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.
How To Build Organisational Wealth Through Increased Efficiency
Using the right business systems can allow your staff to become more efficient through best-practices and better process flows.
As your business grows, the demands of running and managing all its parts increase. Fortunately, technology can help you standardise, streamline and adapt your operations in order to meet these increased demands. Let’s have a look at some of the ways in which you can increase efficiency to build your organisational wealth.
Integrated business units
It can be difficult to get a holistic view of what is going on in your business if information is floating between different departments and/or locations. Manually pulling data together can be very time consuming, causing delays and leaving greater room for human error.
By implementing an integrated business management solution, you can significantly increase efficiency among all your business units, allowing departments to easily share and access information. This real-time, inter-departmental integration allows you to get a birds-eye view of the performance of your business at the click of a button.
Business process automation
You can significantly save time by automating key business processes with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Accounting, for example, is much easier when details of all transactions are quickly and automatically shared between departments (no need to manually upload or download information).
Automation will enable your teams to respond to customer enquiries with alacrity and maintain optimal stock levels. Through automatic alerts and responses, relevant managers will be notified when stock reaches predetermined minimum levels. When these levels are reached, purchase orders for replenishment stock are automatically generated.
Automation also enforces consistency in your business’s day to day operations by following local and industry best-practices built into the system.
Synchronised customer data
The success of any small to medium sized business depends on getting new customers and providing excellent products and services to existing customers. Collating and sharing customer data across all departments is essential for effective customer service. SAP Business One, for example, provides the tools to track and manage the entire sales process, from initial contact and invoicing through to project management and after sales support – playing a pivotal role in customer retention management.
This complete view of past, present and prospective customers, along with historic purchases will help you to better understand your customers’ needs, behaviours and preferences. This will enable you to respond to clients effectively in order to boost satisfaction levels, increase sales, maximise profits and ultimately promote client retention. In addition, your marketing team can better plan campaigns based on insights from accurate data about prospective and current customers.
Instant access to information
You have to be able to plan properly to stay ahead of your competitors. Having access to up to date, relevant and accurate business data removes the guesswork and empowers employees to make informed business decisions. With an integrated business management system, you will be able to better manage your cash flow and stock holding with a real-time overview of current stock levels, orders in process and outstanding payments. This, in turn, will save time and allow you to better manage your procurement process and help build organisational wealth.
Who doesn’t like it when a plan comes together and things are working well? Working smarter and better – not harder – is what increased efficiency is about. Your teams will share the benefits of increased efficiency as you grow your organisational wealth together.
Mi Casa Es Su Casa: Achieving Positive Corporate Culture
How to achieve positive corporate culture in a group company.
According to management consultant Peter Drucker: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. And there’s a good chance of this being true, especially since studies have shown a direct correlation between a strong, positive organisational culture and a business’s financial success.
The importance of culture
Prof JL Heskett writes in his 2011 book, The Culture Cycle, that a positive culture can make as much as a 20-30% difference in company performance, when compared with “culturally unremarkable” opponents.
Culture is also a form of protection – strong competitors may be able to copy a strategy, but can’t duplicate a culture. Indeed, when things go wrong in the economy, public opinion, or even the strategy itself, a company’s culture can serve as a safeguard against these, because employees are faithful to it.
But… while culture is a remarkable thing, it’s difficult to define and attain.
The definition of culture
Company culture is traditionally interpreted from a corporate perspective, to include the principles, opinions, basic assumptions, and mindsets that are shared by a group. But these don’t hold any value if they aren’t entrenched in a company’s processes. This is why culture is also about action.
A company can’t create an intelligible culture without people who a) agree with its core values or b) are prepared to commit the time needed to.
Further, those employees who succeed in a company are generally those who most closely associate with the culture. If the principles and ideals of an organisation are shared, a strong culture can even support recruitment through self-selection.
As a result, leaders should spend as much time determining, collaborating on, and communicating culture as they do on strategy.
Culture in a group company
With different and broad-ranging companies working together, the goal of building and sustaining culture in a holding company can be trickier than in other organisations.
In cases like this, it’s critical for every company in the group to hold onto its own distinct culture, in ways that fit the greater business.
Simultaneously, the parent company should create a culture for all of the holding companies to attach to. Because, without a uniting mechanism, real integration can be difficult to accomplish.
The problem is: which culture is the priority? The composition of a group company evolves as it acquires and sells different companies, so a root culture is necessary; one that current and new subsidiary cultures can buy into.
Where to start
- Develop a set of principles, behaviours, and motivators for culture, and define what these mean practically.
- Write a positioning statement to share what the organisation stands for, both externally and internally. For example, Google’s is “organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful”.
- Generate a motto that summarises your culture. Google’s is: “Don’t be evil.” In other words: do positive things for the world, even if it means letting go of some short-term wins.
- Communicate these messages widely and repeat them continuously. (As obvious as this sounds, many group companies make the mistake of not communicating values to subsidiaries.)
- Invest time and resources into smoothing out the cultural differences every time a new company is acquired. This is important because an implosion of combined cultures can cost valuable talent, customers, or worse.
- Teach the culture. Not just through induction programmes for new employees, but through ongoing events, reminders, collaborations, and other ways that remind people what the culture looks and feels like.
- Share and ingrain the group’s root culture, as an element of unity.
The heart of the matter?
Peter Drucker highlights a potent triad in organisational transformation: Strategy, capabilities, and culture. He says that all three must be created together, aligned, and designed to be supportive of one another. This is more complex in group companies but, with strong communication and high levels of collaboration, a clear and productive culture is possible.
Why Deadlines Aren’t As Great As You’d Think For Creative Work
Be careful about how much time pressure you put on yourself.
Do you ever find yourself staring down at a deadline and just freeze? There is something to be said for setting a schedule for yourself and following through, especially when you are first starting a business, but recent research from Harvard finds that when you are dealing with creative pursuits, you need to give yourself enough time to breathe, otherwise you’ll just be doing busy work instead of actually building something that is truly innovative.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review’s Working Knowledge podcast, Professor Teresa Amabile said that during a hectic day, it’s possible to get a mistaken sense of creative energy powered by adrenaline simply because things were being crossed off a checklist.
“People who are under a lot of time pressure on a given day, actually feel very productive, they tend to feel very creative,” she said.
“But, here’s the interesting thing; they were actually significantly less likely to come up with creative ideas, or solve problems creatively on those days. They got a lot of stuff done, but they weren’t necessarily creative.”
She noted that in her research, people came up with the most creative solutions when they were working under low to moderate time pressure. So the next time you think about imposing an arbitrary deadline on developing new ideas, you might want to go easier on yourself.
Because feeling like you’re on a treadmill doesn’t only make your thinking more fractured, Amabile says that it also makes it tougher to find meaning in your work. So what can managers do to make sure that their employees always have time to innovate? Start with providing spaces where they can be quiet, focused and away from distractions.
“Let them understand the importance of what they’re doing, their own individual actions, and how that translates into something that will contribute to a customer need, to a societal need, to something that the company really needs to move forward,” Amabile said.
“Try to give people enough time for projects so that they can explore, so they can do that background research to get the information they need, and then so they can play with it somewhat. That doesn’t mean indefinite time frames, but it probably means longer time frames than people are usually given in most companies for most projects.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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