Monday, March 23, 2015

Say What?! Create a Foundation for Healthy Communication and Collaboration within your Company

Today we have a guest blog from Shannon Bruce:

In 1992, John Gray wrote the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus on the topic of relationship and love. To date, it’s the all-time, best-selling hard-cover nonfiction book ever sold. In fact, over 7 million copies in 40 different languages have been purchased to the tune of $18 million dollars in sales! Clearly there’s a need for us to understand the differences between one another in support of developing healthy relationships between men and women!

So what does a personal “self-help” book on love and relationship have to do with business? I say EVERYTHING!

We spend more time with those we work with than we do our friends, families and partners.  Those same differences (and challenges!) that exist in love relationships exist in ALL relationships because we are all unique, with distinct wiring that makes us who we are as separate individuals.  And, in order to get any real meaning out of life, or results at the office, we are created to be in relationship and interdependent upon one another.

Our similarities end once we get beyond our basic core needs. There’s more that makes us different than alike; our habits, fears, beliefs, values, conflict handling styles, interests and emotional intelligence all vary. This reality creates gaps in our working relationships causing similar communication challenges to those that exist in the love relationships that John Gray talks about. 
As a team coach, I see the dynamics of poor communication in the workplace all of the time. It ranges from gossip among co-workers (even in the C-Suite) all the way to workplace bullying. And you can bet that your employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity are all negatively affected because of it!

So what do you do?  Consider the following to help improve relationships in your organization:

1.     Clarify and Revisit your Why—Do you know “why” your company exists? This is about knowing more than “how” you do business or “what” you do. It’s about clarifying your company’s compelling reason for being in business that acts as a “stake in the ground”. This “stake” is your “true north” for business success and healthy relationship in your organization. It helps to take the focus off of the challenges and problems among individuals and teams and puts it back onto the company purpose. If you don’t know your company “why”, or perhaps it’s changed, be sure to watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the topic:

2.     Challenge your Mission, Vision and Values—Are you clear about your mission, vision and values in your company? If so, are you “on target” and “walking your talk” in the execution of these within your company? Do these three areas align with your “why”? Talk to a few employees and you’ll get a sense of how well you are accomplishing your stated goals. With this insight, what do you need to do next?

3.     Design Agreements—Do you have clarity on what agreements are needed among your team members to support constructive interaction? What are your “rules for engagement”? Do these agreements create an environment of safety and trust so employees can be open and honest without fear of retribution? Are the discussions during team meetings getting to the “heart of the matter” or are they “superficial”? If they are superficial and “nice”, I suggest that at a minimum, you use your company values as a guide to design a set of agreements that will build trust and safety among your team(s) so “real” conversations can happen.

4.     Develop a Conflict Handling Process—Conflict is about “differences” so expect it to happen frequently and often in your company! J Be proactive to prepare for conflict by defining how you want to communicate when it gets difficult. What “code words” will help you enter into the “awkward zone” of conflict? When you aren’t in agreement with others, how do you want to deal with it? A great resource to developing your conflict handling process is the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Handling Mode Instrument.

5.     Provide ongoing Feedback—This is the most critical step to maintain your foundation for healthy communication and collaboration. It’s not a “one and done” process! Questions to be asking regularly are, “How are we doing as a team?” “What’s working?” “What’s not?” “What will we do differently to improve?” If you’re not creating a feedback loop for continuous improvement, start.

Relationships needs to be nurtured at the office just like they are at home. Say what?! Yes, your greatest assets within your company are your people. If you’re not maintaining these relationships like you are your fixed assets, then it’s time! In fact, this might be where you’ll find the answers you’ve been looking for to improve your bottom-line results. With this in mind, what’s your next step?


Shannon Bruce, PCC is a Professional Certified Coach and current President and CEO of StoryBridge, Inc. of Kitsap County. She has been in the professional coaching industry for over 11 years working in many capacities as an Executive and Leadership Coach, Team Coach, Facilitator and Trainer. Her diverse background also includes 13 years as a CPA with Ernst & Young, Corporate & Regional Operations Management in the wholesale distribution field, and entrepreneurship launching multiple business start-ups.

Shannon considers herself a Catalyst for Culture Change who is an “out-of-the-box” thinker looking for new and life-giving ways to enhance business results and team relationships. With her corporate background and coach training, Shannon understands the needs of both “people” and “profit” to help companies produce more with less. Her true passion & mission is “going into companies” to “create communities”.

Living in Bremerton, WA with her 14-year old daughter, Shannon enjoys quality time with family and friends in addition to reading, exercising and hiking.

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