Communicating with others is a task fraught with danger. (As one famous individual said, “You can’t argue with a word like ‘fraught’”.) It’s made all the more difficult because it relies on the other person being reasonable – or, at least, on seeing everything you say as being reasonable. But sometimes this just isn’t so.
A client I was coaching asked me how he could work with others in a more collaborative way. After discussing some of his history and analysing some of his leadership traits (using a Harrison Assessments profile), he had decided that this was an important area to work on.
An old hand around his company, and an executive with a great wealth of experience, he felt that he was being too aggressive with others and impatient with the slow development of solutions and realisations amongst his peers and reports. This ended up stressing everyone involved, hampering decision-making and producing inferior results with his people.
Collaboration is an important part of the workplace – even when you’re at the top. The fact is, you won’t be able to get anything done in an organisation without the help of others. High performing leaders know how to tap into the minds of those around them and to encourage their input.
But some of us have difficulty listening to others – particularly when we know what they don’t know. Nevertheless, it’s important to still draw them into your thinking, rather than turn them off.
Here’s some of my advice, modified a little from the original. It’s in no particular order, but it’s all good.
1. THINK OF OTHERS’ WORTH AND THEN COACH THEM THROUGH DECISIONS. When discussing, first note in your head that this individual clearly has the right or worth to say something useful. Express appreciation for their input or question and say “Could you first tell me the context of this decision?”, then ask the individual or team, “What is your initial reaction on this matter?”
You can then ask a series of questions to lead through to a conclusion.
Offer your opinion at key points by saying something like, “I like your suggestion, because you’ve hit the nail on the head with the actual cause. One of the things that you may need to consider is ...” or “That’s an interesting suggestion. One of the problems that I have found in taking this approach is ...”
By doing this, you can also take a coaching role by guiding someone through to making their own decision. You are partially in a teaching/guiding role by virtue of your position, experience and skill. Take advantage of that by helping others to develop the same capability as you.
After they start to reach a decision, make your opinion clearly known in order to further influence. The questions will really help influence the other(s) anyway, though.
Never feel that you need to let someone make bad decisions without stating your objections and opinions, though. There’s a reason you are still where you are.
2. TEACH OTHERS TO THINK CRITICALLY. Ask others first, then state your position or understanding and then explicitly invite them to challenge that position by saying, “Now, that’s my understanding. What problems can you see with that position?” Help others to think Advantage/Disadvantage.
3. MORE COMPLEX DECISIONS & SOLUTIONS BENEFIT FROM OTHERS’ INPUT AND BUY-IN. If you are giving your opinion and it is appropriate first say, “My opinion is this, based on this. I feel strongly about this, so let’s examine it and talk about the pros and cons and reach a mutual decision, because we all need to own this decision if we are going to put it in place.”
The complexity of the decision determines the complexity of the discussion.
This is different from enforcing appropriate standards. For example, there is no discussion about whether or not harassment or low building standards is acceptable. It simply is not. But you can discuss the reasons for the standards and jointly develop ways to maintain them. (“There is success in a multitude of counsellors.”)
4. PRAISE OTHERS SPECIFICALLY. Praise others as frequently as possible for their suggestions, ideas, decisions and even attempts at stuff. If you remember that everyone around you is worthy of respect, then every time you praise them they will feel that and it will oil your discussions, decisions and your guidance.
5. OFFER YOUR EXPERTISE. Say, “You’re working on this. Come ask me any time you want to access my knowledge regarding it or the organisation.”
6. GOOD DECISIONS ARE WORTH THE TIME THEY TAKE. The time issue (and impatience) is a biggie. It seems easier to just do it yourself (and sometimes that’s appropriate), especially when you can clearly see the necessary decision a mile away. Again, try to diplomatically guide others.
It’s important to broadcast matters, timing, etc. to others so that they know the parameters they are working with. And in terms of being impatient with others’ decision-making, remember that they have a right to be involved in decisions that affect them, so remember that they may not have the experience, capacity or practice in making the kinds of decisions that you can make in a couple of seconds.
BUT, if they are involved as much as possible, there will be less mistakes, increased motivation, higher satisfaction, less hassle, etc. etc.
If you need to make a decision quickly, make others aware of the time limits in advance. Thus, with some of your staff: “We need to make a decision regarding this. We have only half an hour to finalise it. If we need more time, we’ll have to come back to it later, but I don’t see any real reason why we can’t do it right now. What do you think?”
They say, “Yes, yes, we can do that” or, “but I thought this had to go through another process beforehand”.
You say, “Well, that needs to happen first then, so let’s reconvene later today.”
If it’s a case where you know what the end result will be, but must wait on others, strategically put things in place to go once the decision is finally made. But, of course, be ready for something else entirely to happen. Such is life.
(Note: I'm not talking about abandoning your responsibility or accountability, but about involving others so that better decisions are made and there is greater buy-in on decisions.)
7. LAUGH – often. It catches on, releases tension, makes things easier and helps energise everyone.
8. BE HONEST. Say, “Look, I realise I’m getting a bit tired and impatient. Please forgive me for that. I really do feel urgently about this, so I need you to help us get there a bit quicker”, or “I really feel like we’re not considering everything. Here’s my experience and opinion.” Polite honesty and humility go a long way.
9. BE POSITIVE. Keep a positive mindset and remember that not only are you capable, but most of the people around you probably are too. Praise them, involve them where possible and remember that by doing so you’re helping yourself and others in the long run.
High performing leaders know how to get the best out of others, using a multitude of skills. Use your communication skills and your experience to bring other people on board and build a high performing company that will lessen the risks and improve the results for all.
To enquire about growing in your communication and leadership abilities, contact us to arrange a discussion of your needs and see how we can help you become a high performing, productivity-driven leader.
Call us at +61 8 9288 1780 or contact us to arrange your discussion.
Or visit our Authentic Speaking page for information on unique coaching and workshops focussed on improving your ability to influence, persuade and inspire your audience.
Copyright © 2010 Lamplighter Performance Consulting
May not be used without permission