Better Choices, Better Outcomes

COMMUNICATION – WE ARE HUMAN, NOT ROBOTS

In today’s world, it’s easy to become task driven and go from one thing to another and lose sight of what is going on around us.  When we feel like this and have so much to do, some of us will become even more focused and be even less aware of what others are doing or what they need from us.

In the last 2 decades, we have become surrounded by more communication devices, channels, systems, and apps, both socially and for business.  These all provide an endless stream of information and alerts and disturbances that make it harder and harder for our human mind, which has hardly changed for hundreds, if not thousands of years, to focus, and be happy.

It’s easy to forget that humans are social animals and the best way we send and receive information is face to face, accompanied by gestures and other body language to acknowledge and verify that the message has been understood and received.  We are not robots.

Many of us focus on systems, software, machines, processes, KPIs etc to find improvement.  The effectiveness of these are multiplied hundreds of times, if good interpersonal communication and leadership is applied as part of the process.

Great leadership question is to ask ourselves are “what is the quality of our communication?” right now? Today? this week? in our business?  People like to know where they stand, to get feedback, to be informed, to have clear expectations and to simply have the information they need to do their job.  If we work to improve our communication to others, learn to observe ourselves and how others receive, then we have a wonderful opportunity to communicate better, to become a great coach and an effective leader plus be a better person for ourselves, our family and the community.

Key areas to work on at work are, job and team briefings, tool box meetings, company updates and how you might handle issues or crises that arise.  Delivering feedback in a constructive way that helps people learn, grow, and be challenged in a positive way.

I would argue that 90% of your customers place more value on the way they are treated, kept informed and handled by your team, than on the products you make. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

In the right environment, with the right inputs and energy we can grow ourselves and those around us in a sustainable, agreeable way.

Any good communication requires some planning, shooting from the hip, is sometimes required, however, most of the time, a few moments to think before we speak is much more effective.

Remember, unlike our systems, devices and apps, every person is different and has been programmed differently throughout their life, so understanding them and considering how they might receive, decode and respond to your message, and also how you interpret their response in return completes the cycle and understanding.

For those of use that like diagrams or models, see the one below from Daniela Ilieva-Koleva and Rosaliya Kasamska.

RESILIENCE – ADAPT OR DIE

2020 is an election year and has also kicked off with several local and global issues for us to contend with.  What might these mean to us this year and beyond?  An unfair question perhaps: but whatever the answer it will likely involve the ability to adapt to change.

The theory of natural selection has important parallels to business: 

Markets, environments and technologies change constantly and the businesses and their people most suited to that change, or most able to take advantage of it, survive and flourish.

Species die out because they cannot cope with new climates or compete with a more aggressive species or due to unforeseen events. Businesses do too, but unlike animals, they do so because of their own choices: they choose whether to respond to change, adjust their strategy, embrace new technology and bring on and develop new skills.

Those that respond survive in business, those that let the world change around them die out.

The best way to thrive now is the same as it was ‘then.’ You must always put the customer first.

Dr Ian Brooks, author of many books including 10 Steps to Becoming Customer Driven, states: “the main thing in business is to have profitable customers who want to stay with you for a very long time. This is more likely to happen if you focus on the basic principles or keys to business success”.

The first key is to deliver such superior customer value that your customers are so delighted they want to come back for more.  It is not enough for them to be satisfied or even happy. If you want their loyalty, they must be delighted. Specifically, you must understand what you have that your customers want so badly they are prepared to pay for it. (Don’t think it’s about products or quality, think total customer experience every step of the way, including acting as their trusted advisor)

Change bring uncertainty

Despite the need for agility, the drive for change is often met with resistance. There is a conflict between desire to progress and reluctance to change. This must be carefully managed.

On one hand leaders and marketers, those charged with driving the business forward, will be constantly looking at how change can benefit the business.  On the other hand, the operations team are often under pressure to maintain performance.  Change often means increased risk and ensuring changes are implemented successfully is a big challenge. Saying ‘no’ to change can be the default response for an over-stretched or misaligned team.

But this must not be the default position. Before saying ‘no’ to an idea ask your people; “what is the ultimate cost of missing this opportunity or doing nothing; in business terms?”.   The team needs to ask, “what are the benefits and risks to our existing customers, services and business processes if we go ahead or do not go ahead with this change?”

Adaptable, Agile, Successful

Truly agile organisations have mastered the paradox to be both stable and dynamic at the same time.  Try and embrace and trust change and work on being loose and supple, not rigid and brittle.

This is where change management is necessary. The change management process needs to make sure the right questions are asked along the way: Is the change necessary? Is it worth the cost and resources? What are the risks? How can we negate these risks? If the right processes are followed, ideas and communication are allowed to flow and the right questions are asked (and answered), there is almost always a mutually agreeable solution that can be found.

Practise and refine your change management process and develop a more agile team and a more agile business. Putting controls and people in place to get it right is a strategic no-brainer, but there are challenges and objections to overcome along the way.

The success of change management relies largely on organisational change, in the broader sense – changing people’s attitudes through great leadership.

Ian Featherstone is a business advisor and leadership coach, and the owner of Glass Half Full. He specialises in the construction industry, particularly the joinery & cabinetry sector. For more information or to find out how you can move your team forward,  please visit www.glasshalffull.co.nz

In the end we have to make a decision and jump right in wholeheartedly