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GLN conversation – Communication

Earlier this year I was approached to become a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK (GLN) and having accepted the appointment I had a “conversation by email” where we explored my background and some leadership related topics.  The discussion that ensued is reproduced here in an unedited format.  (Note that the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) is the flagship conference for the GLN which is held in Chicago in August each year.  This includes talks from Leaders around the world and is rebroadcast around the UK later in the year.)

How does a team develop a common language and vocabulary? It is salient here that a GLS delegate survey revealed ‘communication’ as a key training need for leading others.

After my wife, Sue, and I got married I found that the way I spent my time started to change and new routines began to emerge in the way we spent our days.  Quite soon we started to develop a routine of going shopping on a Saturday.  Now, I am not a fan of shopping.  If there is something I need to get, then I go and buy it, and these days (other than clothing which I like to try on first) the destination of choice will usually be Amazon.  However, when we got married there wasn’t even an internet, and Amazon was still just a rainforest.

One particular destination on a Saturday morning was the supermarket for the weekly shop.  Now, to me, this seemed like a waste of a Saturday morning, so I decided on a grand plan that Sue was sure to appreciate.  Despite not liking shopping I offered to call into the supermarket on the way home from work since I passed a supermarket on the way so that I could collect the shopping and it would save us both a trip to the shops on Saturdays.  As a new husband, I was offering to sacrifice my time for my wife.  She’s sure to be really appreciative.  

Nope.  Not at all.  This new idea was rejected without any discussion, and I felt really quite discouraged as a result.  It was only years later when we were talking about that, and how I had felt that my sacrificial offer had been rejected, that I discovered that I had overlooked the fact that Sue loves shopping, and what I had offered to do was to remove one of the highlights of her weekend!  

How often do we have similar situations arise in a work situation?  Not in terms of going to the supermarket of course, but in so many other ways.  We disagree on something because we see it from a different perspective.  We will often each see the same situation from our different background and experience and draw a different conclusion.  Without a common language and vocabulary, we will have difficulty understanding the other person’s viewpoint and perspective, and this can become further confused since we tend to judge other people on their actions, and ourselves on our intentions.

When working with client teams I find that it is really helpful to develop a common method of understanding and describing behaviours.  There are many different frameworks that can be used, some more complex than others.  I like to use a framework that is fairly easy to understand because then it is less easy to misunderstand.  More complex options include frameworks like the Myers Briggs Type Indicators and the Enneagram, and these are great tools.  However, I find them to be more complex than many teams are likely to adopt generally, so I prefer tools that are simpler to grasp and use regularly, such as DISC, Motivational Maps, and Emotional Intelligence.  

These frameworks can be misused to “label” people and put them into boxes never to be let out again, and that is a misguided misunderstanding of the value of these tools.  One strength is not better than another, just different, and we all have some aspect of both sides of each strength.  Although I am right-handed, it doesn’t mean that my left hand is of no use, hanging limply from my shoulder.  No, I can do all sorts of things with my left hand (including typing), although when I try to write it is unintelligible.  My “right-handedness” is not better than someone else’s “left-handedness”, just different.  

When used as a means of developing a common language and vocabulary these frameworks can be really helpful to understand behaviours, and the motives that cause these behaviours, such as when I felt rejected when offering to sacrifice my time to go shopping for my wife.  

Recently, I was coaching a lady who is the deputy principal in a large college (I’ll call her Mary), and she described a situation where one of her staff (I’ll call him Steve) would come in to her office to discuss the results of an assignment, and all she wanted was the results.  He, however, would happily spend ages describing all of the research and detail before he would get to the result, which she found really frustrating and would usually stop him partway through and ask for “the bottom line only” please.  

Mary has a very strong outgoing personality, where Steve is reserved and had great attention to detail.  Steve wanted to demonstrate to his manager that he had done a good job and showing all of the detail enabled him to do that and be validated in his work.  When Mary started to understand his personality and started to make time to listen to his detail then he would leave the meeting really enthused and encouraged.  It only took a few minutes from Mary to listen to the detail, to make an enormous impact on his morale.  In DISC terms Mary is a high D/I, where Steve was a high C.  Mary now has a vocabulary to understand how she could communicate with her staff more effectively.  

Having a common language for personality, for motivation, for IQ and emotional intelligence can really help us to understand what’s going on around us in a team environment, and to see the other people and the things they do through their eyes, to understand their intentions in the light of their experience, and to understand the things that motivate them and inspire them to succeed.

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.