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Increasing Productivity

Communication Really Is Your Most Critical Team-Building Skill

The best team members play well with others — they collaborate effectively, and know how to open meaningful dialogues.

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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.

Related: 7 Team Building Ideas To Create An Engaged Team

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

dialogue-and-communication

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.

Bruce Msimanga is the president of DLA Consulting, a consultancy that focuses on leadership and team development. Visit www.dla-c.com.

Increasing Productivity

How Training Your Employees Will Prepare Them For The Future

Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.

Amy Galbraith

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Employee training is an important part of any growing business. Your staff are the backbone of your business and so should have their skills improved whenever possible. By investing in training courses for your employees, you will be preparing them for the future and helping your company keep ahead of the competition.

In order to be prepared for any future trends, you should invest in training courses for companies that focus both on your industry and on more general skills. Not convinced? Below are just some of the ways in which training your employees will help to prepare them for the future.

They will stay on top of evolving skills

In today’s technological and digitally focused world, the skills we are used to are continuously evolving. This might mean that your administrative assistant will need to be able to use chatbot technology in order to deal with client queries or that your marketing team will need to learn about a new Google algorithm as it comes out.

Having a team that is up-to-date on all the latest skills and trends is one of the major benefits of training courses for companies. It prepares them for the future by allowing them to stay on top of evolving skills that they need for working in a fast-paced environment. Their knowledge and abilities will improve, making it easier for them to adapt to any new changes that occur in technology and their skillsets.

Related: What To Include In Your Induction Training

They will be able to use the latest technology

This goes hand-in-hand with staying on top of evolving skills. Being able to use the latest technology is vital to your business’ success, and sending your staff on training courses for companies which operate in the technological world will help with this.

Imagine if you had a personal assistant who was unable to answer emails because they did not know how to access them? Or if you had a content marketing team who did not know how to resize images in Photoshop for a new campaign? This would cost you both time and money, making it difficult to keep your business operating smoothly. But sending your employees on training courses will teach them the basics of technology so they can stay abreast of new developments.

The entire team will build their knowledge

Sending your staff on a training course will help the entire team to improve and increase their knowledge. And this will help with productivity, collaboration and efficiency, all of which are expected by consumers in a world that is becoming increasingly fast-paced.

You will also be allowing those staff members with different levels of understanding of a topic to increase their knowledge on the topic. This will bring the whole team to the same level and allow everyone to have opinions and offer suggestions on issues. By having everyone on the same level, you will be creating employees who can share knowledge and collaborate on projects, finishing on time, within the budget and exceeding customer expectations.

They can prepare for redefined roles

Technology brings with it new and redefined roles for your employees to adapt to. And with new skills becoming difficult to find, smart business owners will send their staff on training courses for companies so they can learn new skills and be prepared for redefined roles.

In some cases, it might mean that your staff have to learn new automation programs that deal with workflow. This will change their role significantly as they will be working hand-in-hand (so to speak) with new software. Your employees will have to be able to adapt to and deal with a change in their role without any issues.

You might even have to assign them new roles if technology continues to advance, such as bookkeepers becoming data analysts once their roles have been automated.

Related: The Importance Of Training In A Small Business

You can address weakness in abilities

Preparing for the future means that you will need to look at your employees’ current performance levels. One effective way to do this is to take part in training courses for companies. This will allow you to see what weaknesses your employees might have and address and rectify them.

You can prepare them for the future by working on their present. Training courses will show them what areas they might need to improve on and work towards bettering their skills. Not only will this help to build their futures in your company, but you will also be helping your company have an edge over the competition. Well-informed and well-trained employees are ideal for building business success.

Sending your employees for training courses not only helps to improve your business but can build up their futures immensely. It will also help your employees to prepare for the future and allow them to easily adapt to any new roles, technology and trends. Their skills will improve and they will be able to stay up-to-date with everything that is happening in your industry.

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Increasing Productivity

Take Responsibility For Your Company’s Culture To Boost Productivity

A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have.

John Rampton

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Whether you’re running an early-stage startup or a fast-growing company, every organisation has a culture. And it can determine whether your business succeeds or fails.

Your company’s culture comprises the actual work environment for your team and the standards everyone is held to. It also dictates how colleagues interact and communicate and the values and beliefs of your team. In fact, one survey shows that 86 percent of employees believe their company’s culture influences how productive they are.

No wonder Arianna Huffington has described corporate culture as “a company’s immune system.”

“Ultimately,” she says, “your health depends on your immune system.” Here are four ways a healthy company culture boosts morale and productivity.

It makes employees happy

A study conducted by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 percent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers were 10 percent less productive. As the research team states, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”

If you have employees who dread coming into work and are spending more time looking at the clock than working, how productive do you really think they are? What’s more, happier employees tend to work better with others, solve problems instead of complain about them and make fewer mistakes. They also have more energy and motivation, which helps them learn faster and make better decisions.

Related: Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here’s How To Fix It

It promotes collaboration and stronger relationships

A healthy and positive company culture encourages your teammates to get to know one another. That friendly chatter eventually leads people to feel comfortable enough to share advice, opinions and ideas.

When there’s a large project looming, your team members will be able to work together faster and more efficiently because they know how to communicate. More importantly, this leads to your team building friendships – which has been found to increase productivity and engagement.

“People are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life, including more positive emotions, stronger motivation toward the work itself and more positive perceptions of the organisation,” says Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, who co-authored “The Progress Principle.”

It inspires creativity

Let’s say that an employee or colleague comes to you with a suggestion. If you immediately dismiss her idea, do you think she’ll come to you the next time she has an “aha” moment?

Healthy company cultures encourage people to be creative through brainstorming sessions and new responsibilities. This not only gives them a chance to be heard, but it also helps them look for unique ways to solve problems.

It influences individual mindsets

Company culture also affects how each team member views his or her individual performance. It shouldn’t comes as a surprise, then, that healthy cultures foster more high-performing team members. Aaron Schmookler, leadership coach and co-founder of TheYesWorks, a training and team-building organization, calls this positive peer pressure.

“Why do aspiring Olympians train with other aspiring Olympians?” he asks. “In part, they want the high-performance drive to rub off on them if they don’t have as much of it as they wish.”

According to Schmookler, even when someone already has a high-performance mindset, she’ll want to keep it and deepen it so she can keep pushing forward. Being surrounded by others pushing for greatness makes the hard work feel easy.

Schmookler also says the opposite is true.

“We’ve all heard of workplaces where a new person comes into a low-performance culture and people tell them, ‘slow down.’ ‘You’re making us look bad.’ High-performance cultures have people who instead say, ‘Pick it up. You can do it.’”

Related: 7 Ways To Get Better At Working With Others

How to avoid toxicity

There’s a strong correlation between morale and productivity. If you want your team to be more productive, you’re going to have to foster a healthy and positive work culture. Emma Seppala, Ph.D., and Kim Cameron, Ph.D., suggest in Harvard Business Review that you can achieve this by fostering social connections.

Encourage your teammates to get to know each other by hosting social events or having them eat lunch together. You must also get away from your desk and have face-to-face interactions with your team. Go out of your way to help as well.

Leaders who are fair and self-sacrificing inspire employees to become more loyal and committed. If your team is swamped, step in to help. Encourage people to talk to you – don’t brush someone off when he has a problem. It gets the problem off his mind, which means he can focus on work.

A healthy culture isn’t a nice-to-have but a must-have. Culture exists, whether we actively cultivate it or let it develop on its own. To get the most productivity you can, make sure to build an environment where people feel respected and inspired. It will not only make your employees happier, but it will also fuel high-quality work.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Why You Should Gamify Your Business

Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.

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Sweat pouring down his forehead, staring intently at the chessboard, an anxious Bobby Fischer faces imminent defeat. A few uncharacteristic blunders at the beginning of the game has the audience on pins and needles. It’s the height of the cold war and a stalemate between Boris Spassky has an unnatural weight for a chess match. The cameras cramp the space, distracting Fischer and causing him to throw the game. Then another.

Anxiety is higher than ever. Finally, Fischer demands that cameras stop piercing the so-called “Match of the Century.” Then, suddenly, he began to win. He won again and again until finally, he was unstoppable. Final score: Fischer, 12 and one half, Spassky, 8 and one half. Fischer was now the undisputed world champion and the world couldn’t stop talking about it.

Why games motivate us so deeply

How could a game, a game that later wasn’t even televised, capture the world’s attention? How could a simple chess match capture the imagination of an entire generation?

Games are powerful things. Unlike real life, games have clear goals, constant coaching, and immediate feedback. There are points, winners, losers, upsets, dark horses, and reigning champions. Everything is organised in a refreshingly understandable, trackable way. Experiences are tallied into points, matches are organised into tournaments with the promise of prizes, advancement, and adulation.

Gamification, in this sense, is actually quite old. It has been practiced for generations. For time immemorial, games have taught us important skills, both technical and social. Now, however, a few game changers are using gamification to create outstanding products and drive business goals.

Related: 3 Ways Workplace Gamification Can Backfire – And How To Avoid Them

 How gamifying a business task works

In business practices, you can use gamification to help motivate employees and to understand the motivations of your customers, clients, and business partners. When put into practice, this can mean major surges in productivity and profitability. Think about it: We often have friendly competitions among team members to help motivate them to perform to the best of their ability. This is a simple gamification strategy that can be implemented in any business to a wonderful result.

Gamification, according to Yu-kai Chou, author of Actionable Gamification and pioneer within the gamification industry, is a mixture of game design, gaming dynamics, motivational psychology, user experience design, neurobiology, technology platforms, and behavioural economics. This may sound like a loose classification of complex and disparate fields, but it’s actually an adept definition of an all-encompassing philosophy on life and what motivates us to do what we do in our daily lives.

The drives that motivate us

What about gamification makes the philosophy so effective? There are eight core principles that are considered what is called the “octalysis,” a conceptualisation created by Yu-kai Chou. Basically, Chou posits that eight core drives motivate us in every facet of our lives. Not only can we use these drives in our personal lives, we can also use them in our work and business lives.

A mixture of drives can give us varying degrees of interest, dedication, and motivation. These core drives are as follows according to the octalysis: meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, ownership, social influence, unpredictability, scarcity, and avoidance.

The last three mentioned on the list can be used in negative ways to achieve participation. For example, using avoidance, or the feeling that you must act in order not to lose something can cause people to feel manipulated in the long-term. However, avoidance can be built into your motivation matrix if used properly and sparingly.

Truly, each drive has to be used with context, in the same way employing avoidance has to be monitored and managed. All these motivations can be employed to help better your organisation by finding those key intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that help you accomplish your business goals.

Gamification is the simple practice of identifying motivating factors and qualifying them through a myriad of ways.

In some cases, gamification boils down to simply analysing our motivations accurately so that we can either change them or manipulate them to better serve us. There is no better arena for this time of analysis and planning than business.

Businesses do not succeed unless we understand why they operate and what their founder’s intentions are for creating the business.

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