October 18, 2021
Imagine coaching a sports team under the following conditions: A certain percentage of your players do not train in your establishment. You have minimal contact with them, let alone influence over how, when, and for how long they practice. Building and maintaining team cohesion is almost impossible. It is possible that some of your players may not be available at some point during the season and your training center may be closed indefinitely. Yet, you are still meant to win.
That’s pretty much the situation managers find themselves in. A certain percentage of their employees are probably still working from home or will be doing so soon. Contact with them is limited and must be scheduled, thus eliminating spontaneous communication in the moment. Those who come to work risk the possibility of catching or spreading the covid classic or one of its less viable variants. Even if this possibility is low, the stress it creates for some employees will be high. And, depending on the location of your business, you can expect one or more types of weather-related disturbances at some point in the year. Disturbances, whether weather or medical – or both – are almost a certainty. However, managers are still expected to produce.
This is the abnormal new normal, and management has no choice but to adapt. The question is: What virtues will help managers navigate this unexplored wasteland of disruption and uncertainty?
The first is flexibility. As the saying goes, “Blessed are the hoses, for they will never be bent.” Flexibility allows business processes to be adapted to fluid conditions. Start by reviewing everything from performance reviews to team building strategies; planning and budgeting priorities, training, staffing considerations, setting realistic goals, energizing remote workers and everything in between. Review contingency and disaster recovery plans. Share them with employees before they need to be implemented and test them as soon as possible. In short, everyone should understand their roles and responsibilities if the facility is damaged or key employees cannot get to work.
IT managers typically have a combination of technical acumen and people skills. But these capacities are not necessarily equal. Most managers have a strength to build on. People managers will be more challenged because some of their employees will be isolated off-site. Whatever personal connections they may have made under normal circumstances, whatever opportunities for inspiration or guidance they usually provide, may not be available. Leadership generally benefits from proximity. Otherwise, clear communication is essential.
The problem, even for good communicators, is that only about 7% of the meaning of a communication is derived from words. Most of the information that we intuit about the message and the messenger comes from sources beyond the dictionary sense of the language; 38% are derived from tone – volume, inflection, pitch, rhythm. Is there a congruence between the words and the way they are pronounced? Does the delivery betray or support the content? The tone on Zoom tends to be somewhat inauthentic, as people sitting still, staring at a camera, tend not to behave as they normally would. In addition, more than half of the meaning of a communication, or 55%, derives from the observation of physiology. This includes posture, body movements, gestures, eye contact or avoidance, breathing rate, flushing, facial expressions, including microexpressions that we may recognize, albeit unconsciously, such as emotional testimonies and indications of truthfulness or deception. As valuable as Zoom has become to the conduct of business, a lot of essential information is lost when we limit ourselves to viewing faces on a laptop computer, framed in tiny Zoom windows.
Technically inclined managers will tend to ignore the need for real time, but that would be a mistake. In times of prolonged stress or crisis, people want reassurance and connect with what is familiar to them. The successful leader will take the time to individually connect with staff in any way possible. In an age when record numbers of people are retiring, resigning, or looking for new career opportunities, demonstrating loyalty to employees will be more productive than expecting employees to remain loyal to a non-effusive abstraction of blood called “the business”.
The critical task of management is to create and maintain relationships with employees; a task made more manageable when both parties speak the same language. Rapport makes collaboration and cooperation possible. But we each experience the world in different ways, and depending on our organization, certain words have more meaning. With rare exceptions, each has a dominant learning modality and each modality has its own language. These modalities are based on what are called representational systems, which are simply different sensory channels that we use to collect and interpret information.
There are four predominant representational systems: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and digital auditory. (A small percentage of people are organized around taste or olfactory systems, but these are secondary systems for most humans.) One of the fastest ways to establish a relationship is to speak the language of the representational system. listener’s favorite. And this preference will be revealed by their use of revealing predicates.
For example, a visual learner will use visual predicates: “I see what you mean. ” “It’s clear.” “It’s not a brilliant idea.” “I understand the picture.” “This seems good.” “I have poor eyesight…” For someone using a visual representation system, being seen will be much more important and meaningful than being heard. And one of the best ways to let them know they’re seen and understood is to respond using visual predicates.
Likewise, people with hearing preferences will want to be heard, not seen. They will embellish their speech with phrases such as: “I hear you. “Loud and clear.” “Sounds good / sounds like …” “It rings a bell.” “Barking in the wrong tree.” Responding to a hearing person saying “I see what you mean” may be interpreted in their system as not being heard or understood at all.
Kinesthetic people will use body-centered language: “Stay alert. “” I took control. “One step at a time.” “Go in the wrong direction.” “Have a hold.” “Let it sink in. »People organized on the kinesthetic level will have a hard time with the trainings organized on Zoom. On the one hand, they have to move to learn. On the other hand, they have a shorter attention span and although they are easily interested, they get bored quickly.
Auditory-digital learners do not use any kind of sensory language. They want the facts unadorned and believe themselves to be reasonable and rational. Their predicates will include words such as: “Evaluate”. “Inform.” “To study.” “Research.” “To organise.” And, “Statistically speaking,” they want to see the evidence, the tables, the numbers, the charts, the reports. They often choose fields like IT or accounting where there is little room for interpretation. They live in a binary universe.
Of course, not many people use just one system of representation. Their speech and writing (emails are a good source) will usually be seasoned with several. But if you are careful, a favorite or dominant system will emerge. Understanding how people are organized and reacting accordingly is particularly effective in improving communication and building relationships, especially when communicating at a distance. And, it will make managers more flexible communicators.
Trainer and consultant Alexander den Heijer said: “When I talk to managers, I feel like they are important. When I talk to leaders, I feel like I am important.
Flexibility, communication and rapport, three tools that will help employees feel important in this time of disruption and uncertainty that demands exceptional and caring leadership.