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Gaining Skills of Effective Communication

The vast majority of managers daily faces employees, who perform their duties not as they ought to and cannot cope even with simple tasks. But the reason is often not the stupid subordinates but managers unable to arrange tasks, says Frank Pucelik, business coach and founder of the company Pucelik Consulting Group. We decided to ask him how to become an effective communicator.

Frank Pucelik

More than 30 years of professional consulting in human resources. In recent years, he has been creating human resources departments in different organizations of CIS countries. Frank works as a business consultant and trainer for USA and CIS companies. Among his American clients are the Bank of America, US Chamber of Commerce, Wickes International, GHK Oil & Gas Production Company, Rockwell International. In the CIS countries, he has been working with LukOil Volga, Cargill, Nemiroff, Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, Oracle, Saatchi & Saatchi, Kharkov Biscuit factory, «Stara Fortetsya», «Sandora», «Alef-Vinal», «Olympus», «Fozzy», «Rorus», etc.

«Upravlenie Kompaniey»: What is the difference between effective and ineffective communicators?

Frank Pucelik: There are two distinctive features of effective communicators: they know how to properly establish relationships and provide the expected results. Therefore, if you want to understand how effective you are in interaction with people, take a look at people around you: do they achieve positive results. And think: do you quarrel with employees, argue with them, forcing them to do what they should?
«UK»: What often prevents managers from being effective communicators?

F.P.: There is a common myth in the Ukraine that a good leader must be tough and must always know all the answers. Today, many leaders are still trying to match this image. Yes, during a long period it was the behavior necessary for a leader. But in competitive markets companies, which cannot get rid of the influence of this myth, quickly disappear. Or rather, get destroyed by their leaders. If the leader somehow indicates that employees will be successful if they say what he wants to hear – it is a sign of a dying business. Managers must define goals and tasks in terms of concrete actions. Telling to company’s employees – “Go and make money for me” - is not business. The approach, when the leader only measures results, is appropriate with subcontractors. Relations with company’s employees demand a different approach. An employee is responsible for procedures, behaviors. This is what the leader should control. If he does not know what employees do, he will not be able to improve their work. He has to describe the desired behavior so that employees understood what «discipline», «responsible» and other notions mean.

«UK»: How to achieve outstanding results in interaction with other people?

F.P.: The idea of communication for most people is the following: I have certain experience, and I want to convey to you something for you to understand my experience. Or: I'll tell you what I want, and you must understand and do it. But everyone has his own experience, and everyone percepts the words you say through the prism of personal experience. Therefore, virtually communication happens with the mirror, a person communicates with his/her inner self - says something based on personal experience, and interprets the answer through own experience. Moreover, most conversations are a kind of ritual dance. There is always a leader and a subordinate: the first one sets the pace, and the second one must accept what the «boss» said - say «Yes» and go for the goal, even if the task is unclear.

Managers often scold subordinates, without even supposing that their orders could be interpreted in different way or that the employee might have a different idea of how to carry out this work. I watched one leader give a subordinate a long list of potential customers of new products, and say: «We need to work on this list, check whether you can motivate them». Three days later the leader asked the subordinate: «How is it going with the list?» He answered: «Everything is great, I have already visited two cities, talked with two companies, they are waiting for our products; tomorrow I have another trip». The leader was shocked: «What are you talking about? I meant you to call these people on the phone».

If a leader tells his subordinate - «I want you to be responsible» - this is verbal garbage. How should the employee know that for the leader being responsible is «to come to meetings in time»? Professional communicator in this situation would say - «Tomorrow the meeting starts at ten o'clock. You must arrive with all documents no later than three minutes before ten». This is how you should make arrangements and give orders if you want results.

«UK»: What should the leader begin with to become an effective communicator?

F.P.: He must learn to control his own emotions, reactions; learn how to use speech most effectively. In addition, there is a need in practice, in public communication. In doing so, be sure to think over the result you want (for example, to motivate a group of people to do something) and how to do it. And check yourself - how well you accomplish goals, communicating with people.
«UK»: Is it necessary to learn to conceal your emotions?

F.P.: No, it’s not. Concealing emotions means feeling them inside without showing it. Effective communicators do not do that. They change their emotions to their benefit and show them. And the most outstanding leaders are always happy to show emotions appropriate to the situation. It helps them succeed.

«UK»: How can we change our emotions?

 F.P.: The most important thing is not to respond to events automatically. Many people believe that emotions and reactions - is what happens to you rather than what you create. In fact, if you are angry with someone or something disappointed you – it is you allowed yourself to react like this. Many people also believe that to be natural is good. But this just means that you have no choice how to respond. An effective communicator must learn how to choose the response to each situation. For example, someone comes to you and says something unpleasant. You must think and decide: what reaction is most gainful for you and respond in this manner. How to learn this? There are only six main states, or as we call them, calibrations. The task of communicator is to retain full control over these states:

positive / active (excitement, joy);

positive / passive (calm, comfort, relax);

negative / active (aggressiveness, anger);

negative / passive (sadness, depression);

interest (the desire to obtain information, learn something);

decision-making (state of thinking over alternatives).
There is a need to learn to quickly switch from one calibration to another. There is an exercise, which helps to develop this skill, consisting of the following steps:

1. Detect the «key» - the signal that allows us understand what state we automatically enter. For example: when I begin to get angry (turn to negative / active), I feel my breast tightened, breath hard. If I am able to immediately recognize this symptom, then I can quickly adjust my emotion.

2. Breath deep.

3. Ask yourself: what state I want to be in? And find the answer - the state of calm for example (positive / passive).

4. Attain the desired state. For this purpose, recall the most vivid event when you experienced these emotions. And try to return to that state, using all senses, i.e. remembering what you heard, saw, felt then.

5. Name the desired state, think up a code name for it. For example, you can use the word «beach» to define calm state.

6. Get back to reality, preserving the state you managed to attain.

Perform this exercise regularly: for three months, 10 minutes each day. With time, you will notice that some steps you perform naturally. Soon you will only need to name the desired state to enter it and it will take three or four seconds.

«UK»: How to achieve the desired results irrespective of the state a person is in?
F.P.: Skilful communicators understand that the success of the task given to a person depends largely on the attitude. First, you need to define in what state your interlocutor is at the moment (this can be done by observing facial expression, gestures, speech), and, if necessary, change his state (the best options are – positive/active or interest). Only then you can act. Of course, affecting the calibration of another person is not easy. To do this, first of all, it is necessary to understand how they think. Each person has several priority values, which we call complex equivalents (for example respect, responsibility, etc.) and a set of actions that in their understanding correspond with these equivalents (say, I think that a person respects me, if he does not help me without my consent). If while talking to some person you «step on» his complex equivalent, such communication will not be successful. But if you act in coherence with his key equivalent, he instantly changes his calibration from negative to positive. And you'll achieve the desired result.

«UK»: How to define other people's complex equivalents?

F.P.: First of all - by repetitions in speech. As a rule, an hour conversation is enough to identify which words and phrases people use most often. These are complex equivalents. Complex equivalents are particularly notable in leaders’ speech when they complain that some qualities are not sufficiently developed in their subordinates. The second way to define complex equivalents is marking, i.e. emphasizing words in speech by rhythm, loudness, tone, visually (with nodes, gestures, etc.). To become an effective communicator you must learn to trace all these signs.

 «UK»: This reminds manipulation...

F.P.: Communication is manipulation, and this is not bad. Each time during conversation with a person, you create one of the four types of relations: «win/win», «win/lose», «lose/win» or «lose/lose». An effective communicator strives to make any conversation beneficial for both parties. And you should not be bothered whether it comes naturally or not. If you do it naturally – that’s great, if not - you need to adjust your reactions and emotions of the conversation partner so that eventually the situation was «win/win».

«UK»: Is it necessary to understand your own complex equivalents?

F.P.: Of course, you should determine six-ten of your main complex equivalents, and write down three specific actions that you use and expect from others for each one. If you do not understand yourself, you will not be able to understand other people. Do you remember the idea of the mirror? «The mirror» consists of your complex equivalents used by you to hang labels on everything around.

Understanding them is also necessary because some behaviors adherent to different complex equivalents may contradict with each other.

«UK»: Are there different rules of communication depending on with whom we contact – employees, partners or friends?

F.P.: The rules are similar; goals may be different. With subordinates my aim may be to show them how to do something, and with colleagues, for example, to find common view on some problem. Since the purpose is different, I will communicate in different ways, but I will use same rules. Let's say I know a dozen of skills of successful communicators. I can use two-three of them to communicate with subordinates, other three or four - with colleagues, etc.

«UK»: If the leader suddenly changes his communication model, could there be some resistance from the staff?

F.P.: It is quite likely. Therefore, I advise you not to change your style of communication drastically - it could seem strange for the employees, who have known you for a long time. If you change gradually, others will take this easier. Experience has shown that people react to gradual changes better. If you want to radically change your communication style, develop a program for three-six months, indicate changes for each week. Then your subordinates will have time to adjust and feel comfortable. Some people may not even notice the changes and only six months later they suddenly realize: «Our boss has changed!»

We have worked with a company, where this process took two years. This is the time they needed to change the organizational behavior of their leaders. While the staff barely noticed any changes.
«UK»: Should we force employees to communicate in a new way?

F.P.: Force? No way. But we should train them. And lead this process. First of all, we must be an example for them, must demonstrate the behavior we would like to see in them. Educate the employees effective communication gradually, step by step. And it is very important to celebrate changes and encourage subordinates. All people want to be successful. The more you show them that they can achieve positive results, the more they will change.
«UK»: What are the most frequent mistakes of leaders, who learn to communicate effectively?
F.P.: The most common mistake is that they change too deep and too fast, and when employees resist changes, they think that this does not work and return to the old communicational model. While all they need to do everything perfect, is to slow down a bit...
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