SERIES: Part Three of a Five-Part Article
Turning arguments and debates into solutions and alternatives is a hallmark of both effective communicators and successful leaders. As communication goes hi-tech and low-touch, it becomes easy for disconnection to arise in communication. These disconnections only serve to impede productivity and profitability to businesses.
A leader must be constantly cognizant of the individual tactics deployed to stimulate open dialogue. While in pursuit of solution-oriented dialogue and an environment conducive to free spirited communication exchanges, how one engages or responds to another directly influences whether that communication exchange will be solution oriented or corrosive.
How you arrange a conversation has a direct influence upon the mindset of the participants, which will determine how healthy the outcomes will be. In her classic work, The Argument Culture, author Deborah Tannen illustrates how one sentence sets up defense posture and another creates inclusion. Consider: “Battle of the sexes” (argumentative) versus “Relations between men and women” (dialogue). Or, “Debate” (argumentative) versus, “Discuss” (dialogue). In striving for solution-oriented communication exchanges, be careful not to derail otherwise positive intentions.
Here are ten powerful ways to tactically stimulate solution-oriented communication among individuals in your work place:
1. Establish Ground Rules – Identify how the other party likes to communicate (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and share with them how you communicate best. By establishing these most basic ground rules, you open yourself to gain greater participation from others!
2. Covenant-Based – This implies that, as the sender of a signal, you “also” recognize what else you can do to make the communication exchange non- threatening and solution-oriented. So, in looking at the “What else can I do?” (covenant implies other responsibilities) factor, make sure to listen and take notes to objectively consider the other parties’ positions, ideas and views.
3. You First – Become known as the person who always seeks others’ ideas before offering yours. This may allow for a synergy of action plans and a more cost effective final result!
4. Demand Alternatives – Whenever someone voices a rejection to an idea or action plan, instead of defending, digging in and challenging the other party, simply back up, gently look at the attempted challenger and say, “What do you feel would be a more viable option?” If they don’t respond with a tangible answer, repeat the question again. What you are implying is, “Put up or shut up!”
5. One Percent Factor – Regardless of a solution (whether yours or someone else’s), always ask, “What can we do one percent more to make this even more productive or profitable?” This causes people to strive even harder and implies that pushing for something better is always acceptable and expected!
6. Learn to Forecast – Recognize that when circumstances dictate that you realize an impending problem, and adjustments are not made, this is a great opportunity to invest internally with your colleagues. Ask, task, delegate or assign to everyone to collectively workshop your forecasted challenge for alternatives, solutions or coping strategies so the forecasted issue does not implode the productivity of individuals in the future.
7. Shop Your Ideas Electronically – Before implementing any solution-action plan, always bounce your challenge and perceived solution off of at least three other people. Someone you know, who previously has been where you are, someone two positions removed from you, who can provide an emotionally biased view and the person most likely to be affected by your action!
8. Identify Internal Subject Matter Experts – Intrapreneurs – Cultivate from your colleagues, employees and customers (that would be entrepreneurs) those individuals who possess a wealth of knowledge (based upon their education, experience or certifications) and could be the official or unofficial “go to” people to solicit feedback for your solutions and quick-start ideas for your challenges.
9. Solution Board - When time allows for solution (idea) generation, post that on a community bulletin board with all of your team (including yourself) listed vertically below the entry. Then, post a deadline and publicly invite everyone to write their ideas and allow for ideas to feed off one another. If someone posts an unprofessional energy, let it stand. Later, when you pull the idea list down for discussion in a meeting, engage that person by using technique number four in this list.
10. Horizontal Action Information Grams – Encourage cross communication among individuals, not from a bragging perspective, but from a “lessons learned” celebration perspective. When someone has faced a difficult situation, generated a viable solution and experienced victory, encourage them to share that three-step evolution with everyone. If someone else finds him or herself in a similar position in the future, they will be prepared with solutions!
As a leader, if you really want to empower your team and create an environment of mega solutions, design a system that both recognizes and rewards implemented solutions. Imagine giving ten percent of any solution that yields a savings or increase in profitability to an organization. Wow! Pure solution energy. The downfall, unfortunately, is that most leaders take a minimalist attitude towards this view; they don’t want to share ten percent of something they don’t have at the expense of never cultivating the solutions from their most prized assets (their people) that would otherwise yield them a 90 percent gain!
An effective leader continually focuses on individual performance improvement in a highly effective organization. A leader always appreciates, respects and focuses upon the tactics which turn arguments and debates into solutions and alternatives for positive outcomes in every communication exchange.
What are yours?