“Getting your folks integrated with each other is a challenge for most leaders. However, it’s a vital skill that you can easily hone to create a more engaged community within your organization,” according to leadchangegroup.com, in “Five Approaches to Connecting Your People.”
Employee engagement and successful interactions occur when all teams and workers “create a synergy that perpetuates the organization’s culture and values.”
The connected workforce will have ability to build relationships with consumers when this first occurs within the walls of the organization.
To what extent does good communication create team-building? How can both managers and employees improve their interactions?
Further, what benefits might your members enjoy when your team is collaborative, and when your corporate culture is one that embraces exchange of thought?
This week, an examination of communication techniques and tools that facilitate understanding. Success starts when individuals communicate with greater courage and empathy, thus creating productive environments to benefit consumers.
‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’ –George Bernard Shaw
Do we really know what occurs on our team? What is our communication style?
“Effective communication is one of the most important life skills we can learn—yet one we don’t usually put a lot of effort into,” notes an article at lifehacker.com, which offers 10 tips for good communication.
In addition to putting away distractions like cell phones, monitoring one’s body language to indicate attentiveness, and tailoring messages to be appropriate to the audience, good communicators also:
“Curiosity is the fuel for creativity and a foundation for great relationship. It blasts through the assumptions and judgments we make about other people and it calms conflict,” notes a post at Aspire Collaborative Services LLC.
Three ways leaders can model and inspire curiosity to build relationships:
1. Be present and focus on those who come to them;
2. Listen in a way that allows understanding and eliminates assumptions—this will promote learning; and
3. Inquire. Asking questions will make the other person feel valued. “If you consider the times you’ve really felt like someone listened to and respected you, you’ll remember what that feels like.”
‘The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.’ --Thomas Berger, American novelist
Because question-asking is critical to good communication and collaborations—and also to identifying accurate information imperative for good decision-making--let’s explore the art and science of asking good questions.
“Asking Open-Ended Questions Helps New Managers Build Trust,” says Harvard Business Review, which notes that new managers often become promoted due to their abilities to succeed in technical or operational functions. However, “The skill set required to excel in a technical/operational role is different than the skill set required for success as a manager.”
First-time managers are frequently confronted with challenges in effective communication and need to focus on “one immediate and powerful change” in their interactions with others: “Ask open-ended questions and avoid making directive statements.”
Closed-ended inquiries come with a “yes” or “no” response and do not help the manager gather important information, while an open-ended question will “promote confidence and trust in the relationship” between managers and staff.
As a result, the employee feels respected and “The relationship between manager and direct report deepens, which enhances productivity and quality of life in the workplace.”
Open-ended questions, too, facilitate development for employees as they consider contributions they can make and feel empowered in their roles.
Take the science of good question-asking as a communication tool beyond the office and know that asking the right question will yield better answers to help serve members.
According to Data Science Central, “It’s important to start with the right questions” in looking at business problems and data sets. “If you are clear about what you are trying to achieve then you can think about the questions to which you need answers.”
These questions are important in considering the needs of your members as you work to meet their objectives. In this example of good question-asking, you might ask:
‘Good words are worth much, and cost little.’ --George Herbert, English poet
Staffers, too, have responsibility in good information exchanges that meet business objectives. Ideas that are not expressed yield missed opportunities, says Harvard Business Review in “You’re Already More Persuasive than You Think.”
“Our bosses make shortsighted decisions, but we don’t suggest an alternative, figuring they wouldn’t listen anyway. Or we have an idea that would require a group effort, but we don’t sell our peers on it, figuring it would be too much of an uphill battle.”
Fear of rejection is often at the root of silence.
But, those around us are more receptive than we realize, the article notes, and often a simple request or suggestion can be influential. We underestimate ourselves.
Research findings presented in the article verify employees “assume that their influence is dependent on their roles or titles” and fail to ask.
“People are generally unable to put themselves into the mindsets of those on the receiving end of requests” and don’t consider that “it’s often harder for people, even bosses, to say ‘no’ than ‘yes.’ ”
Consider the progress that is not discovered because subordinates fear speaking up.
What might occur when a culture of open communication prevails?
Practical suggestions to help in making requests include:
Consider the influence of bias for both parties during information exchange. Business Insider illuminates “20 Cognitive Biases that Screw Up Your Decisions.”
Be aware “there are a huge number of cognitive stumbling blocks that can affect our behavior, preventing us from acting in our own best interests.”
Among them, “anchoring bias” in which we overly rely on the first piece of information shared; the “bandwagon effect” where “the probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief”; the “blind spot bias” in which people are unaware of their biases; and “confirmation bias,” in which people believe only information that confirms personal preconceptions.
Bias is commonplace. Are you aware of it and how it affects decision-making at your organization?
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said,” observed Peter Drucker.
Unspoken words and thoughts, as well as misunderstandings and bias, will affect those you serve. It is a good idea to ask questions and carefully listen to one another as a first step in meeting consumer needs.
When ideas or inquiries are presented by colleagues, consider the impact you together might create by taking a moment to ask simply and respectfully in return, “What did you say?”