Mary, a valued high producer at her company, has a difficult time performing one-on-one check-ins with her staff. As a self proclaimed introvert, she is unsure of topics to discuss beyond assigning and reviewing work product. Jack, a successful, senior executive, is courting a potential new employer. He is undecided whether the company culture is the best fit for him. Sarah works in a matrixed team, where most of her staff reports to “Pat”, who works in a different department. She feels frustrated that herself and her peers are not “rowing in the same direction” Sarah is concerned her employees feel pulled in 2 different directions.
All three of these talented, conscientious leaders are challenged by a common issue: communication. Beyond talking and hearing, communication gets at two of human beings’ most basic needs: the need to connect and the need to be safe. Three of the most common breakdowns that occur in business; 1) manager- employee conflict, 2) unease about accepting a new job or 3) leader- to-leader conflict stem from communication problems. This is critical because when communication goes awry, whether due to conflict or lack of person to person sharing, people don’t feel connected, they don’t feel they can trust and they don’t feel safe! This subtle but real disconnection elevates the stress hormone cortisol which hampers critical thinking. Conversely, when people feel connected and trust is high, their brains release the hormone oxytocin which makes them feel happier and helps them think more clearly.
Thankfully, Mary, Jack and Sarah were excited to learn about the neuroscience behind positive communication and wanted to master this critical skill set.
Mary learned to manage her feelings of anxiety (lack of safety) when chatting informally with staff. She learned simple, effective ways to begin and then navigate conversations about common human experiences, such as, family, weekends and hobbies. As she focused on getting to know her employees they felt cared about as people and became more engaged and productive.
Jack learned to clarify what he wanted in a company. I asked him what was most important about work culture. How might her get at that? What kind of culture might he want to co- create in his next company? As he asked these questions and listened to his intuition he was able to find a best fit culture and role.
I asked Sarah about her assumptions and beliefs about why “Pat” seemed to have different priorities. Together, we created a series of questions to open communication between Sarah and “Pat”. The end goal being to work together to meet the needs of both their departments and the business entity.
All three of these coaching clients learned best practices to communicate clearly, hot to listen to connect and how to work together to design an environment that was enjoyable and productive. Your company may benefit from similar coaching. For more information I suggest Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser. Call me at (610) 875-3040 or email me Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net if you want to learn more.