Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Productive Relationships

This is a big moment. In the last two newsletters, we've talked about WHO to talk to and WHAT to talk to them about in order to make changes in the way company works. This week, we are going to start talking about HOW to accomplish what we want.

The reason I call it a big moment is that we are going to talk about YOU, and why you need to change the way you talk to people to get the results you want.
Some people believe that one is either born with communication talent or not, and it can’t be learned.
I am telling you it can.
Many people don’t believe that a change in their perspective will cause a change in their communication results.
 I am here to tell you it will.
Some people feel that it is unfair that they should have to learn these skills when it makes the communication better for EVERYONE when they practice it. It’s like they are carrying the load for everyone.
I am saying “So what?”…. If you want to have great results, you have to put in some extra work. What’s unfair about that?

If you are still with me, and are willing to do the work, I’ll show you HOW to approach others such that they want very much to work with you because they know you value them and lead them into better results than they can get elsewhere.

I speak to professional organizations, university classes, and companies routinely about the things that cause them issues at work and the people I meet almost always tell the same story.

 “Our people are all good at what they do. I mean, the engineers are all good engineers, the project managers now what they are doing, the production personnel are capable of doing great work… but they don’t TALK to each other until something goes wrong, then they work hard to RE-DO what they could have done in the FIRST PLACE if they just would have talked about it. They blame EACH OTHER for the communication problems, and say that management doesn’t hold people accountable (meaning ‘they don’t fire the people that I think they should’). It’s this way everywhere, and I don’t think there is a good solution”.

This should give you a good idea of how important being a good communicator is; it is a widespread problem, it is the root cause for many of our routine problems (if we communicated well, a great MANY problems go away), and it is about LISTENING, TALKING, and THINKING in certain ways that tend to get better results. This means it is the key to great results AND  involves changing the way we do our most common activities, so we have lots of opportunities to practice and can get better quickly.

We need first to consider just ourselves. We know about the things that make us uncomfortable in communication and instead of thinking about our counterpart making us uncomfortable, we are going to concentrate on doing what WE can do to make them comfortable. If we do this, we are much more likely to put them in a frame of mind in which they will be cooperative and THAT is when we will begin achieving what we want to achieve. This is 70% of good communications –keeping the right frame of mind. THIS IS THE HARD PART. Once you are through it, you will get better results than most of the people you know. Until you practice it about 25 times, it will feel very wrong (if you are doing it right). Then, you will never want to go back to the way you used to communicate.

The principles we will use are:
  • Giving the benefit of the doubt as far as our counterpart’s motives
  • Using inquiry like a journalist would and listening to answers
  • Working actively to prevent defensiveness
  • Being honest and explicit
Many of us know that these contribute to good communication, but have trouble doing them. The reason for our current trouble (after training lots of people that have had that trouble) is that they never thought about a way to do them all together. For instance, we have all seen someone say something that resulted in defensiveness in someone else, while the speaker thought they were just being “honest and explicit”. Experiences like that give us very strong mental examples that tell us “you just can’t GET any better”,  say things like “the truth hurts”, and blame the communication issue on the other person.

You may be doing these things already, or you may think you are and actually aren’t; either way, I will outline how I want you to approach it.

Giving the benefit of the doubt is pretty easy – just recognize that it is not necessary to understand your counterpart’s reasons for having their opinions .Unless you are sure that they are purposely lying to you in order to cause you to think something that isn’t true, then that is good enough for now. What you DO need is a full understanding of their opinions – that will tell you what you need to know about their reasoning. Later, we will learn to examine their story with them and find the answers to any important questions (like – are they being honest).

Using inquiry is something we will talk about a lot going forward because it is the first new skill that you will need. Not that it is new to everyone, but if it IS, you will find it a little different than what you are used to and difficult because of that. Inquiry is a method to collaboratively compare multiple points of view to find the best “parts” and build the best ideas out of those parts. I have written a couple of articles on MY model of Inquiry (the SPIRAL model) and you can refer to them here and here.

“Working actively to prevent defensiveness” and “Being honest and explicit” are accomplished using the other model I developed called “The Score”. I have written a lot about it over the last few years and you can find past newsletters on the subject here and a paper written on the subject at my website here. The paper has a flyer attached to a 3 day class I was offering when I wrote it. Please ignore it.

Insist on great business results! Go to Pathfinder Communication

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