Effective Communication Skills – The HR challenge explored

A look at styles of communication people bring to work

Often the strength of an organisation’s culture can be measured by the openness with which staff can address personal concerns and communicate these to colleagues.

So how do companies and those entrusted with people development help create meaningful and effective communications among staff?

What tools are needed to create greater co-operation and a place,where motivated teams thrive and become more effective business units, where they feel they can share their ideas openly and contribute in a meaningful way?

The Challenge for HR business partners

One of the main issues highlighted in HR survey by SilkRoad, was how to properly retain and engage employees. The key to unlocking this door rests in finding an organisational framework for communicating effectively within teams and with staff; a structure where diverse styles can blend together and create the level of co-operation needed for an organisation to thrive and retain its talent.

Fundamentally, it’s all about permission to communicate

One of the age-old challenges facing HR is dealing with this diversity of personalities or more specifically communications styles (effective and not-so-effective). It can be quite the headache without a framework to draw from. People do not leave companies, they leave “bosses” and colleagues due to personal communication issues, more than any other reason. A quick survey of people you know will uncover at least one story, where people left due to the communication and behaviour of others that was difficult to endure to a point where the relationship became toxic.

A microcosm of behaviour patterns

The corporate environment is a microcosm of the world, where diversity and difference show up, not just in culture, but in everyday behavior and communication between staff. When staff work in close proximity and have added time pressures, the differences can become more pronounced; it can turn in a way that negatively affects the people and the organisation. It is good to be aware of this…

People under pressure revert to their natural inclinations to communicate and relate in their own specific style, which isn’t always in everybody’s best interest.

Under Pressure, people do interesting things

I have written this in other articles; there is always a pattern to what people do in behaviour. When you put two people together with totally different communication styles, a task-focussed team member vs. a people-focussed team member, for example, it won’t take long for the differences to manifest across the project or the team. They can be positive and everybody wins. Under stress, however, the more negative aspects of the styles will show up.The crux of the challenge for managing staff in your organisations is this;

people show up in the workplace speaking the same language, but with very different rules of engagement, patterns and points of view.

The rules of engagement and culture are not always clearly articulated when a new employee joins a company, but they start to learn them as they spend time there. It’s a natural learning strategy to adapt to the culture presented. And on an individual level, it won’t take long to notice when there is a mismatch of communication styles and communication starts to break down.

People notice less about their work colleagues when things are going well.

It is when things start going awry that rules of engagement show up, as people adhere to their own ways of doing things.

And as each person shows up in the work place looking through their own eyes and fitting the world into their point of view and their version of how things should be. Some will be more flexible about it than others and it’s rooted in their way of thinking and processing their experience. Black-and-white thinking (on/off) vs. a range of possibilities and ways of looking at a situation.

Decisions and Deadlines change how people function

Styles of communication will become more pronounced in a team-project environment, where decisions and deadlines are the key drivers. Some people will be flexible and dynamic, while others will work rigidly within their own framework; and this is where the interpersonal relationships can silently disintegrate or become inflamed. And it’s not fun for anybody. Without a framework to express and communicate openly and de-personalise the personal issues, the company often pays in lower productivity, poorer staff relations, or worse, loss of key employees.

A snapshot of 4 communication styles

Here is a taste of the four communication styles below, which you can explore in more detail through psychometric profiling. Can you can see these operating in your company? Notice how well they function in your team environment, and how this impacts your bottom line and productivity.

To keep things simple and explain the styles, these are based on the key psychometric models of personality from Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychologist. There is alot more to this, but I am just highlighting the key aspects of the styles of communication. They have been developed and expanded in the last 30 years through NLP and the Myers-Briggs models and others like it.

The key thing to note is everybody has these styles and a preferred style is usually operating. It is not completely fixed as a personality, but a pattern of behaviour and choices that people default to. You may have one style in the workplace and a very different style at home or out with your friends. However, there are layers of consistency in how people show up and communicate.

Which style is your preferred style?

These styles are about what somebody does rather than who they are as a person. This distinction is valuable in helping avoid labelling people in a certain way.

We are not our behaviours, we do behaviours!

So here are a few key points about the different styles, which I have called the Analytical Style, The Director Style, The Team Builder Style, The Visionary Style:

The Analytical Style seeks out facts first, is a logical, planner and organiser, who takes time in expressing decisions and thoughts, and may be perceived as rather aloof and inflexible at times, but very organised. This style is great for project managing and planning, managing risk, assessing the impact of decisions in a team project.

The Director Style thrives on action, quick decisions, having control over situations and is usually direct in communicating a message, and may be perceived as blunt at times. This style is great for making decisions, leading others and getting the job done quickly.

The Team Builder Style focuses on feelings and relationships and is concerned with the welfare of others and their values; they may sometimes be perceived as sensitive and slow to give a response. This style is great for getting the team to work together and generating a team spirit.

The Visionary Style thrives on social relationships, future possibilities, new ideas, and high energy interaction with others; they may be perceived by others as dreamers and impractical. This style is great for motivating the team and keeping the energy of the team high in challenging times.

So how do we communicate with these styles?

Here are a few guidelines on working with the different styles:

Analyticals like lots of detailed information, the how and what, and constantly seeks clarification on the Why of a situation, before doing anything. So make sure you include the why in asking them to work on a project or task or with others.

The Director style  seeks and likes direct, confident communication, where you come to them with ideas and solutions rather than problems, where you get to the point, and just don’t take things personally that they say. So make sure you avoid waffle, communicate clearly and succinctly, with facts over opinions. Time is money for this style.

The Team Builder wants to know how people feel about things, who else will be involved and how it impacts on them personally; they like to take time to reflect and air their views without interruption. So make sure your give the people perspective on things and how it will affect others in a considerate, thoughtful way.

The Visionary is the enthusiast in the team, who keeps their eye on the bigger picture and goals. So make sure that any ideas have energy and speak of options and possibilities and are positively motivating. They want the vision to happen and love ideas and brainstorming.

Staff will benefit hugely by understanding how different people communicate and experience the world. One size does not fit all. It helps to understand how others operate and how a message is being communicated and received by each style of communicator.

Behavioural flexibility should be central to an organisational communication model. Staff would do well if they are encouraged to adapt to others’ styles of communication and their needs, be it for more detail, directness, involvement or openness and global thinking.

Flexibility in communication comes from self-knowledge and awareness of how people respond when things are flowing versus stressful situations.

What else?

To open the doors to better communication within an organisation, it helps to have open system, with some conscious rules of engagement and an effective model of communicating, that can be used across the organisation. It will pay dividends on a business and personal level for both staff and employers. Building better businesses is about cohesive, long-term profitable relationships and keeping one of the most valuable assets – the staff.

You may also like to read When Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Visit our Communication Skills Training Courses page to learn more about how your company can benefit from a course in Effective Communication Skills and Team Building.


6 Questions Sales Managers should Ask about Sales Team

How to find out what’s really going on with your sales organisation

6 Questions for Sales Managers

One of your sales team has a great prospect lined up and they are pretty excited about the opportunity on the table for the company and for their sales targets, especially as they head into the next business quarter. They may be experienced at selling, and have been meeting similar prospects like this for years. Easy and they do it every day. So what’s the challenge here for them, for you and for the company?

There is always the risk of defaulting to tried and tested habits that have won them business in the past.  A beginner’s mind is always a great mindset to have in  your sales team. Here are 6 questions to ask inside your sales organisation, on a regular basis. to increase awareness of the selling behaviours and get more traction in your sales meetings.

  1. How prepared are my salespeople for their sales meetings?

For any meeting, having a plan and a conversation strategy will get your sales people more focused, create a structure and strategy and make better use of their selling time. Why wouldn’t you plan in such a ways as to reduce the number of meetings to get to a close? There’s nothing more rewarding than making progress fast and increasing the chance of winning business.

So some key questions to ask, to find out how prepared the salesperson is for a meeting: Are all the decision makers going to be at the table?  Obvious question, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to find this out beforehand. What are the key issues each decision-maker is facing?  You might not know, but it’s worth a guess, based on their position in the company. What is the strategy for the sales conversation? What business issues can we focus on? What would trigger value for each of them and how are we going to sell that to the key stakeholders? How are we going to manage and progress the sales conversation? What is our outcome for the buyer at the table?

  1. What is the focus for the sales meeting?

At this point, the salesperson should be demonstrating their ability to step into a higher frame to discuss business issues, acting in a business consulting capacity and exploring how these issues can be addressed with your company’s solution. Depending on the stage in the buying cycle, the salesperson may just be exploring what prompted the meeting, or exploring what is motivating the buyer to want to know more. They may have to focus on increasing the buyer’s motivation to move further into negotiation stage of the meeting. A focus on structure over sales pitch, will increase traction in the sales meeting and keep the sales person connected to the outcome and goal of the meeting.

Asking this question leads you to exploring how much thought the sales person has put into the substance of the meeting. What is this meeting actually going to be about for the buyer and decision-makers in the room?  What is the theme  and focus of the sales conversation? The decision-makers are there for a reason beyond writing a cheque. They have problems to solve and think your company can solve it or they want something better than they have right now.

The focus of the meeting should always be about an implicit promise to the buyer; that if they take the conversation further, there is some real value on the table.  We are not talking here about a sales pitch, a demo or a testimonial, but a solution to their business challenges or future aspirations.

  1. What range of behaviours are actively going on at the sales meetings?

When we talk about behaviours, we are talking about the communication skills and style of interaction going on. Rapport has been taught in sales training courses for decades. At this point, your sales people should be doing this unconsciously and competently. Rapport ranges from non-verbal, body language to linguistic rapport, to understanding and exploring mutual values. What’s even more important is the balance between literal listening and asking high-quality thought-provoking question.

Asking great questions is the fuel for directing the conversation to where you want the buyer to notice business acumen, understanding, pacing and supporting and a possible match for them. A lot of talk has been given to buying signals and I would invite sales managers to think about the signals the salesperson is giving; are they listening, are the responding from the buyer’s point of view, are they pacing the buying decision rather than rushing the sale? The difference between buying signals and selling signals is huge. The right selling signals motivate the buyer to explore more and accelerate their decision to buy.

4. What key actions are they taking to get the buyer to make decisions?

Actions are what you do linguistically to move the conversation along. It allows the buyers to draw positive conclusions about the salesperson and your company; that they are trustworthy, competent and intelligent, and have a good understanding of the business issues at hand.

We are talking about the ability to track and summarise and ask about what has been said; it’s about using the information given to take the conversation in a direction that convinces the buyer that you are worth talking to. If you do it right, the buyer will be making decisions in their head to continue the interaction, to ask more questions, and begin to emote on the value of having the solution on offer. In other words, they have positive impression of the sales person and want to know more.

The actions I am talking about here are what the person is dong to direct and guide the conversation so that the buyer sees it as time well spent and worth paying for, if they choose to. Ask your salespeople, what are the 3 key things you did that got this buyer interested, where they agreed to the next meeting or shortlisted the company for the final selection round?

5. Can people in my sales team explain the process they use to close the sale?

When I talk about a sales process, I am talking about the steps the salesperson takes, to guide the buyer into the future and imagine doing business with your company.

In summary, what we are talking about here is a conversational process to close the sale. I usually have 8-10 steps, which don’t have to always go in a particular order, but doing it right, will always increase the motivation for the buyer and consider the offering. Ask your salespeople to explain it, so that if it worked, you can replicate it across the team. Track it and write it down. What did they do first, and then what did they do? If you have an exceptional sales person who can repeatedly create this conversational process. Sit down with them, capture it, document it and replicate it across your organisation. It’s called modelling. The best people have a model in their head and when captured, it can be a best practice in your sales organisation.

6. Are my team able to explain how the buyer closed the sale?

I always say the buyer closes the sale, because, they are the ones who say yes. As a salesperson, the skills required centre on observing and tracking your buyers decision-making patterns. How buyers make decisions is where the real value in asking questions lies. Consider focusing weekly and monthly sales meetings around where key prospects are in the decision-making process. It can tell you a lot more and get your team to focus on the buyer’s view of the world, where they can be more effective in closing the sale.

CRM software puts salespeople in the tempting position of using their own biased thinking about how close their are to 100%. Of course it all depends how you measure the close rate. It doesn’t always tell you what’s going on for the buyer, but it does show you the level of optimism your salespeople function from. The buyers always close the sale, when they make a decision to say Yes. If you can get your salespeople to explain how the buyer made the decision, it will train them to view every buyer as unique and tweak their sales approach accordingly.

I talk a lot about buying filters when I work with sales teams and we always do a short profile on buyers and their typical buying patterns. We stick to 10 so as not to overwhelm them!  An example of this is, whether a buyer looks at Options or Process, what motivates them, the past pain or the future possibilities, whether they are focused on the big picture or the details. So asking your salespeople, “what do we know about the decision makers in this organisation and how they decided to buy and can we map it?”

If you are a sales director or manager in a competitive industry, test these questions with your team at the next sales meeting and see what you discover. Questions empower and expand your sales team capacity to win more business. What would it take for your team to become more curious about how they create their success and how to have more of it?

How to hire the Right Sales People


4 Mistakes Companies Make in Hiring Sales People

Hiring the right sales people is all about understanding what selling is really about. There is no doubt that it helps to hire somebody who knows about your industry, but no amount of industry knowledge is going overcome inadequate selling skills or people skills.

Here are some of the reasons companies hire the wrong people.

1. They believe a sales person must have industry knowledge

Think about your customer base? What are they buying? When people are buying your product or service, the chances are they have done their research and know what they are looking for. Insisting on detailing the ins-and-outs of how you are going to deliver it, connect it or the statistics on the speed of your technology, will dilute the opportunity you have to motivate your buyer to consider the value of your offering. People buy value and experiences. There is many a polite buyer who has sat through the sales presentations wondering, “When are they going to talk about me and what I need?”

Relationship and communication skills are at the heart of great selling. You may be missing out on good sales people by overlooking those who know how to sell, while selecting the CV with great industry knowledge and the weaker sales skills. Pick the sales performer and teach them about your products or industry. Selling is about people and the value they attribute to your offering. Hire a sales person who knows how to find value in what they sell, you will see their selling soar.

2. They believe high performers in a previous job will deliver immediate results

How many sales people have you seen crash and burn within six months of hiring them? They seemed to have all the right traits and selling skills, yet they don’t seem to be able to deliver on the job. What is very often missed is, even if a top sales person is hired into your sales team, they still need some coaching, guidance and education how you run your business and sell to your customers and how your solutions are purchased in your market. There are often high expectations set for new sales recruits in the first six months, which is often the relationship building phase.

Set realistic targets, even it’s it just over breakeven for the first six months. As long as they are actively building relationships, getting meetings and you see progress in their sales pipeline, you know they are on the right track. It is costly to hire somebody train them and then have to let them go. A few trial runs, where you go out with them to key customers will get them on track.

Everybody needs time to acclimatize. And when if it doesn’t work out, it is important to explore what both sides did or didn’t do to make it a success. It is too easy to blame the sales person, when the company could have done more to support them. An often over-looked problem is lack of a sales coaching and industry coaching. Make sure you do your part in supporting the sales person’s success.

3. They believe product experts make great sales people

Product experts are great to have out at meeting customers, when you have to close the sale. The problem with product experts is they talk too much about the bells and whistles of the product. Meanwhile the buyer is wondering about the value he is getting from sitting through a product demo or a detailed work-flow plan.

If you do have product experts out selling, make sure they can answer the question without mentioning features and benefits of a product, “Why do people buy our product? What value does it bring them?” Deep down, people are not just buying the product, they are buying the intangible value they see that it will bring them. People do not buy the features of the flat-screen smart TV, they buy the experience they are going to have while watching it, as they visualise how it will look in their TV room and how it’s going to make them feel.

4. They believe great sales people make great sales managers

Transitioning from a sales role to sales management job requires training and conscious awareness of the difference between understanding selling and understanding people. Using the analogy of the star soccer player who retires from the game and moves into management, there are many stories of failed team managers who just didn’t have the core skills required to manage, motivate and inspire the football team. At the heart of sales management is an understanding of behaviour and how people are motivated or demotivated, coupled with the skills of communicating a vision, team building and coaching the team to excellence. When deciding who should manage a sales team, look closely at their people skills, communication skills and consider investing in some coaching or personal development training.

So what should you look for in hiring sales people?

If you are hiring sales people for your business, look for the strategic thinker with an ability navigate through the thinking of the buyers (mental skills), who can build great rapport and relationship (people skills), can get the balance between the big picture of business and the details of getting to the results in a consistent systematic way (project management skills).

During the interview, pay very close attention to their use of language and listening for their thinking style. A dazzling personality is a bonus, but personality does not maketh the salesperson. I am sure many sales managers who hired people they wished they hadn’t might agree with me. Great personality, but no substance, or all talk and no delivery. Let’s not be dazzled by personality, past results, industry knowledge alone. Start asking more questions when you hire sales people. Discover whether they have a flair for business and can demonstrate their business acumen. If they have that on top of the industry and product knowledge, you are on to a winner.


About the Author: Shiera O’Brien is a sales trainer and coach, who works with sales teams across industries to get better results from their sales conversations by changing how they engage their prospects. In any sales workshop there is a total focus on 1) what current results are you getting, 2) what skills are needed to improve the results 3) what selling behaviour are operating. Shiera works to bring awareness to what is going on from an observational standpoint, without judgement, using tools she has learned in 12 years in the field of coaching.

Dealing with Difficult People

5 Steps to Handling Difficult Situations or Difficult People

A Coach’s Perspective

 I am sure you can think of plenty of times when you ran into challenging situations and people and didn’t like the experience or how the story played itself out. Working with difficult people or challenges in your organisation is definitely one place to test this out. So how do you help yourself manage these kind of experiences when they show up?

I often run this process in a coaching scenario when people are finding it difficult to handle situations or people at work. It gives them the tools to begin to take charge of the situation internally, with a view to becoming more self-aware and resilient over time.

We cannot totally avoid difficult situations or people, but the best tool to manage this is explore how we process the experience in our minds and use self-awareness to get a handle on it. The more we notice, the more self-aware we are.  Self-awareness can be reduced to how good you are at observing you, your reactions or responses to events or words of others and then how you manage your state of mind and that experience. The end game is to build your resilience personal effectiveness.

When situations or other people challenge you


Start by noticing what is going on for you, what is the event or situation and how are you responding to it. Is there one particular theme, when you hit these situations. A good example : other people are wrong, you were treated unfairly, it shouldn’t have happened, people should do things differently. We can all relate to the story we have told ourselves about a person or an event. The most important thing is to find a way to get back to happier and more contented states rapidly, when you encounter challenges, particularly when you have to work with difficult people.

Working with your response is the only thing you have


You respond to what you perceive, and as you perceive, so you behave. This tells us that what you are experiencing is your response, not the event itself.  And other people’s perceptions are indications of their behaviour too. Your response is mili-seconds behind the event.  Your response is your own spin on the story, based on your own default thinking patterns. So what if you were to catch that response and notice everything your mind does with external events?  So here’s the thing, what your mind does with an event is the only thing you have to deal with. It may be a tall order when you are incensed, furious, agitated by some injustice “created” by an external event or person.

If you want to feel better, just work on your response and how you talk to yourself about any experience you don’t particularly like. Your response is the ONLY piece you have to work with it in responding to all future similar situations. Everything outside is irrelevant.

What you can do in 5 Steps

Here are 5 steps to help you manage and change your response to what’s going on.  It’s practice that will definitely make dealing with others easier. The only thing we know we can change is ourselves and not others. Think of a challenging situation or person you have to deal with right now. Run it through these 5 steps.

1. Notice the Movie running in Your Mind

We all have the ability to notice, because, if we didn’t we couldn’t interpret anything in life. We have to find a meaning, and fill in the details. That is our innate ability to be self-reflexive or think about what we think about”.

Ask yourself What do I need to believe here to create this response? What am I noticing in my mind when I run the replay of the event? How am I talking to myself about the event? What movie am I running in my head? What is the quality of it? What emotions are running around inside me? And how real are they? If I were to stand back and just get the theme of this movie, how would I describe it? A tragedy, a comedy, a crime, injustice, a learning?

Notice the texture so that you can detect how your brain is interpreting this event. That is the beginning of creating an experience you want to have and managing your own state of mind.

2. Find the Trigger

When you have a heightened response to somebody or some event, it is usually because it reminds you of something that you possibly have an aversion to, usually found in your mental database from the past. So just go find the trigger by asking yourself, what it reminds you of and name it. When you name it, you are on the way to clarity.

So if the situation reminds you of something from the past, notice what your brain did with it, it probably went into a self-talk about it and stepped into the “flight or flight mode”, just like the event it reminded you of. When you know what it’s triggering, you can train yourself to spot the old trigger running. Is it time to update you trigger event to a more positive trigger? This may be the trigger to choose a more favourable and helpful pro-active response.

3. Articulate the Meaning

The meanings you give to anything are what is making you respond the way you do. If you have a meaning and a value-system operating that people and events should operate in a certain way, according to your perceptions, you will feel at odds with yourself, when you run into an event you don’t like.

So ask yourself What meaning am I giving to this and how is it affecting me, when I give it that meaning?” Then put a time questions on it  “Will this matter in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years or 20 years?” What else could it mean and if you can find a positive meaning, that will certainly help you move from this? eg. This is teaching me how much I value X, or care about” Find 3-5 new meanings beyond the orginal meaning. This will help you tap into your creative brain and rewire the meaning so you can learn from it and handle it differently the next time.

4. Find the Reflection

If you are only perceiving, then your response is only mirroring to you, how you have run this experience through your mind. If your response is angry, then how aware are you of how easy it is to anger you. I always think it’s useful to reflect on what happened and how you were in that situation.

If  it activates emotions of fear, anger or resentment, then this is the reflection piece on your own perceptions. What is this reflecting to me about myself and my need for certainty? And how would you like to feel in a similar situation?

If you can do this, you will begin to find new ways of working with similar situations. E.g. if somebody is offensive in your eyes, a way to reframe it is “ I respect myself enough here to voice my concerns in a constructive way” This person may or may not be aware of what they are doing, and they are looking for some result here that you cannot give them. What if I asked them exactly wha they need right now so that we can move on from this”? That way your brain goes into solution mode instead of problem state.

5. Change the Movie

Watching the same movie over and over again is really not the most uplifting thing, unless it is an experience you loved. Replaying and event I have learned only deepens the negative meanings, so to ensure your find a way to improve your chances of having more positive experiences, is to change the movie and change the script.

By changing the colour and sounds in your movie you can change everything. If you watch it like a cartoon of human craziness and tell yourself, “next time I am just going to be a Zen master when this happens, knowing that I am self-aware, then it’s going to very different.” You’d never go to see a bad movie, twice, yet people replay their past experiences and events over and over and figure some how  they are going to find happiness there.

Like every habit, 30 days of using this tool, will increase your self-awareness and give you a tool to handle the challenges in your life. It is never the event, but your response and replay of the event that is your greatest challenge to overcome. It is an on-going practice even for the Zen masters of the world.

 Summary of 5 Steps:

  1. Notice the mental movie you are running
  2. Find the trigger for running the mental movie this way
  3. Articulate the meaning that’s true for you
  4. Find the reflection for learning
  5. Change the movie and how you see it

Management and When Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast

Why Strategy often gets lost in Company Culture


When a business executive team sets its eyes in a new direction, with a vision on a new business strategy, how often do they look to see how strong their culture is to execute and succeed with their business plans?

Peter Drucker put it eloquently when he talked about how “culture eats strategy for breakfast every time”. What could he mean by this? Essentially, your strategy will only be as good as the level of  training and the behaviours operating inside your organisation  as you seek to enact the change or get the team behind the strategy.

As a coach, I have seen companies with great strategies take time to get their strategy off the ground, and once they began to work and pay attention to getting the internal behaviours and actions right, higher quality results begin to manifest. A wise business manager once said to me, “it take a totally different set of behaviours to take a company from $20 to $60 million.” So what does a management team need to be aware of if they are developing a key business strategy and seeking to grow their business or change direction. Three things;  awareness of the existing behaviour and culture, a change in behaviour and a willingness to ask better questions of its people.

Behaviour is what makes up a Culture

Culture in a company is really the collective behaviours, beliefs and values operating within a group of people. They can be healthy and productive or quite the opposite. When there is pull and push actions going in with a team, you know it is time to start asking what is really going on. Looking at what shows up in organisations, there will always be a scale of behaviours that we can deem constructive or counter-productive. People may not always be aware of what exactly is going on. Here are a few aspects to think about:

Counter-productive behaviours come from viewing the world in a certain way. It can often be noticed in a levels of inflexibility, seeing the world through the ‘self’ point of view, working from all or nothing thinking, staying stuck in the detail rather than seeing the big picture, discounting ideas and people’s contributions, and following what you have always done instead of trying some new options.  Ask the question, “are we doing any of these behaviours that will stop us from making this strategy a reality?”

Constructive, quality behaviours come from a high level of awareness in the team on the right behaviours that will get the results, behavioural flexibility, seeing options and future possibilities, multiple view points, focussing on the bigger picture and the detail equally, while considering all ideas and contributions offered within a group or team. Ask the question “is our thinking expansive and high-level enough to deliver the strategy we are looking for?” These are all styles of thinking and perception. Creating a culture of behavioural awareness can be that difference that makes all the difference to developing a healthy, productive culture.

Culture has a structure, find out how it is built

What makes up the culture is a collection of individual behaviours, thinking styles and frames of mind; it is important to explore what collective values and beliefs are operating in your company and how they are aligned with the culture needed to make the strategy a success. When looking to change elements of the existing culture, it is important to find a structure that allows you to stand back and examine it in a way that takes the personal elements out of it.

With the companies I have worked with, we work systematically in looking at the culture through different filters. We ask penetrating questions about how the individuals are thinking about the strategy, their team and their customers and how healthy and productive they are. Key to this is to create a model of what the right culture would look like; then it’s about getting the behaviours to support it and the mind-set to execute the strategy. Critical to this is identifying key performance indicators that you can measure and the tangible behaviours needed to make things happen. A key question to ask is, “how can we benchmark and map tangible behaviours that will give us the results we want?”  An example is operating from solutions-mind set, where a problem is articulated with a potential solution, rather than just honing in on why the problem is a problem. Then it’s about tracking who and what behaviours contributed to getting to the solution that’s working.

Coach Your Organisation and Ask Quality Questions

The quality of your questions will determine how well you can adapt the culture and make the strategy come to fruition. Take a hard look at your culture and ask some key questions around the impact of how people think and behave and how it plays itself out in the organisation. Everything we do and think has some effect; because as we think, we then give meaning to our experience and then we take action or no action.

If we have productive, healthy and constructive ways of thinking about our organisations where the common good of others is considered, we will make progress. When we ask questions of ourselves and others without judgement, we open the doorway to higher insight and to that higher performance we are looking for to get the strategy working. The questioning mind-set is probably the most powerful mind-set you can bring to an organisation to explore the culture, its facets and its impact on your business strategy. Here are some questions to ask to take a look at your culture.

  1.  What are we not seeing in our culture that is taking from our business success?
  2. What part are we playing, as individuals, that is creating the collective culture?
  3. What won’t happen if we don’t change and let go of the old ways of doing things?
  4. Is what we are doing working for our clients, our business and our people?
  5. Is our culture  keeping up with the pace of change?
  6. Is our culture adaptable enough to the demands of our business?

As you think about your organisation, are you asking enough of the right questions to make your business strategy successful? Bring the power of coaching to your team and see what happens. A final closing question for you, what is your existing culture costing your business?


If you would like some information on our Management Training Course, view the course outline here.