying about your wardrobe) but it does have one major disadvantage: Working from home deprives both workers and employers of experiences that only happen when teams work closely together.
It’s the victory of convenience over culture, but the pendulum may be swinging in the other direction. IBM, a pioneer of work-from-home, is recalling thousands of remote workers to physical office spaces. The company found that the age of real-time data and lightning-fast communications calls for response times that only in-person collaboration stimulates.
Nobody is arguing that all telecommuting must stop, but remote employment isn’t right for every employee or job, and groups with isolated members rarely get the chance to become a cohesive team. Telecommuting is an option to keep for the right situation, but employers should understand its benefits, drawbacks and proper applications.
Working from home is best suited to jobs that require little collaboration. Sales and customer service professionals may be more productive outside of an office. This assumes that employees’ homes are set up for work and that they have the right disposition (and the self-discipline) to focus outside of an office environment.
Not so interconnected?
This isn’t just my opinion. The decision to eliminate working from home at Yahoo was made by then-CEO Marisa Mayer and was based on empty parking lots and troubling VPN log reports. Mayer caught flak for challenging a treasured perk, but the evidence suggests that she may have been right. According to audio-conferencing leader Intercall, more than 60 percent of people admitted to doing other work or sending emails during those conference calls and Skype chats that promised to “bring the boardroom to the living room.” If multitasking during important meetings is the rule and not the exception, what does that say about employee investment?
In my 30-plus years in HR I’ve learned that people who don’t work together rarely become a top-performing team. Real team-building comes not only with face-to-face engagement but also from going out to lunch, griping about a manager or trading war stories – none of which actually happen over a WebEx meeting.
Similarly, people who don’t know each other as human beings don’t work together as effectively – their individual productivity might be acceptable, but they won’t sync up as well with teammates. Traditional channels of productive disagreement are almost impossible to replicate online, which leads to isolation and resentment. Email arguments, for example, escalate faster and get more virulent than in-person conversations. Read any online forum and you’ll know what I mean.
Related: Are You On Your Team’s Wavelength?
I also know from experience that working from home can sometimes create “adjunct employees” with fewer chances to learn from coworkers or get noticed for promotions or new assignments. These talented, promising professionals find their overall trajectory limited because their isolation meant exclusion from company culture and opportunity. These employees were mainly known only for their output, not their talent or ideas, and they become interchangeable
At my current company, we make it a point to provide remote employees (especially those who have joined through acquisition) opportunities to visit our HQ or regional offices and also participate in company-wide events such as R&D hackathons. These personal touch points go a long way to bringing everyone together.
The best of both worlds
This is not to say telecommuting has no place in modern business. Best practices will leverage telecommuting to attract applicants who may not live near your office. In addition, it creates an option for trusted, highly valued employees who seek to limit their commuting time. The trust factor between manager and employee in a successful work-from-home arrangement cannot be emphasised enough.
I find that full-time telecommuting is often not as successful as simply having a flexible schedule. Someone who comes in two days a week and telecommutes the other three gets the best of both worlds: exposure to office culture and opportunities and the comfort of the home office. Even individuals who work remotely full time should still come in as often as possible. Enforcing this practice among my own companies has made remote or semi-remote employees more engaged with the business, its products, their coworkers and their path within the organisation.
A plan for working from home
Good managers guide every employee along a path to success. The first step for telecommuting is to determine if it’s the right fit for a particular employee. Consider variables like job function and availability before agreeing. A position that requires very little collaboration lends itself to remote work, as does an employee with key skills who simply cannot commute five days a week.
Once a request is approved, managers need to put in extra time to ensure successful onboarding. An employee who telecommutes should have as much structure as one who comes into the office, so supervisors should lay out their expectations with an agreed-upon and clear work management plan. Both parties should agree to certain performance standards and regular check-ins so that the employee does not simply become an invisible source of work. For example, what are the work-from-home employee’s core hours? Agree on these and hold the employee accountable. Another is to be clear on the ground rules for collaboration aps (Jabber, Slack, etc.). My expectation is we will use the technology with honesty and transparency.
If you’re away or busy, your status should read yellow or red. If you’re available it shows green. Simple, but effective.
Joining the team, wherever you are
One of the promises of the digital age was that people could work from anywhere – and unlike flying cars, it’s actually happening. Remote working among non-self-employed individuals has doubled since 2005, and as many as 53 percent of workers could be remote within five years.
But, as overwhelming as the trend toward telecommuting may seem, remember that remote employment is a strategic lever to help companies improve productivity and work-life integration while widening their hiring pool. Many such individuals have expressed their appreciation for their sudden upward trajectory within the company after I insisted they spend more time at the office. Teammates must work together, not just online but in person, and a smart leader helps their employees remain invested in and connected to the team’s overall success, no matter where that employee works.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Benefits Of Turning Your Employee Into An Intrapreneur
Intrapreneur(ship) is a budding concept that embraces an employee within a business as a vital part of its lifeforce.
The intrapreneur can be described as a future executive leader within a company where they play a pivotal role in growing a business. Generally, the intrapreneur is a passionate problem solver with knack for innovating ideas that spark innovation and contribute immensely to the company. An example of an intrapreneur is Healey Cypher; he worked for eBay as Chief of Staff in Global Product Management – he discovered that the company was missing out on a market that continued to rely on physical retail as opposed to e-commerce using his retail expertise. Now look at eBay today!
The Intrapreneur contributes to business growth and product expansion
The traditional employee can be seen as a cog in the machine that simply executes tasks whereas an intrapreneur takes ownership of the tasks by applying an objective business mind. The intrapreneur doesn’t simply take orders, they closely analyse the viability and profitability of a product feature and even participate in innovating new concepts that grow the business.
To inspire this, you need to ensure that employees are in a place where they feel valued so that they actively contribute to professional development and business growth.
Creating a culture centred in excellence
An organisation that hones intrapreneurs is likely to succeed by creating a culture and/forum that encourages transparency and honesty across all levels. An intern can feel comfortable enough to criticise a new product feature and the CEO can take their suggestions into account. If they can see their ideas thriving, employees feel as if they matter and that their ideas matter.
Related: 5 Steps To Intrapreneurship
Finding the right talent is challenging but rewarding
When you recruit people, you need to ensure that they fit into this ethos and way of operating. You also need to integrated it into the strategy of the business, creating an organic employee structure that promotes and inspires intrapreneurship. Once the strategy is defined it becomes easier to locate and retain the right people to grow the business. You can do this by creating a checklist in line with the organisational structure and ensuring that each candidate fulfils the criteria
The culture of mentorship is enhanced
The employee-employer relationship becomes less intimidating. This means that the junior employee can closely observe their manager and take practical lessons on a daily basis. Management can take on a nurturing role, and intrapreneurs ultimately gain the potential to create their own business ventures.
The culture is evolving the way businesses operate
With freedom and autonomy in the workplace comes constant experimentation and innovation which is pivotal to the growth of any business. As entrepreneurs we tend to cling to our ideas, and this can be dangerous because it limits business growth. Intrapreneurship means that your ideas can be challenged and learning to let go can help you evolve your own business in new and surprising ways. Again, strategy comes into play because the business needs to create a foundation that encourages constant engagement and processes that encourage cross-departmental collaboration.
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