Join one of our open workshops in London in 2018 or hold a workshop in your offices this summer from our special offer range. See all workshops
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July to September (Summer offer) – Presenting, Pitching, Speaking in Public
July to September (Summer offer) – Personal Impact
July to September (Summer offer) – Persuade
23rd August, 2018 – Storytelling at Work
Autumn 2018 – The Cognitive Science of Words that Work
On request – The Culture Factor
Few of us need any convincing that we’re living in a multicultural world and yet most of us rarely think about communications in ‘cultural’ terms until an issue like this one strikes: ‘We can’t work with them!’, was the shout from the London and New York offices.
I was leading a global bid process for an international consultancy when the whole project threatened to implode. » Read more
Colleagues in London and New York were experiencing the Munich team’s involvement as negative, critical and unsupportive.
What do I need to know, what do I need to do to get the work done – to help people avoid this cultural stuff? These were the questions that kept me up at night during a series of issues involving colleagues in Europe and the US.
Being part of the same organization and operating in the same business language (English) the team and I had simply fallen into the trap of “assuming” that cultural differences did not play a role in our collaboration. How wrong we were…
I remember after one conference call, the London and New York team sharing with me their frustration with the German colleagues. “They don’t seem to be excited about or supportive of the project. They are always incredibly negative and just focusing on the weaknesses and what might go wrong.” Being German myself, I was rather surprised by this comment, for I knew how much the Munich team was committed to this new business opportunity.
What had happened?
Simply a clash of cultural mind sets. In general, the people in the US and in the UK seem to have a more “we can do it, let’s make it happen” and positive approach, while the German way tends to be more cautious and needs to make sure that all potential risks have been assessed and dealt with.
Both approaches have their merits and, when combined, actually complement each other. The solution to the dilemma in this case was simply recognising and addressing the cultural differences in an open and frank conference call. Understanding and respecting diversity allowed everybody to focus on the strength of each cultural group. Within the project team, New York now took over the role of “motivator” and working on creative solutions, the UK colleagues bridged the gap between US and Europe, while leading the project management part. Last but not least, Munich focused on risk assessment and playing “the devil’s advocate” by providing regular reality checks.
As a result, fewer misunderstandings and false expectations led to a more effective and successful (as well as enjoyable!) collaboration and great team spirit.
This was my colleague, Nicole’s, experience nearly 10 years ago – and since then we have been called upon to help numerous teams and organisations flex their approach across different cultural contexts – national, ethnic, organisational, virtual, generational and more.
We have now built some of this experience into a one day open workshop for individual leaders. The most recent of these was held in London in April. And for the rest of 2018, this workshop is available on request only. Full details of the Culture Factor workshop are available here.
A sense of story unleashes our intrinsic motivation and many organisations are missing out by not developing a full narrative toolkit and connecting and engaging in this way. Read our article on how a narrative toolkit can help IC practitioners and business leaders drive collaborative success in the June issue of IoIC Online. » Read more
A narrative toolkit helps IC drive connection and collaboration
The Royal Bank of Scotland, Transport for London and The Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics are among our most recent clients to take advantage of our narrative mastery programme. The skills and processes of narrative intelligence are the invisible glue in truly connected and collaborative organisations and these clients are keen to have this thinking in place for both top leadership teams and communications staff across all business units. » Read more
The skills and processes of narrative intelligence are the invisible glue of truly successful organisations. Helping people connect to the strategic narrative is recognised as a crucial catalyst of collaborative working and yet many organisations struggle to share the story behind their strategy and so fail to unleash this intrinsic motivation in their employees – or to engage and inspire external stakeholders.
Our narrative mastery programme provides a dual approach to help address this challenge. It both deepens leaders and communicators understanding of narrative and influence and provides communicators with a toolkit of narrative techniques, templates and ideas to coach leaders and deliver to teams internally.
» Read more
Narrative intelligence includes the ability to contextualise and communicate where the organisation is headed, and why, in ways that make sense to people. It involves:
- Inspiring people by telling stories that bring to life the values and purpose of the business unit or overall organisation, and
- Giving purpose and meaning by helping them think in narrative form – so that they too can understand and articulate the business story.
Our programme can help communicators and leaders bring these skills into play quickly and in a structured and consistent way that is also genuine and real. It usually involves some or all of the following:
Leadership workshops on:
- Storytelling for leaders
- Corporate or strategic narrative
- Storytelling for Corporate Ambassadors
- Story-listening (employee workshops for renewed energy and change)
A toolkit of narrative–promoting techniques:
- Surfacing a Higher Sense of Purpose: templates and processes for groups to explore the corporate story
- Story triggering: helping others find and tell stories in support of the main narrative
- Story-listening: sharing stories through an appreciative lens, such as that of appreciative inquiry, to trigger renewed focus on positive change and build the story and culture everyone wants from the bottom up
- Active story sharing to spark new ideas and behaviour change.
Contact us for further information on our in-house programmes and workshops. Next open workshop on storytelling is in London on 17th May, 2018. Booking and further details.
Read our article on A narrative toolkit helps IC drive connection and collaboration published by the Institute of Internal Communication.
As part of our narrative mastery programme, several business units at TfL have taken a fresh look at the mental gymnastics of communication and the role of storytelling as a leadership skill. » Read more
People will only ever follow you as a leader if you have their trust and emotional proximity.
Most successful leaders intuitively and continuously cycle through five styles of conversation that help them build high quality relationships and draw others towards them.
And although these leaders may not know it, there are significant neurobiological and evolutionary mechanisms behind this which underline the fundamental importance of these types of conversation. Essentially, these translate to ..... [February 2015] » Read more
- familiarity and intimacy build safety;
- feelings of being valued and empowered build motivation
Your most profound duty as a leader is to build quality relationships and to minimise threat
The REACH model takes a look at successful leadership behaviour and provides five areas of focus for everyday and important conversations. It supplies a rule of thumb and an easy way into a different, richer view of communication. You can engage with the REACH model immediately, either as a simple mantra – or as a framework for deeper leadership learning.
The REACH Model: The key conversations that leaders hold are these:
|Rapport||A conversation to establish trust and to share a deep mutual understanding of who you are and what drives you|
|Essentially a contracting conversation to understand what you are both trying to achieve and why
Explaining and inspiring with the skills to involve others in your vision
|A||Appreciation||A conversation which validates and values the other person, their contributions and who they are|
|C||Challenge||Coaching to stretch goals as well as challenging or calling unhelpful behaviour|
|H||Hopes for the future||Talk about hopes for an ideal future – theirs and yours. Explore what the destination looks like and how you share the journey along the way even when the final destinations may be different|
Why use REACH?
- A practical tool providing an easy way to remember important behaviours in the moment
- Helps you achieve your primary leadership duty – building trusting relationships
- Provides a framework for conceptualising and learning a range of leadership skills
Why learn more about REACH?
- The model is the starting point. The ability to lead and communicate in context requires multiple supporting skills and is nuanced and practised.
- Conversations matter: Quality of conversation = Relationship with manager = Employee engagement = Level of business performance
- It helps those in internal and corporate communications functions shift away from a broadcast mentality towards a coaching/enabling role.
- It is this conversation model of communication that can most effectively create clarity, shape culture, motivate employees, promote creativity and engender trust across all kinds of organisations and geographies.
REACH in the workplace
We hold masterclasses, training and coaching on the REACH model, how to bring this approach into your team or organisation, how to get started practically and – importantly – how to develop the component skills. We also explain something of the neurobiology of change and motivation giving added impetus and rationale for shifting to a ‘leadership is conversation’ model of communication and engagement.
Head of Global Internal Communications and Engagement – Pharmaceutical industry
‘For the last six years, we have rolled out every kind of managed ’employee engagement initiative’- triggering no real improvement in our employee engagement scores. This year is going to be different. Starting with my own function, I am providing training in how to build closer relationships and hold productive and engaging conversations.’
We have been helping project groups across Europe see teamwork in a new light. Managers learned that singing in a choir or carrying an injured friend down a mountain could help them achieve more at work. [February 2014] » Read more
What does it mean to make a team more than the sum of its parts? This was the theme of recent workshops we ran with teams in the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland – teams who were all about to embark on key phases of commercial development requiring them to work together intensely and deliver project results quickly.
We wanted to give people a real and ‘lived’ sense of the necessary ingredients for high achieving teams and how to reproduce that at work. As part of this process we asked people to share some of their best team experiences outside of work – and as a result were treated to some remarkable stories of rescue, resilience, escape and performance.
We heard about the choir whose members could not initially all sing in tune or read music and yet the sharing, mentoring and fun of learning for a common goal brought them all together to a performance standard.
We also learned how rapidly skills and resources were deployed across a group to get an injured friend to safety. Skills people had forgotten they had (orienteering) or taken for granted (local knowledge) were dusted off and put into action as sub-teams were needed to make a plan work.
What these stories had in common was valuable information about how we best work together – and, importantly, they were also understood at a deeper level by the teams than mere presentation of a theory.
Some of the messages people took away included: having a crystal clear view of the outcome (how great it will it be when we have finished); the importance of recognising and valuing excellence in team members in all its guises, not just role-related expertise; and caring about the collective output of the team.
We have been helping dozens of teams and team leaders understand the key principles of effective teamwork and put them into practice, even when geographically distant from some or all of their co-workers. Discover and develop these practices for an existing team or get a new team off to a great start with one of our energising away days.
Take a single water molecule; learn all you want about its structure and properties and you will still have no inkling of how it will behave when it meets other water molecules at 1C.
At this temperature, a collection of water molecules will be both liquid water and solid ice - the change in state is due to a transformation in the network of their interactions.
And with people too, no amount of information at the individual level can hope to reveal the patterns that make a group of people function as it does - the larger the group, the more complex the patterns. [January 2014] » Read more
Teams and groups hold tremendous potential because of this network of interactions – and when we can tap into it and manage it well, we can achieve results that go far beyond what could have been achieved with the same numbers working separately. The best meetings happen when not just the interactions between people, but the relationships they have with each other, with the data, the task and the process of reaching an outcome are all noticed and catered for as a whole.
For smaller, day-to-day meetings this may not be an issue but for larger groups this is often harder to handle and people can develop a sense of overwhelm or frustration at the lack of progress.
When neutrality is key or when the future of anything important – a strategic decision, a project-team kick-off, a stakeholder consultation – is on the line, you may want to draw on the services of an external facilitator to ensure that all aspects of the human dynamic and of information management are managed in the best possible way.
An experienced facilitator not only frees everyone up to focus on the topic in hand but also helps create an environment – a temperature and chemistry – where everyone can do their best thinking.A trained facilitator will advise you on developing a workable agenda and will:
- Help a group relate so that people are comfortable saying what needs saying
- Develop a clear pathway through the conversation and hold them to it – provide structure and processes
- Simplify things for the group, seeking to make shifts in attention appropriate for the stage and nature of the conversation
- Respond to the ‘voice’ of the group – ensure everyone is heard, feels heard and is working on or talking about what they want to be talking about
- Manage the group’s emotive responses – mood and energy.
With the right skills, tools and approaches, you can reconcile difference, make lasting decisions, achieve consensus, make progress and lift spirits. You can access the collective wisdom of a group or team and see it develop a functionality and a dynamic above and beyond its technical expertise. We offer facilitation for external meetings or for leaders and their teams. If you would like our insight paper on some of the skills of facilitation (first see our article on the speech slope above) or to have a meeting facilitated along these lines. Click here