Monday 20 March 2017

Improving team relations

"Wow - team communication is noticeably much better since the session" said one CPO after a workshop I'd facilitated.

Yesterday I shared the outcome of a workshop where a procurement team were invited to consider how they were setback by arrogance. Use of some unconventional tools allowed the team members to give themselves advice about how their language and behaviours might be getting in the way of them positively influencing their stakeholders (follow the link to find out more).

One of the other agenda items was on communication preferences - on face value something that's fairly straight forward:
  • We all have different preferences on how we take information in, process it and make decisions. 
Not so easy to adapt our style though when we often think other people just need the same information as we do. It's simply too easy to think our stakeholders will need the same perspective of the info that we find interesting or enlightening, or will understand the information to the same level of detail that excites us, in the same format that pushes our buttons, etc.

If other people in our lives are like a door - then understanding between us and them can only be achieved if we can open the door.
You only have to think therefore about all the doors you've opened since leaving home this morning to realise how making an assumption that one size key fits all is ludicrous - with respect to opening doors and therefore, by implication, when communicating with others.
  • Pull back the bolt
  • Turn the key(s)
  • Push up the gate lock
  • Car door released when the key was in proximity of the car
  • Or pressing the 'door open' button on the key fob (not as I can do when tired and press the door lock button!)
  • Or if you went by bus - you had to put your hand out to stop the bus to get on, or press the bell for the driver to stop and open the door for you
  • Or if on a train press the top button
  • or is it the bottom button
  • Hover the electronic pass over a sensor for the car park
  • Push the revolving door 
  • Press the lift button for it to open, then push the floor level button to get the lift door to open/close
  • Push or pull the office door - with handle or not
  • Or use an entry 4 digit code, or thumb print or retinal scan (I may be going a little far with that)
  • and so on
There will be as many ways to open a door as communication preferences those you're wishing to influence will have such as:
  • Detailed & specific/global & big picture
  • Visual/Words/diagrams
  • Benefits you'll be getting (toward /the carrot)/ things you'll be leaving behind (away/the stick)
  • Motivators of achievement/affiliation/influence
  • Options/ procedures
  • Sameness/ difference
  • Primary interest: people/place/thing/activity/information  
  • Matching/mismatching
  • Proactive/reactive
Other strategies we need to consider might include someone's
  • Frame of reference - do they need others to tell them what to do - or do they only listen to what they want to do
  • Decision making: looks right, sounds right, feels right or makes sense
  • Relationship to time: in time/ through time
  • Learning styles: activist/reflector/theorist/pragmatist
  • Convincer strategy: the type of information needed to do this (see it/hear it/do it with them/read about it) + the process we adopt to be convinced: automatic/x times/y period of time/ consistency   
  • Response to stress: feeling/choice/thinking
  • and so on and so on
If you're familiar with Bolton & Bolton, DISC, Insights, Myers Briggs and other personality profiling tools, these each in their own way try to pull the above individual preferences into some common stereotypes offering a continuum of preferences which might include:
  • Judging/perceiving
  • Sensing/intuiting 
  • Thinking/Feeling
  • Introverted/extroverted
  • Assertive/unassertive
  • People/Task 
  • Cooperativeness/Assertiveness
It was one such preference the CPO had that made the biggest difference to team communication after the workshop.
  • Time required to make a decision
The CPO was unable to make a decision unless they had time to weigh up the information - so sending the information ahead of a meeting, preferably allowing it to sink in over night, resulted in more positive outcomes of meetings.

I remember one person asking "Are you telling me if I give you 24 hours to read my report first I'm more likely to get a positive response"

"Yes" was his reply.

The team all looked at each other and shared their frustration that sometimes it felt like they were not
trusted, that the CPO just didn't like their idea, or was just being awkward.

None of these were true for the CPO. The way their mind was hardwired just meant they couldn't say yes or no without giving the info time to settle, to weigh it up, and perhaps even view it from all angles.

Such a great example that we judge others based on our own preferences rather than take time to understand what will best facilitate increased understanding and therefore improve influencing.

I wonder might this be the underlying reason for your 'resistant' 'awkward' or 'difficult' stakeholders, suppliers or colleagues - you're just pushing and you should be pulling!

As with any door when you've got the right key and use it correctly the door opens easily and effortlessly.  

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking personal, procurement and organisational potential using unconventional tools

This is the 9th in a series of blogs applying unconventional tools or thinking to procurement challenges. On a scale of unconventionalness this post only comes in at a 1/10 - there are others in the series that are much higher, and require an open mind in order to obtain maximum insight from them.

Judgement is one of the postcards included in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit that brings together a series of postcards from your Soft Skills - it's entitled Dear Procurement, with love from your soft skills. More here.

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