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The number 1 threat to your business growth in 2021 (and it's not what you expect!)

The single most consistent theme we were asked to help clients with last year? - Being able to communicate and work effectively together.

In other words, navigating the different working styles of colleagues and the clashes that occur when these are misaligned. Underestimate the significance and impact of this at your peril!

Start-ups, scale-ups, decades old established businesses, global retail brands you name it - they suffer from it.

Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85% of your success in your business and in your life. Brian Tracy - Best selling author

Often when starting a business or forming a new team we seek out people we know to join us. Our underlying assumption is that because these are people we know, have maybe worked with before, or they do similar stuff to us that when we come together to collaborate on something new and exciting the drive, motivation, speed, quality will match ours.

Alternatively, when joining a new organisation or team of unfamiliar faces we make assumptions that we will quickly fit in with our like minded new colleagues. However, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how our new peers work. Most likely this will be different to our own.

Whilst there’s a tonne of evidence that diversity of thought is a positive thing, when colleagues act and communicate in a way at odds with what you hope for it's difficult, awkward and slow to navigate through. Not being able to find common ground has a negative effect, reducing motivation and employee engagement.

Common symptoms we’ve observed include:

  • Slow decision making - difference of opinion or a lack of understanding (and not articulating it, or accept other ideas without judgement) causes unnecessary delays

  • Conflicting priorities / difference in urgency - some are keen to get this thing done immediately, others think it should wait

  • Quality vs speed - taking time to improve the quality of work vs. a focus on getting something out the door to test and get early feedback

When considering the different working styles that exist in your team or organisation, there are loads of different models designed to help us understand ourselves and each other by putting us in boxes and giving us labels. But in reality humans act based on a combination of our established patterns of behaviours, the situation at hand and our relationship with the other person.

All models are wrong, but some are useful. George Box - British statistician 1919 - 2013

Given it's such a common and widespread challenge, here’s our 3 top tips:

Tip 1 - Gain self awareness of your own working style and share what you learn.

Doing some honest personal reflection, accepting what you find and then being vulnerable and sharing this - that's leadership. The personal user manual is our go-to tool to help you understand and articulate this.

How does it help? - Increasing empathy and compassion for one another at a neurological level. Encouraging more open conversations. Showing a willingness to be pro-active and move things towards something better.

How to do it? - Find (or create) a template you like. Fill it in. Share it with your team (in a forum where you can talk through it). Ask "Who's gonna share theirs next?". We originally discovered this idea here.

Tip 2 - Seek alignment on the bigger picture.

Taking a step back from the day to day grind to create a shared understanding of why you've come together, how you want to work and what you'll do to enable that has a huge impact, and becomes a catalyst for positive change. A simple team charter is something we've used with 5 people scrum teams all the way to 18 people senior leadership teams.

How does it help? When there's a clash of communication styles, personality types or general misalignment this allows you to hit the pause button. To stop focussing on individual differences. To reflect on why you're all there in the first place. This tool's super power is the alignment it creates as a result of an open conversation about what's collectively wanted and needed. It changes the conversation from "I don't like what you said or how you said it" to "Does this help us achieve our purpose" or "Is this conversation in line with our values?"

How to do it? Find (or create) a template you like. Organise a team workshop to co-populate this. Publish it somewhere where everyone can see it. Review it every so often (especially when someone new joins the team).

Tip 3 - Discover how you can support each other to grow and improve, collectively and individually.

Shifting the attention towards continuous improvement and growth quickly changes the dynamic of relationships. To learn about others existing skills and what new ones they seek is easily done through the Market place of skills format.

How does it help? It moves people away from what they disagree on, towards what they can learn from each other and how they can support their collective development.

How to do it? There's a very clear explanation in this video by our buddy Carsten Lutzen.

These 3 tips are not only powerful, but easy to implement with very little pre-work. If you find yourself facing a challenge in communicating and working effectively with others, or struggling to navigating the different working styles of colleagues and the clashes that occur through misalignment, then start with tip 1- ASAP! If you've already tried these type of activities and problems still persist, of if you want to fast track this for your company then please get in touch with us - Some of our favourite things are helping leaders and teams to find alignment through:

Individual coaching - Open to anyone looking to explore their growth and development. No matter where you are in your career, and whether or not you’re in a leadership role, we’re here to help.

Team coaching - Whether it’s a shiny new team, or one that has lost its way a little, you can look to us to get their mojo back.

Group Leadership coaching - Our leadership coaching is especially designed for groups of leaders looking to increase alignment.

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