Oh dear. Where do you begin with ‘communication’? We just need to improve it? Daft as it may seem, it is the one thing that any of us who work as consultants can almost guarantee to put in the report for the board before we start any investigation. That is an indictment in itself, I suppose. But, like everyone agrees they need to improve their time management at their annual appraisal (more of that later…), every organisation can readily agree that they need to improve communication. Where though, do we start? This is too much for one blog – so the first one is going to be about…
I am sure we all agree, that it is them that cause the problem. We are fine. So are our friendly colleagues – the people we like. But the rest? “I just don’t know where they are coming from…” Ever said that?
I don’t know how to break this to you, but that is the essence of the problem. We get on best with people who are like us. The real skill is being able to flex our style so that we build bridges with more people. You don’t have to love people at work. You just have to make sure you all know what you are both on about. That means not assuming, checking, listening (actively – don’t think of anything else when someone is talking to you. It’s rude and slows things down).
So hard when one sense is down…
Let’s just consider two basic personality types – the extrovert and introvert. Both trying to get through to each other. The extrovert not listening, but talking. The introvert listening, but not speaking. Never the twain shall meet! Unless the appreciate where each other is coming from…and make allowances for each other. Extroverts need to shut up and listen (even if they have to bite their tongue for what feels like ages…) and the introverts need to jump into that quiet space and say something – a question will do as a start, because you can then shut up again…as a reward.
Alright, there is much more you can do (I use various profiling tools to help, like Insight to Communication Styles), but just get that basic right, and you are on the way.
Usually ’emotion’ is kept out of business. I have had a lot of delegates on Leadership courses I have run over the years. We do a lot of self analysis, psychometrics 360 feedback and a good deal of soul searching. Yes, the solid Feelings people in Myers Briggs terms do get the positive push of emotion. The Thinkers? Had a great quote from a delegate recently: “Yes Phil, I do understand that I am a bit hard headed, and just want to get things done. I suppose I realise that I should be doing these soft things sometimes. I may just have to delegate it though…”
But then we get to sport. Was there emotion in Andy Murray yesterday? There certainly was when he lost last year’s final. And Bartoli in the ladies final? Steely determination and absolute focus – and quirky and fun and loving and crying afterwards…but her opponent lost it in her head during the match, and the errors – unforced as they are called in tennis, because they are your mistake – culminated in poor Sabine Lisicki actively crying on court. She restored her pride and her game towards the end, but it was too late.
Maybe it is about the right emotion at the right time. But I think you should have pride, excitement, high five feelings, and at least once a week when you can honestly say “That’s why I love doing this job”. If not, change what you do or the way that you do it, in my opinion.
The recently retired Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson was present for Andy Murray’s semi final, and had a 20 minute chat with him afterwards. Andy said it was priceless advice that he wouldn’t be sharing. We can imagine some of it was about not giving in. We have witnessed some astonishing comebacks engineered by Sir Alex over the years. Two seasons ago, they lost the Football Premiership title to their local rivals Manchester City, when they overtook them with the last kick of their game. Apparently, Sir Alex addressed his disappointed players on the way home on the long journey from their away game at Sunderland. “Remember how this feels. And put that right next season”. I would think that was all he said, and was all he had to say.
Andy emotionally drained…
Channelling our emotion (like Murray, Bartoli and Ferguson manage without thinking) may be a key to success that we shouldn’t ignore.