On Thursday, April 18, Freddi Donner, ACC, executive coach who specializes in interpersonal skills and communication, shared insights to relationships in the workplace during PRSA-NCC’s “Effective Organizational Communications” Workshop held at the Navy Memorial. Donner has founded Business Stamina in 2004, a business which provides communication coaching to individuals and executive teams. During the event, Donner spoke candidly to media professionals who want to build relationships and become more authoritative in the workplace. Throughout her workshop she integrated real-life examples from her personal experiences as well as those from members of the audience.
Donner expressed how important internal communication is within an organization as there are many times where professionals don’t know their own communication styles and the impact it has on their colleagues. She illustrated that people want to be liked; they want to be thought as creative, smart and being understood is very important for a cohesive work environment.
Interpreting how to understand others starts with understanding yourself. There are many models that are able to identify your personal and communication style such as the DISC assessment, the Big Five and widely-known Myers-Briggs type indicator, which Donner is specialized in. After understanding your primary characteristics, you are able to adapt to others around you.
Being curious, listening while observing and being open to change are three steps Donner outlined in creating relationships in the office. Curiosity entails dropping judgments and criticisms while being aware what others are saying. After you observe others, it is necessary be flexible with your communication style. “You can connect with anyone. When you change, your world changes in front of you,” said Donner.
Donner highlighted four steps to find the perceptual direction of a situation:
- Is it internal or external? One common issue professionals face is lack of feedback from upper management. This stems from either an internal or external communication style, as do many issues. For example, you may need the constant external feedback of your performance, but your boss may be unaware that you do because he or she is internal.
- Difference or sameness. What is the relationship between what you do now and what you have done in the past? This can be ambiguous; if you are pitching a new idea to someone with a sameness pattern, anchor the pitch as similar to a previous project. If the person has a difference pattern, pitch it as a new concept or idea.
- Options vs. procedure. Some professionals prefer options and some prefer having an outlined task. If you are an options person, ask how you can modify the task instead of changing it and explaining why you didn’t follow their plan. If you are more procedure oriented, and your boss is an options thinker, have the courage to ask questions so you are able to create your own checklist.
- Towards or away from. Certain people want to move away from a problem and others want to move towards a goal. Professionals in specific industries can be partial to one or another. Donner stated lawyers and insurance professionals move away from a problem as an interior designer works towards a goal. Most CEOs are towards and most CFOs are away.
To improve your personal communication and relationship strategies, changing your primary method can result in generating a greater response. Donner recommended a phone conversation if email is your go-to resource for communication, or stopping by for a face to face interaction. If you are dealing with an aggressive boss or co-worker, summoning the courage to approach them and ask how you can work more efficiently shows that you want to adapt to their style. Donner tips that if you give them options, you have a higher chance of getting what you are seeking. “You have to develop a relationship with them or they won’t care,” she said, “Stop pushing your agenda and start collecting data from them.” By finding out what you have in common by inviting them to come learn more about your department can create a sense of inclusiveness.