As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
A famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke is "What we've got here is a failure to communicate" - a common theme many of us have experienced in our places of employment. As we continue emphasizing the essential elements of a high-impact company, we shift from the previous week's topic of accurate data to the need for effective two-way non-judgmental communication. A common theme for most organizations is the lack of efficient and effective two-way horizontal and vertical communication.
"Communication works for those who work at it." – John Powell
Communication failure is significant given that research of 400 companies and 100,000 employees in the US and UK found ineffective messaging costs $37 billion, with an additional $62.4 million annually in lost productivity. The negative impact does not include a full breakdown, but the reality is that these high negative costs illustrate the need for better workforce communication.
Developing productive and healthy two-way conversations starts by shifting from a deficit to a strengths-based approach necessary to drive the beneficial change essential to achieving organizational transformational results. Better conversations are critical to integrating greater emphasis on positivity in our relationships. A shift in our dialogue with others from a deficit to a strengths-based approach is necessary to drive the beneficial change essential to achieve organizational transformational results.
"Conversation is a crucial part of everything we do" is the basis of the book Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. Creating conversations worth having is a three-step process:
1. Name It - Identifying an unwanted problem or complaint.
2. Flip It – Determining the positive opposite.
3. Frame It – What do you desire as the favorable outcome or impact?
The nature of our conversations should be appreciative, achieved by using an inquiry-based approach to generate information and statement-based affirmative interactions with the intent to add value.
Additional opportunities to improve our ability to be more effective communicators will allow us to build healthier relationships. Additionally, we will have the potential to avoid conflicts arising or, when they do, be better able to defuse them. There is also the benefit of fostering deeper understanding across the organization. Tips for improving our communication capability include:
• Active Listening – We must recognize whether we are spending more time formulating our response to the speaker or giving the person our undivided attention. We should allow the individual to fully share without interrupting, maintain eye contact, and acknowledge what the person is saying before responding.
• Acknowledge Feelings - It is essential to show the person that we hear what they are saying and understand how it impacts their emotions,
• Avoid Judgment and Criticism – Understanding the speaker's perspective should be our priority while refraining from criticizing or passing judgment while considering the person's thoughts, feelings, or actions.
• Be Patient – There is a need to give the person space to communicate while avoiding rushing while understanding that sometimes emotions can run high, and it might take time for both parties to express themselves fully.
• Avoid Assumptions – Do not make assumptions about what the other person means or feels. Instead, ask clarifying questions to ensure you clearly understand their message.
• Clarify Misunderstandings – It is vital to understand the person's perspective thoroughly to avoid making assumptions to avoid a misjudgment from escalating to an uncomfortable situation.
• Empathy – Putting ourselves in the shoes of the other will help us to understand the speaker's perspective and emotions to appreciate their feelings and experiences better.
• Find Common Ground – Focus first on areas of agreement or common interests that can serve as a starting point for constructive conversation.
• Give and Receive Feedback – To improve your skills, we should be open to giving and receiving feedback about the communication process.
• Paraphrase and Summarize – We demonstrate active listening when summarizing and confirming what the speaker shares with us.
• Practice Non-Defensive Responses – Avoid responding with an offensive reaction and instead express curiosity and a willingness to understand the other person's point of view when discussions become challenging.
• Respectful Tone and Body Language - Use a respectful tone of voice and open body language. Avoid crossing your arms or displaying defensive gestures that might create barriers.
• Stay Calm - Keep your emotions in check and remain calm, especially in heated or emotional conversations. Responding with anger or frustration can hinder effective communication.
• Stay Present - Be present in the conversation mentally and emotionally. Avoid distractions, such as checking your phone or multitasking, which can convey your lack of engagement.
• Use "I" Statements - When expressing your thoughts or feelings, use "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory. For instance, say "I feel" instead of "You make me feel."
We only become better communicators if we first see the need and then work to improve this essential element of leadership. By prioritizing our skills in this area, we can show others' understanding and respect and navigate our conversations more skillfully.
A common theme for most organizations is the lack of efficient and effective two-way horizontal and vertical communication. The nature of our conversations should be appreciative, achieved by using an inquiry-based approach to generate information and statement-based affirmative interactions with the intent to add value. We only become better communicators if we first see the need and then work to improve this essential element of leadership.
I encourage individuals interested in improving their communication skills to pick one of the most interesting tips. Then work to incorporate that element into their daily interaction with others. It may be helpful to put a reminder in their daily calendar or strategically place a sticky note visible in the area where most of their conversations occur.
I am grateful to Cheri Torres, the co-author of Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. She has written several books and articles that provide a positive approach to dealing with change leadership and strategy vital to my success as a consultant.
Next week's blog will shift to a review of the essential element of active and dynamic leadership integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.
I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations. The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers. You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.
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