Sunday, 29 July 2012

Getting on with people

“Achieving success at work & in life, one conversation at a time”. This is the sub title of a book called “Fierce Conversations” that I am reading. Robust conversations are very important but I’d like to paraphrase Susan Scott and say “Achieving success at work & in life, one relationship at a time”.

I know many people who are highly successful at work or in business, essentially because they get on with pretty much everyone. When I see children at school who are at ease with their peers and with their teachers I think “they have a bright future ahead of them.” And when I meet very smart people who can’t relate to others I am sad that they may well struggle to succeed and their potential could be wasted.

One of the quadrants of the Leader Management Framework is People Connection. Without this connection a leader manager may well produce some results, but the staff will never work as effectively as they would have if the people connection was there.

There are many aspects to connecting with people. Some important ones are building trust, communicating effectively and valuing people. At a more basic level we need to understand people and that starts with understanding ourselves.

I have been working with a couple, whose already poor relationship has been severely strained by changed circumstances. They have been married for about thirty years and yet they have no understanding of each other’s different personality, different needs and different communication styles. Until they improve their understanding and acceptance of each other they can’t move forward.

Some of us are lucky and have somehow done that unconsciously. What can the rest of us do? Observe and learn, with a little help from books, talks or workshops.

Start by understanding your own behaviour, reactions and needs better. Become an observer of yourself. Notice what you do and how you feel, and ask yourself why.

And then do the same with those around you. Notice how people respond to you and to other people, and think about why. Adjust your behaviour towards them (whilst remaining authentic) and see if you get different responses.
Try to recognise their needs, and if appropriate meet that need. What response do you get?

There are many excellent, easy to read books which can increase your understanding. There is a list on my website (“Personality Plus”, in particular, is a very funny read).

Or you can learn in a much more informal environment. Watching movies or live shows, and reading novels, are great fun ways to study human dynamics - as most of them are all about people!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Right Timing

A client in a senior management position recently came to me for a couple of sessions after being over looked for a promotion. Her boss told her that although she was highly qualified and did very good work, she “didn’t make her presence felt” in meetings or workshops, so no one noticed her.

This client made excellent progress over her three sessions. In fact between her initial phone call to me and her first appointment, she had already experimented with speaking up in a meeting. She was so surprised that she could do it and at how well she was received!

After experiencing the fulfilment of being more involved and recognised, she said she wished she had come to see me years ago. I replied, “That may have been good but you also may not have been ready to make the small but necessary changes in yourself. We all grow when the timing is right.”

A couple of days ago a 20 year old, contemplating a choice between continuing their current studies or changing institutions, told me “staying where I am is safe, but I am feeling it is time for another big jump.” A lot of young people are more attuned than we perhaps were. They are ready to take brave leaps if we are supportive or simply get out of their way.

Have you experienced tackling a project where nothing seems to go right, no matter how hard you try? And perhaps you end up leaving it. Sometime later you pick it up and try again – and it all falls into place, almost effortlessly.

There are other times when the little clues tell you to do something but it feels scary and we argue ourselves out of it. If the plant doesn’t flower when the Spring conditions are just right, it may have to wait a full year to have another chance. Keep yourself open and alert to the opportunities and clues that come your way – people you meet, things you read, a word you hear. And when you feel that urge, be brave and go with it.

If we listen to our wisdom, whilst being open to opportunities, everything will happen, when it should – not too soon and not too late.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

First acknowledge the problem

“Resolved. No fault found.” was the response from City Power when I reported that two out of three of our electricity phases had cut out the night before. I could have screamed. Well if there is no fault why do half our lights, most of our plugs and our geyser not work?
“Billing crisis. What billing crisis?” responded Johannesburg’s Mayor and the ratepayers couldn’t believe their ears. If there is no billing problem why do so many of us receive outrageous utility bills, no statements for months, accounts for the wrong properties?
Time after time we see people denying problems exist – in the public realm, at work and at home. Ignoring a problem hardly ever makes it go away. Instead it often leads to frustration and an escalation of the problem.
Things go wrong, mistakes are made, problems happen. It is all part of life. And most of them do need to be fixed - the sooner, the better. But we cannot fix what we don’t acknowledge.
Effective problem solving is a skill which begins with recognising the problem, followed by finding the root cause, considering a variety of solutions and their consequences, making a decision and then taking action. It is a skill which serves us well at work and in life.

How effective are you at the five steps of problem solving?