That good relationships among team members should have an apparently positive impact on team performance makes sense. However, today’s and next week’s articles are meant to reinforce just how critical interpersonal relationships may be for an organisation’s success and to provide several recommendations on how to create them. Also, special emphasis is placed on the critical role that the team leader plays in shaping these relationships.
Managing and leading in today’s organisations is growing more difficult. More products and services are coming into the market faster, amalgamation among companies in different industries are increasing, national and global expansion has created huge national and multinational companies and trends toward cross-functional teams are accelerating.
All of these make communication more important and you, as a leader need to improve your interpersonal relationships if you are to succeed in your organisation. Technology-based communication systems will only take you so far; ultimately it comes down to the development of trusting relationships among colleagues and subordinates.
Research indicates that successful leaders spend 70 percent more time developing relationships than their less successful counterparts and that people with rich interpersonal relationships are better informed, more creative, more efficient and better problem-solvers than those with limited social networks. By having a trusted set of advisors and advocates, effective leaders make better decisions faster and are more likely to have support for their ideas and plans.
Such leaders can move trust building from a one-to-one focus to a broader culture. In order to do that, there are some other things they have to do that apply to organisation-level trust dynamics.
1.Do everything possible to reduce fear of irrational consequence
Fear in the organisation impedes the flow of useful information and compromises the integrity of the truthfulness of the data. Bad news moving up the organisation is an acute manifestation of this problem. If you want to determine how much fear there is in the organisation, get the answers to these two questions: 1. How fast does bad news travel? 2. How hard is it to locate the facts?
Fear inspires defensive behaviour and when people are scared their attention shifts from investing their energy in their work to protecting or defending their image or reputation. So, talk out loud about your commitment to creating a safe and democratic place for the truth to live - and walk your talk on this one.
2. Be transparent
All great organisations have a free flow of data from top to bottom, with a minimal amount of friction. This is the source of institutional trust. Again, this starts from the top. Your task as leader is to be forthright and transparent as possible, with full and regular communications to all of your followers.
Provide the context that lets the team know that they can be trusted to see how things are done, decisions are formulated and strategies are created. Show them that nothing is done in the dark or behind the screen.
3. Specialise in the art of communication
At its most fundamental level, effective communication is the exchange of thoughts, information, ideas and messages between people or groups. But it’s not communication unless the transmission is understood. Communication can happen verbally, nonverbally, in writing and through behaviour as well as by listening and using feedback.
No matter who or what audience you must address, the art of communication can be a daunting task.
Here are seven steps to clear and effective communication you can use in any situation.
Stay on message: Be clear exactly what ideas you are trying to express or the message you are trying to convey to the other person or group. What do you most want them to understand?
Make it a two-way conversation: Try to really hear and understand where others are coming from. What are they trying to say? What messages are they trying to get across to you? Ask yourself, “Do I really understand them?” Pay special attention not just to what they are saying, but to what isn’t being said.
Make sense: Always ask yourself, “Does what I’m saying make sense? Does the feedback I’m receiving make sense? What is the perspective they are trying to get across? Does it make sense that they have this perspective?” When both parties in the conversation are truly able to say they understand or that “it makes sense,” clear and effective communication has been achieved.
You’re responsible for any failure to communicate: Remember, as the primary communicator you are 100 percent responsible for the other person’s understanding of the communication. In other words, if you don’t feel that you are being understood, you have not completed the job of communicating. You must re-communicate your position to ensure that you’ve been properly heard.
Can you hear them now? Do you really hear what others are saying? To really listen requires your full attention and being able to feed back to them exactly what you have heard them say.
Repetition, repetition, repetition: An equally effective way to make sure others understand exactly what you are communicating is to ask them to repeat back their interpretation of what has been said or asked of them. In order to guarantee the results or reaction you want, you need to make sure that your audience can give you a clear explanation of what is being required of them.
Respect your audience as you respect yourself: To be a clear and effective communicator, you must first recognize that your message is not just about you or what you want. It’s about “what’s in it for the audience.” You must both believe in your message and sincerely care about the needs and the unique perspectives of those you are communicating to if you truly want to be heard.
After all, they took the time and trouble to hear what you have to say, so it’s equally important to recognize and respect that we each have different perspectives based on our positions, motivations and needs.
The virtually endless benefits of clear and effective communication are not hard to achieve as long as you keep your message simple enough to be understood, interesting enough to be remembered and most importantly, respectful enough of others to be respected.
How can a leader cope with an information overload situation? There is no one best way. The techniques that have been developed are often used in conjunction with one another. One technique involves filtering the messages so that the important ones, those requiring immediate action, get to the leader first.
Another technique involves delegating and decentralizing the decision-making process so messages do not go to a single executive. Still another technique involves carefully selecting information sources and eliminating those proven inaccurate or unreliable.
Next week: Walk the talk
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)