When we try to communicate complex, abstract concepts, it makes better sense to use a metaphor. For example, while explaining a change management initiative- like introducing lean processes, or teamwork in a traditional organization, moving into a knowledge sharing or innovation-based culture. There are any number of movies where a leader using a sports metaphor inspires teamwork to implement his vision. There are also any number of research studies on how to inspire teamwork, where individual achievement has been the norm. The idea is to appeal to emotionality; because mere rational tools are inadequate. Results indicate that metaphors can be a useful tool for helping individuals understand and accept the importance of teamwork. Today, in some organizations which I work with, needs that dose of framing. One business leader calls himself a Gardener instead of Director. While grooming his GenY employees, it helps them become disciplined innovators. Another business leader called himself Grim Reaper during an employee downsizing exercise. That helped the “walking wounded” teams heal themselves and take up additional responsibilities after downsizing. Today’s organizations are familiar with Rollercoaster rides, “becoming the moving target” “slap on the face”, “teams simmering in the Pressure Cooker”, or Marathon Effects, Juggling & Dropping some Balls, Big Brother Acquisitions, say, in the Telecom industry. That has become the New Normal for many. “Who moved my Cheese?”, Job redesign and Grief Cycle have become standard vocabulary in several sectors too. Some Sectors have even used Imminent Death as a metaphor to help understand the grim organizational realities. Some managers have had to Abandon Ship…which is a tragedy whichever way you look at it. Some employees described “Free Fall” or “Caught in an Iron Cage”, “Carried by the Current” or even “Tsunami” or, “It was Cast in Stone”. It was easier for “those who saw the writing on the Wall” or “Silver linings at the end of the cloud/ tunnel” or “were in the Driver’s Seat” or realized “we couldn’t drop the ball” or “culture was the glue that made it doable” Those who had to cope with “the Cream was off the Custard” or “Cushioned by the Network” were the lucky ones. Successful managers have played along with the affected – indeed used the same words to heal. They sailed in the same boat, while were Learning from the Book of Life. In a more comparatively benign scenario, the failure of inter-departmental communication was there for all to see. The prospective solutions were discussed, teams were asked to ponder the likely perspectives of other participants by assigning counter positions in a training situation. For example, the sales manager and a production manager were called to a meeting to discuss lagging sales of a new product. The trainer asked the sales manager to open the meeting with a discussion of ways in which the product could be presented more effectively to prospective customers. The production manager could then lead a discussion of how potential changes in the product or improvements in its quality might make it easier to sell. This approach forces each individual to adopt another’s perspective instead of rushing to frame the problem as someone else’s failure. The Metaphor used was that In The Company’s Journey, We are Co-Passangers. The Destination is a Common Goal. We Exchange the Role of Driver and Navigator. The traditional, less effective managers and problem solvers tend to interpret everything from a fixed standpoint. Instead, situations and problems can be framed and reframed in different ways allowing new kinds of solutions to emerge. Do you have an experience where metaphors have made it possible to cope with a grim situation; or change in attitude was possible through reframing the context? Do share with me and my readers your story of change management….
Category Archives: Improved Communication
Reading body language is easy. Demonstrating body language is tougher. Do you agree? I have been reflecting on how to show respectful body language, while being assertive. I am kind of stuck by cultural aspects of body language, especially in showing respect; rather in creating level playing field. Need more inputs…
How to demonstrate respect using body language
Keep It Level
-Experience a level playing field of communication.
-Be aware of how facial expressions say more than words.
-Monitor your voice tone to diminish dual messages.
-Express your reactions directly without apology.
-Focus on demonstrating respect in every communication.
Bottomline is : Ask yourself:
“How are others who witness these events affected? For whom is demonstrating respect most important-those involved or those who witness the incident?”
Would appreciate lots of inputs in this area.
Eye contact is crucial
Soft firm voice to improve clarity
Any other tips that you can give?
What are the lessons from this lessons:
- Add value
- Relationship is very valuable
More on body language:
Several body parts can be seen as barriers or discouragers of comunication. Time and again, we are told that crossing our hands over our chest says clearly- we are not interested in listening or we are not interested in engaging with you.
The thumb rule is to take away anything that blocks your view or looks like a barrier between us and the rest of the team. Even during a coffee break, one can be aware that we may create a barrier by holding our cup or glass in such a way that seems deliberately, to block our body or create a distance from others.
A senior executive is quoted a saying that he could evaluate his team’s comfort by how high they held their coffee cups. He observed that the more insecure a team-member or a new-comer felt, the higher they held their coffee.
People with their hands held at waist level were supposed to be more comfortable than those with hands chest high. I take most of these myths with a pinch of salt. What do you think? Any experiences to share?
Touch is a more powerful tool.
A study on handshakes by the Income Center for Trade Shows showed that people are two times more likely to remember us, if we shake hands with them. They also found that people react to those with whom they shake hands by being more open and friendly. They explain it as follows: Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue. Touching someone on the arm, hand, or shoulder for as little as 1/40 of a second creates a human bond.
Smile is another powerful body tool to build rapport and enable friendly co-operative behavior When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.
Mirroring or taking similar expressions or postures as the other person builds rapport and liking. When we mirror other people with intent, it can be an important part of building rapport and nurturing feelings of mutuality. Mirroring starts by observing a person’s facial and body gestures and then subtly letting your body take on similar expressions and postures. Doing so will make the other person feel understood and accepted.
Have you noticed, when somebody lowers his voice, speaking with clear, even pitch, one pays attention. To sound authoritative, keep your voice down. This tip comes from a Speech Therapist. He advised that before a speech or an important call, he lets his voice relax into its optimal pitch by keeping his lips together and making the sounds “um hum, um hum, um hum.”
We females, have to watch out for our voice not to rise at the ends of sentences- this may indicate a question or seeking approval. He says, “when stating your opinion, use the authoritative arc, in which your voice starts on one note, rises in pitch through the sentence and drops back down at the end.” Excellent advice, I think. More on voice language for collaborative work in the forthcoming posts.
Don’t miss the following the History Channel documentary on body language:
TIP: Become a child and look at the situation simply.
TRY TO- Rephrase: because there’s ALWAYS A BETTER WAY OF SAYING SOMETHING.
-TRY TO WRITE – Direct ways to communicate are better.
-People appreciate hearing the truth. Don’t you?
-Recognize that there is no need to embellish or distort.
-Resolve to be comfortable talking about difficult topics.
-less is more: use the simplest descriptions. More on this topic coming up…
We cannot work together, if we do not listen to each other. That is not to say that we have to appease our obstinate child; or whining subordinate; or unreasonable customer. Actively listen; so that the other person responds and feels comfortable for the conversation. There is no feeling that it is a one-sided situations. If the other person is on the defensive….then no real communication can take place. There would be no compliance, there would be no improvement, there would be no teamwork. Period.
There has to be a perception of a level playing field. For that:
This is important – Tell The Other Person That You Really Heard
-Acknowledge what others are saying. Mirror or Rephrase what the other person said.
–Say that I see your point. Validate others’ positions before promoting your own.
-Concentrate on listening without jumping to your views. If it is totally unreasonable, don’t interrupt; write down the exact words which the other person is saying.
–YOU CAN VALIDATE THE POSITION of others without agreeing with them.
-Separate high standards of conversation from disapproval and judgment. Don’t yet place yourself in a position of judgement.
YOU STILL ARE NOT AGREEING, just listening; clearing the barriers of communication.
Try this …and let me know what you feel