Posts in: interpersonal skills

Foot in mouth or fingers in ears? Feedback is a matter of give and take

David Silverman recently published an interesting article at Strategy & Business about the importance of listening, using a real world example as a metaphor. You can partly guess the example from his article’s title: George Harrison: Now That Guy Knew How to Listen. His essential point – that listening is a vital element of communicating – is important, but we need to remember that working life does not consist of a series of impressive solos.

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How Many Times Must I Tell You?

Being reminded can increase failure rather than avoiding it, but increasing scepticism also increases the number of times we must hear a message before we believe it. the findings of the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer suggest that, for all the failing of governments and regulators, their are important lessons for CEOs and executives when it comes to the role of trust in communication - and the role of communication in building better trust.

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Empathy and fellow feeling: a deeper embrace than sympathy

The challenge with empathy is that it is harder than sympathy. Even those of us in reasonably sound mental health will know what’s meant by a phrase like ‘making sympathetic noises’ – and how little those noises might really mean to the person making them. Empathy is more demanding: you don’t just have to demonstrate the socially acceptable response to someone else’s plight, you have to be able to imagine yourself in it and then make some adjustments.

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All mouth and trousers, but what about the ears?

I never understood the whole ‘talk to the hand’ thing. I’ve learnt a lot of things by using my hands, but never by using them as a way of avoiding doing something more educational: listening. Even if you suspect you’re going to disagree with someone, your counter-argument is going to be stronger if you listen to theirs before you attempt to demolish it. Getting the response “Face? Bovvered?” is actually less annoying when the face belongs to someone whose ears were actually functioning in the preceding seconds. And let’s be honest here: if you want someone’s attention in the future, you’re more likely to get it if you give them yours in the meantime. As the Earl of Chesterfield once observed: “"Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request." Neither are the perfect response, but a cold shoulder is warmer than a deaf ear.

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Faith, value and returns on investment

We place a lot of value on self-confidence and self-belief, not least because we do actually believe that (cliché alert) faith can move mountains. As an organisation or a manager, it’s understandable that we’re going to look favourably on the self-confident. Most people’s working lives have one or two mountains that need moving, and it’s the kind of task most of us would delegate given half a chance. It’s where faith meets delegation that the trouble can arise.

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In the Psychometrist’s Chair: Episode 2 – FIRO-B

In the previous episode in this series, I related the experience of completing the MBTI questionnaire and receiving facilitated feedback. But if MBTI is mostly about the individual, giving feedback on relationships with others more by inference and implication, FIRO-B is explicitly about the individual, others and the relationship(s) between the two. This is an instrument that looks at the ways we wish to behave towards others and others to behave towards us, and illuminates that these may be very different even in a single dimension: FIRO-B can illuminate many things, not least that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” may be a familiar expression but it can also be highly inaccurate in describing our behavioural patterns.

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Plug in and play: the joys – and otherwise – of the Matrix Organisation

There’s been quite a lively debate at Business Week, where two contributors – and a long list of commenters – indulged in some weighty mutual executive briefcasing (handbagging just didn’t sound right) in response to the question: “Multi-dimensional organisational design (Matrix) is the best way to restructure a business. Pro or con?” In the Pro corner, Jay Galbraith argues for the value, inherent merit and – in today’s trading environment – the inevitability of the victory of a collaborative approach over a command and control variety. In the Con corner, Guido Quelle sees matrix organisations as painfully slow, lacking clarity and clear lines of responsibility. Verbal bruisings have been administered and received on both sides but there’s been no knock-out punch: anyone hoping to see the late, grand old man, Peter Drucker holding the limp wrist of one argument aloft and counting to ten would be disappointed.

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And then there were 12 – The Apprentice, Episodes 3 & 4

The attrition rate, at just one business hopeful a week, is just another example of the differences between The Apprentice and real life, but still it trundles on, dragging its self-belief behind it in its black wheeled suitcase. We now have just the dozen disciples gathered at the table, but sadly the last supper is still many weeks ahead of us. And for something presented as a business spin on the reality tv model, reality remains as elusive as ever.

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To be really productive, we need to make friends not appointments

Informal creative networks are about more than ‘Like’ buttons, watercoolers, or collaboration pods (The Independent’s scorn was discernible and understandable): they are about making that valued workplace friend who provides a mental springboard, about exploring ideas in real depth or from new and refreshing angles, - and about discovering a sense of belonging (albeit to a sub-set of the organisation) that chimes with real personal interests.

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