Have you noticed how your employees or colleagues have some remarkable strengths and some, well, unfortunate weaknesses? For instance, you notice that Alan is bright and productive, but doesn’t speak up or share his talents. Or you see Sally is seemingly a great team player, but always careful not to challenge the group even when she knows better?
All of us, especially those in higher levels of organizations, possess talents that others see as great strengths. The problem is that our strengths are our weaknesses. Seems so unfair, but it is a truth we cannot ignore. So Allen focuses his efforts, reaches deep within to solve a problem or accomplish his task. But he is also a loner, too focused on the tasks at the expense of helping others. And Sally likes to make the team harmonious and get along. She is the glue that keeps everyone together. But she is also afraid of the team coming unglued; she is unsure enough of herself or her place in the group that she cannot challenge, clarify, or correct. Darn.
Colleagues and employees are very uncomfortable about criticism. They experience it as harsh, corrective, and rejecting. But another way to bring out the best in your people is to recognize that there is a flip side to their strengths. When this becomes accepted – by you and by them – it is easier for people in the workplace to see and accept their downside. Only then can people hear the feedback, acknowledge the problem, and feel safe enough to mitigate their weakness.
This process of acknowledging strengths, and then finding the concomitant weak spot, can be done by managers and by colleagues. It is a common practice in my executive coaching. Acceptance of the self and others, especially that we all have strengths and weaknesses, makes it all possible.
Tom DeMaio, PhD
The six principles of the people side of business do not specifically include a section on communication. I have been asked where it fits. The six principles are the keys to managing and leading in the workplace. A critical component to implementing the principles is effective communication. It is a vehicle for conveying the support people need and it must be structured to be an ongoing benefit.
Our first four principles (acceptance, nurturance, family, and growth) require that management and leadership convey – on a regular basis – that employees matter, need to be cared for, and are offered opportunities for development. You convey support through your words and actions. For example, support is conveyed in every interaction between supervisor and employee. It happens when the employee is asked, “How are you today?” It happens when a supervisor takes an interest in the latest ideas an employee has for solving a problem. These are communications that must occur continually through the work process.
Communication is also needed for administrative functions, for implementing the fifth principle, structure. The employees need to know the policies and procedures, the goals, the rules and strategies of the organization. This keeps everyone in the loop and moving in the same direction.
When communication is not steady, humans have a tendency to get worried and uncomfortable. They wonder why they are being left out of the loop or if they are going to be rejected in some way. One might say that humans have a natural “paranoia” about things being wrong when there is not regular communication to refute the feeling.
Most of the places I have consulted pay too little attention to the need for and subtleties of regular communication. This is understandable since many of the communication processes (like staff meetings, e-mail blasts, or supervisory interactions) take valuable time, can be boring, or result in negative experiences.
Consequently, in my consulting, I always recommend a careful look at the communication process in the organization. The guiding premise is that the communications are aimed at implementing the six principles. Communication is not there because it is the right thing to do, but to have purpose. Implementation of the six principles requires that the communication process be structured in the sense that the meetings or interactions have clear function and regularity. More on this to come.
Thomas J. DeMaio, PhD