Archive for July, 2014

Are you connected with technology but not with people around you?

Posted on July 12, 2014. Filed under: coaching, culture, Leadership and teams, managing change, personal leadership, team dynamics |

Many people and businesses have been grappling with the range of technology and devices and channels that are now available for us to communicate. In fact the rate of change with technology has far outstripped the development and evolution of pretty much every other element of our work and personal worlds.

In businesses, large amounts of money have been spent on upgrading IT systems, telecommunications and internat access and speeds. (Australians know all about the publicity around the NBN). And the pace of change with technology has been astounding -there are policies about social media use and access, policies on whether employees can access work applications and systems from their own device or only from a work device. Then of course there is the aspect of time at work becoming more elastic as people read emails and the like on their device while commuting to and from work, as well as those who review and write reports after hours and on weekends.

All this technology has meant that we are better connected than ever before – with people in our own workplace and also with people around the world. (I am currently reading The World is Flat by Professor Thomas Friedman which is all about the ease with which we deal with people anywhere in the world)

And yet, despite all of this capacity to connect we seem to be experiencing greater disconnection as human beings. People have devices and tools with which to communicate, and yet in some ways there seems to be more confusion and mis-communication than ever before.

People and businesses have been grappling with increasing
– bullying
– complaints of harassment
– tension and conflict at work
– mental health issues
– complaints, sick leave and confusion

What does this all mean? Does it mean we should abandon our technology?
Not at all in my view, the technology is merely the tool or the channel. We seem to have been cut adrift from the essence of why we communicate with each other.
To share news.
To learn.
To collaborate.
To provide feedback.

It seems that the ease of using the tools has somehow been transposed into an assumption that communication itself is easy.
Which it is not. Human communication is a complex interplay of voice, language and body language. Layered on top of beliefs and mental models and assumptions. Added to cultural and interpretation differences – some cultures do not shake hands while others rely on that action to establish trust.

When you distl your communication down to words on a screen – such as I am doing right now – you cannot glean any real insight to how I am feeling right now, unlike that which you would gain if we were face to face (or I had posted this as a video).

Research tells us that only 7% of our total communication message is derived from the words we choose, whereas 38% is from our tone and 55% from the rest of our body language.
If you picture me with my arms crossed and with a frown on my face this blog takes on a much different meaning than the one you would gain if I was sitting in a relaxed pose with a quizzical or curious expression on my face.
Consider how the message may change if I were speaking in slow and measured tones as opposed to a fast and higher pitched tone.

While the technology enables us to connect more readily with others locally and in other geographic locations, we cannot ever afford to lose sight of the importance of the person to person communication.
Has technology made us more complacent or lazy?
Has technology led to assumptions that we are all alike?

Technology has improved our physical process of communicating and yet we as humans need to remain attentive to the emotive and relationship process of communicating.

Workplaces of today perhaps need effective communication skills and stakeholder management (or relationship building) skills more than ever before.

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Your Biggest Team Challenge is not what you think it is

Posted on July 3, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Too often team leaders and managers say things like

“My team is just not gelling together”

“We have too many different personalities for this team to be a unit”

“Our team is too much of the same, how can we be creative”

“Why can’t people just be consistent and leave their personal issues outside of work?”

And yet I doubt that any of these are actually the biggest team challenge that exists for teams at work today.

Your biggest team challenge is not any of these questions. I believe that your biggest challenge is ensuring that the people in your team know who they are and what they want.

Yes, the biggest challenge for teams is individuals not knowing their own strengths, goals and preferences.

If an individual holds a skewed view of their strengths – perhaps believing they are great st something when they have an average skill level, or believing that they are a “people person”  and love customer service when in fact they don’t – consider the flow on effects this will have. If you have hired a person who you thought was a top sales person, you will set their goals and your expectations of them accordingly.  Despite their, and your best efforts, their performance will be below par, business results will not materialise and you will either choose to end that person’s employment (in a manner that aligns to the Fair Work Act of course) or keep them on because they were the best person you could find/you don’t want to face that recruitment process again/hopefully with time they will improve.

Does that example clarify the impact this lack of self insight will have on you and the team?

Let’s consider the other example of a person who believes or tells them-self that they are good with people and love being in customer service. This person will apply for customer service roles and perhaps be appointed to one. Then every day for the entirety of employment that person will need to interact consistently with customers. When this becomes challenging or difficult, the individual will dig deeper into their reserves and keep smiling before going home and over eating or over drinking or being angry and closed off with family and friends. Some sort of over compensating behaviour is highly likely. Alternatively, the person will be seen to not perform that well and will be given that feedback from their manager. This feedback confronts and conflicts what the employee believes to be true about themself and thus will be rejected or ignored or perceived as bullying and harassing behaviour. Whichever interpretation occurs, the individual will be unhappy and I’ve not seen too many happy people performing at the peak of their capabilities.

If these examples have prompted some deeper thinking on your part as you read, then you will be asking yourself (or me) what this has to do with you. It has everything to do with you – you dear reader are potentially the manager of someone who lacks self awareness or you are the person who finds themselves in a role that feels uncomfortable and you can’t pinpoint why.

My personal experience with coaching clients is that many people have found themselves promoted into positions where they lead teams as an intended reward and recognition, yet they don’t want to be a people leader. In fact, quite a number of my clients have come to me seeking my help to make a successful transition into a role that is a better fit for their talents, skills and preferences.

From my perspective of creating workplaces where people are fulfilled and in the right roles for them, this self insight is clearly an issue and a question for the individual and something that people should know before they apply for a new job or promotion. If you do not know yourself well, how can you be sure that the role you are applying for is the right one?

How many of us really, clearly know what it is that we want to do “when we grow up” . If we do know, is that because we have based that goal on our strengths or on what others have told us?

In the corporate career world, all too often we find ourselves getting promoted because we are good at something (usually a technical not people skill) with the result that it feels disloyal to decline the promotion. Yet saying no is (as Covey said) more a way of saying yes to a bigger question. If you decline a promotion because you really want to be the best technician in your field then surely that is good for you and your satisfaction levels and good for the company because you are performing in your field of expertise?


I am not suggesting that people turn down every promotion. I am asking that you consider and evaluate very carefully how well you know yourself before you make that next move.

As hiring managers, how can you assure yourself that the person you are hiring really knows themselves and their strengths? How can you be assured that the skills they claim are the ones they actually hold?

Yes I am being a bit provocative, but it’s my blog and I’ll provoke if I want to. (sorry for the bad musical pun there)

And of course these are not rhetorical questions. There are answers.

Individuals need to take more ownership of having profiling tools run so that you get independent and well debriefed feedback on your skills, talents and preferences. There may not be any surprises, but it may well open your eyes to just how strongly your preferences lie in certain areas. 

Managers can access behavioural questioning to use during the interview processor consider using personality and preference profiling tools during the recruitment and selection process.

Whatever you do, please be attuned to doing something to ensure that you know your own strengths and that you seek to surround yourself with people who also know their strengths and preferences.

Teams need to be made up of people who know their strengths, know who they are and are willing to work with others.



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