Let me start with a Story of one of our key clients. XYZ is a fast-growing technology company, having problems between product development and product marketing. Product development certainly had a big job for their stable applications that were the backbone of the business. They were also quickly transitioning to a nimbler organization with design thinking and agile methodologies; but not quick enough for the functional units who relied on them. Product management was actively working with the new digital customers, frequently needing changes to respond quickly. Customers were demanding digital experiences monthly, weekly, and daily. Jane, the head of Product management was constantly in Chip, the VP of development’s office, first requesting then demanding that they move faster. Shift what they were working on and change on a dime was always the theme to Chip. Jane could not listen or hear why development could not meet this pace. Unfortunately, it got heated to the point that Jane and Chip stopped talking. This spread like wildfire through watercooler conversations, cascading to other loyal members of their teams. Tough issues became harder to disagree on and discuss. The conflict was having a large effect on product development, speed, quality, and even affecting customer satisfaction. Fortunately, in this case, the relationship became so broken that it bubbled up to the CEO, Bill. He was first very angry. Did they just not like each other? Not want the company to succeed? Why could these two senior executives let this happen? Then an idea hit him like a bolt of lightning: what if it was his leadership problem?
We believe that this is not an isolated incident in our fast paced world. Miscommunication and misalignment may be rampant in your organization. If so, it is sapping your company’s productivity, adding time and expense to large projects and slowing your organization down. Multiple technology disruptions are affecting us rapidly in Cloud, Big Data and AI, IOT and Blockchain. This coupled with the multi-generational transfer in the workplace is creating unprecedented change. We call it Digital Disruption, and want to help you turn it into Digital Transformation. How do you stay ahead, make sense of this chaos while exploring some new ways of communicating to increase productivity, move faster, reduce conflict, and drive real business results? By focusing on the human side.
Think about your workday and then extend it to the key people you interact with internally or externally. With not enough time to accomplish your important tasks and priorities shifting on a dime, you are frequently multi-tasking or transitioning between tasks. This creates a lot of opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstandings that result in doing things over. There is often not enough time to clarify for our understanding particularly when we disagree. Without this connection and empathic understanding, we are like runners in a relay race who constantly drop the baton.
The effects of our environment are making it harder and harder to communicate for real alignment. And unfortunately, it is hard to detect. These opportunities for miscommunication are unfortunately not as clear to your P&L as a lost piece of revenue, increasing costs, or an angry customer. The effects of undetected misalignment and miscommunication can be terrible with downstream affect on costs, employee morale, and your all important culture.
We understand that most of this miscommunication is occurring because the world is changing fast and we are all pressed for time. Unfortunately, the old communication tools and techniques that we have been taught are just not working. They do not teach the behavioral or psychological skills needed to connect with people or how to listen in a way to gain empathy and understanding. And they do not teach us how to slow down. When conflict starts happening, our urges to be right take over. Using communication skills 1.0 in this brave new 2.0 world are the root cause of many of our biggest problems. Why don’t we do something?
We believe that interventions and training that focus on the human side of change and communication will reap huge rewards for those leaders with the Insight to act now.
When businesses and the way they operate shift from their traditional mode of operation and management to the modern and technology oriented ways of operation, the transitions referred to as Digital Transformation or disruption.
A new survey finds a “widespread stall” in digital transformation efforts, suggesting that its leadership is in crisis. 39% of the senior executives surveyed said they encounter resistance to new ways of working and feel overwhelmed by the complexity of digital transformation efforts.
Family can bring out the best and the worst in us!
Why is it that what is touted as the “most wonderful time of the year” can bring on such angst and anxiety? According to psychologist Leonard Felder, author of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People, “most Americans experience significant tension at one or more family events each year.” Felder found, in a random sample of more than 1,350 people, 75% had at least 1 family member who gets on their nerves (Trespicio, CNN). At least 1? Try 5 or 6!
The holiday season means different celebrations for people, but it always means togetherness, family, and a haul of interactions leading people to fall into two groups as they anticipate the holidays: those who struggle or those elated. With expectations set to have a wonderful time, different personalities, and overall heightened emotions, the holidays emphasize that struggle. How we react to those situations (naughty or nice?) stems from the core layers and building blocks of our personalities.
During the holidays with large groups of people around, understanding ourselves and others comes in handy. While it isn’t practical to start teaching emotional intelligence to each member of your family, slowing down a little to learn how to better understand the people in your life can make for a much happier holiday.
When we start to better understand what aspects of personality drives our loved-ones’ behavior, we can adapt our own behavior to allow more effective interaction, and put it in the right perspective. For example, maybe your mom’s thorough detail-orientation for decorating the house drives you nuts. Why can’t she be like your sister who just takes the decorations and gets it done? But they do things 2 different ways, and approaching both your sister and your mom the same way will be ineffective. It is helpful to know who we’re dealing with, what drives their behavior, and therefore how to improve communication skills.
Having an insightful handle on different personalities, not just family dynamics, is invaluable. That insight will help you adapt to improve interactions, not just around the holiday dinner table but in every aspect of your professional/personal life. In the corporate world, having a positive, fruitful interaction with coworkers or clients begins with knowing who they are as people and their motivators. How effective could the sales and marketing be if they harnessed the knowledge of personality to improve communication skills for sales people and business sales techniques?
American automobile executive Lee Iacocca said it best: “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”
Everyone has a core personality formed by the basic principles or nature, nurture, and a combination of the two. While we cannot change our personality, we can grow an acute awareness of who we are, and our nuances. To understand others, the first step is understanding ourselves. Do you accurately know your personality profile? Think about where yourself and others fall on the DiSC personality map below. Start looking at stressful holiday situations differently and they will change. Aim to understand, not escape.
“…we need to know our own personality, as well as others’ personality. That is, the characteristics of each and how to flex our styles for more effective interaction and communication.” (The Art of The Nudge, pg. 73)
Nudge: Whether you are naughty or nice, gather and communicate mindfully to make the most of your holidays.
Other Points of View
What am I doing wrong?
Have you ever asked yourself why things aren’t changing for you, whether personally or professionally? You’ve done everything you can think of to change direction, but you always end up back at square one. But maybe it’s just that: changing how you think. Whether we know it or not, our subconscious is perpetually at work, feeding us biases and stories. Stories inform emotions, emotions inform actions.
Our conscious brain, what we are actively thinking about, opposes the subconscious brain, what’s going on beneath the surface. The conscious brain methodically deals in facts and figures and can process only up to 9 things at a time while our subconscious brain is a messy composite of deeply influential experiences and emotions, processing millions of ideas simultaneously. This is both fascinating and frightening as we realize that the subconscious could be a great enabler and deciding factor in our actions and thoughts. Story informs your actions 100% of the time, you’re simply not aware of it.
You’re always having a conversation with yourself which results in stories being formed. So stories surround us, but the five stories that are most likely to hold you back professionally or personally are:
- The self doubt story. People will know that I’m not good enough or smart enough. These negative stories pile on top of each other until we perceive it as the truth.
- The fear of failure story. A story of a past mistake repeats itself. You’re afraid to try something new because you can’t shake the notion that it will go wrong.
- The unknown story. Change is hard, so we fear the unknown and our possible inability to handle it. But you are more capable than you know.
- The assumptions story. We all assign meaning to people’s behaviors and interpret their actions. Our minds have a way of spiraling out on us. We can’t assume just because Bob didn’t wave to me at work today like he normally does that he is furiously angry at me.
- The overconfidence story. You say “I got this. I have it all figured out”. We tell ourselves what we want to happen and hear versus what is happening in reality. Our confidence and judgments sometimes cloud our ability to make the right decisions.
80% of what you said to yourself yesterday, you say to yourself today. You have to engage your conscious brain to first realize that these stories are being told before you can identify what stories are being told. Story creates bias, that bias instructs our behaviors. Start digging deep and figure out the stories you are telling yourself that are holding you back.
Nudge: Tell yourself a new story of positive change!
Other points of view:
Millennials…Start ‘Em Early
Remember back in the day when “1999” by Prince thumped on every boom box? The ominously funky jam was the perfect song to celebrate the new millennium. Yet as the reality of “Y2K” sunk in, people responded with panic, triggered by great fears of the unknown. So many questions, worries and tragedies were predicted. With some minor glitches and adjustments, we all survived. So why does a momentous generational shift already in motion alarm your company?
Millennials are the generation born then between 1982 and 2004, now 13 to 35 years old and quickly maturing into the work force. They’re most known for filling positions formerly held by baby boomers but “This group’s values, needs, wants and ways of working are different and will cause the same kind of disruptions and opportunities that the baby boomers who preceded them did” (The Art of the Nudge pg 17).
The Bersin by Deloitte report highlights, “…more than 3.6 million company chiefs are set to retire as younger professionals ascend to managerial slots. Companies are busy planning for this transition anticipating the massive loss of boomers” (Altman). Once again, the impact of the “millennium” creates its own sort of chaos as this unique workforce comes in requiring a cultural shift as well. Communication-wise, Millennials appear to be the most connected digitally, but disconnected interpersonally. This generational shift requires training and development programs to allow new employees, managers and leaders to adapt. Are you investing time to train Millennial employees to adapt? You should be.
Leadership expert and author of Liquid Leadership, Brad Szollose says, “You can’t put someone in a leadership role assuming they have the skills to lead, only to train them 10 years later. If you want Millennials to succeed, invest in their leadership development today.” Leadership qualities and soft skills are invaluable and critical to prioritize in training Millennials.
With 200-300 social/digital media posts coming at Millennials every day, the number of disruptive ideas accentuate the pace of change. It’s no surprise Millennials’ priorities shift rapidly; they are distracted and racing to keep up!
New leaders need to be able to communicate in a way that:
- Engages people by listening and respecting them;
- Creates a compelling vision that they want to and are able to “opt into”;
- Gains alignment so they take action with passion and persistence;
- Creates high performing execution;
Employers view these characteristics as critical a skill set for high performance as competent, technical skills. Gathering stories from others fosters unprecedented understanding of them so we walk away from conversations knowing how we can help one another in a mutually beneficial way. A human leader speeds up your real business performance. We find Millennials to be thirsty for learning to elevate their skills and inspired by the idea of slowing down to truly understand people, their needs, wants and desires through empathic conversations.
Nudge: Think about what are you doing to create these new Millennial Leaders. How will you help unleash, embrace and empower their enormous potential?