Business Today

Terms of Endearment

Shamni Pande        Print Edition: Sep 30, 2012

First I need to admit that I moved a thought too soon in my last column when I spoke about extending 'Influence Beyond Authority ' (see www.businesstoday.in/executive-tip). Someone I know asked me if I should have considered the basics of communication first given that people are at each other's throats at the slightest provocation.

"If the operations department is not responding, then I don't care. My job is to get the customer, losing a customer is not my fault," is one reaction from a customer service officer in a services company. "If she thinks she can behave like this, then I will also not respond to her department's request in future," says another person. These could well be your colleagues, or even you muttering things sullenly when things hit the stall button.

Shamni Pande
Shamni Pande
Honestly, this is basic stuff. The smoggy undercurrent that runs strong in every workplace. We usually ignore such issues. We all need to get by and get on with our lives and work. But, today, companies find that they can no longer function with such thick walls around teams and individuals.

The trigger for this column has also been a recent study by talent management consultancy, Development Dimensions International (DDI). Based on DDI's over four decades of global research while assessing talent and creating development programmes, the findings list the 'Interaction Essentials - What They Are and Why They Matter'. "We have found that there exists a core set of skills everyone needs to master in order to effectively build relationships and get work done," says Amogh Deshmukh, Head of Sales and Marketing at DDI India.

The 'Essential' principles to help meet others' personal needs include the ability to maintain or enhance self-esteem, listen and respond with empathy,  ask for help and encourage involvement, share thoughts, feelings, and rationale (to build trust), and finally provide support without removing responsibility (to build ownership).

The DDI research shows that managers are more effective when they perform supportive behaviours without taking over, delegate decision making, provide a culture of continuous improvement, and balance trust and feedback. They must also coach their team members to be more successful, without telling them what to do or removing their ownership or responsibility.

In addition to ensuring that personal needs are met, DDI also developed guidelines to provide structure and best practices for effective interactions. These help meet practical needs and are reproduced below:

Open: At the start of an interaction, let people know what you want to talk about and why it is important. If another person begins the discussion and does not explain the purpose and importance, you can ask what he or she wants to talk about and why. State your understanding and ask if it is correct.
 
Clarify: Clarify facts, figures, or information that everyone involved in the discussion needs to know to move forward.

Develop: Share your own ideas after listening to everyone else's. Where appropriate, use idea generation and evaluation techniques. Help people identify any support or resources that might be needed.

Agree: Once you have a list of good ideas and alternatives, involve everyone in choosing the ideas to put into action. Specify what will be done, who will do it, and by when. Return to the 'clarify' step if you have another issue to talk about or proceed to the 'close' step if there are no more issues. Repeat this process for each issue.

Close: Make a final check of everyone's confidence in their ability to follow up on the actions they agreed upon.

I would like to end with something I read in Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott: "There is something deep within us that responds to those who level with us, who don't suggest our compromises to us."

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