For those of you old enough you may recall the BT adverts of the early 1990’s which featured the late Bob Hoskins where he told the viewer
“It’s good to talk”
But how well do we really communicate, sure we have the corridor conversations with colleagues whilst we are at work. And we have countless meetings with internal and external contacts.
From time to time we may have more formal meetings where we talk at or talk with a member of our team. And of course, we are constantly communicating to the various stakeholders that have a major influence on our organisations.
Conversations take place all the time and are a major part of our role whilst at work. But I wonder how many of us have considered how well we communicate and how well we have been versed in truly effective communication skills?
We read about the art of communication and how we need to build trust and develop rapport to enhance effective communication but how well do we really do this and how often do we create the right space and conditions to enable truly great and effective conversations?
Companies these days want innovation, but it can’t happen without risk and creativity. So, what do you do to bring the workplace trust levels up to where you can have the difficult conversations to propel growth?
How can we create the conditions that enable collaboration, shared experience, mutual learning and use the shared capability of our teams toward innovation?
Safe and healthy conversations are the key to empowering your team to interact with their peers and wider stakeholders and create incredible results collectively.
Build better relationships with key stakeholders by improving your team’s communication skills.
When we talk about communication, it is important to acknowledge that an ability to communicate well, can help you to build positive working relationships with your key stakeholders and this is key to organisational success.
Developing your team communications skills is not just an internal function either, if you can help develop the ability of your key Stakeholders to communicate well you can create an environment where a two-way open and honest dialogue can create the foundation of a great relationship.
We need to be able to develop our workforce, so the organisation can create the conditions that enable collaboration, shared experience, mutual learning and use the shared capability of our teams toward innovation?
People thrive on connection and affirmation, not criticism and judgment. When we listen to connect rather than listen to judge we create a platform for peering into each other’s minds and become the catalyst of our next-generation thinking. This in turn can enable us to set more helpful, meaningful, and productive objectives for the future.
When we adopt the framework of listening to connect, we improve our ability to connect, navigate and grow with others. We make better friends, better parents, and better partners – and in business we make better decisions and become better leaders for the present and the future.
Buyer/ user interactions
Most buyers these days know what they’re looking for and carry out most, if not all, of their research before purchasing. This means a longer sales cycle and more opportunities for your lead to engage or even disengage. Indeed, it is now more vital than ever to keep that positive relationship throughout the process consistent.
If our stakeholders are our users or benefactors in the case of service provision, then understanding the individuals needs is key to an effective service provision.
Using skills gained through coaching, client facing teams can develop techniques which help them engage with their customers, patients, clients or co-workers through proven methods such as the CLEAR model (Contracting, Listening, Exploring, Action, Reflection/Review)
Some typical engagements might include:
- Finding out whether the customer would like help and what they would like to achieve (contracting)
- Inquiring as to what options the client has already thought through or tried (listening)
- Exploring the alternatives options the stakeholder might be interested in (exploring)
- Supporting the customer while they try on clothes, operate the self-service checkout or engage in a pilot project (action)
- Gain feedback and checking if there is any additional help the customer might need (review/reflection).
It all sounds quite simple, so what might these engagements look like in different situations?
Here are a few examples we have been involved with recently.
Sales Improvement Services has recently worked with sales executives at a well-known IT company using coaching and the CLEAR model (Coaching, Listening, Exploring, Action, Reflection/Review) to engage with their software VAR partners.
Throughout the year this enabled them to re-engage with their clients, qualify where potential new partners could be found and customise the on-boarding process to speed up their sales process.
The CLEAR approach can also work well for suppliers. Companies can use it to select key partners and build up rapport, trust and mutual profitable styles of collaborative working. This can be carried out through setting clear terms of engagement and service level agreements which each party is confident the other can fulfil.
This is typified by a Sales Improvement Services client working within the IT Service Management (ITSM) industry who selected a vendor to work with which adds value to their own end user customers.
Many organisations have compliance or industry-specific regulatory bodies they must work with on a regular basis. Using effective communication methods such as CLEAR can also help in these relationships.
Recently, a Further Education College, approached Sales Improvement Services with the aim of improving their Ofsted rating from Good to Outstanding. Rather than sit back and wait for an Ofsted inspection to give them areas to improve on, the college implemented the CLEAR model to identify their weaknesses and developed an action plan to address their challenges to better meet their goal. Coaching was then used to help them address these weaknesses and prepare for their next Ofsted inspection.
Another client working in the Financial Services sector had ended up with special measures being imposed due to several discrepancies in client engagement. They faced a visit from their overseeing body to ensure adequate policies and procedures had been introduced to rectify these issues.
To illustrate their new compliance, they gathered reviews and supporting evidence and utilised a CLEAR approach during their meeting with the assessor. This encouraged good rapport and interaction with the assessor and an encouraging outcome, helping them to achieve the necessary compliance obligations.
Inter department communications
Working with a team of data-base managers in a successful charity this year we came across a communication challenge that was leading to discrepancies in data that the fund-raising team could use. By using enhanced listening skills and creating good questioning techniques, developed from the CLEAR method of engagement, the service provision has now become far more interactive, and encourages deeper thought and accuracy when a fund campaign manager requests a service.
This has led to faster response times and more accurate data for the fund raisers to work with.
A similar approach was adopted by a leading IT organisation where feedback between front- line sales and the technical development team was proving to be particularly challenging and leading to lots of time consuming and costly meetings, where both groups were away from the “coal – face”.
Developing each team members ability to move from transactional conversations into areas of mutual learning and inquiry has ensured product development is both timely and client focused which in turn has reduced significantly their product time to market.
Adopting a CLEAR communication to all your key stakeholder engagement will provide a more collaborative relationship, help engage with clients as well as support customer service improvements.
Applying this model to tactical communication techniques that of how Neuroscience and the physical working of the mind and body lead to a current use of three levels of engagement we can begin to unlock techniques that help us move toward conversation which are based on high levels of trust and co-creation.
For information on one idea of how to make this work, visit our workshop page at