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Family Succession- Timing

We are often asked to resolve succession issues within multi generational family business. In many ways issues that exist with family businesses can also appear within long established professional firms.

There are often many complicated inter related issues that causes problems at this critical time in the long-term success of the business or partnership.

We have found over the years that these issues can be summarized under one of four areas.

  • Communication
  • History
  • Boundaries
  • Timing

In this fourth and last article in the series the question of timing is put in the spotlight. This probably is the one issue that causes the largest amount of stress.

When is the right time?
Leave it too long and the next generation can become de-motivated and frustrated.
Or make the transition too early and the company can be put under pressure that may even put its very survival into question.

So, timing is critical but there can be no hard and fast rules. Its certainly not a time for abdication. It must ultimately be down to judgment. However, succession should be a process and not an event. So as with most things it needs careful planning and communicating the plan to all the stakeholders involved.

The fear that the successor is not yet ready and needs to gain experience can lead to delaying so long that the next generation has to wait for their turn they then block the following generation, the Prince Charles conundrum. Indeed, how can someone gain your experience without doing the hard yards. This mindset can put the successor in a no win situation. I have been told “They are not ready they still need to ripen,” but this thinking can just lead to them just becoming old, wrinkled and sour!

Interestingly what we think as forty years experience gained in the cut and thrust of business can actually be one to five years experience that is just repeated over and over again. It’s often our experience that becomes the boundaries of our thinking. Thinking outside of the preverbal box is really thinking beyond our experience.

Until we can truly understand our experience, how and why we make a decision or take an action, we are destined to remain in harness. It makes us indispensable, needed. Maybe just what we want!

Surely, the most important part of creating an enduring legacy is to pass on our understanding not just our knowledge. Knowledge without understanding is worthless.

There are many questions we need to ask both ourselves. Here are a few.

• How can I get to the position where the business is not reliant on one person?
Consider making the business ready for sale, so that the business runs without me and is an investment not just a job. Otherwise, you may be passing on the Poison Chalice (see separate article). Readying a business for sale is normally a three year project- minimum. As already mentioned, succession is a process not an event we need to plan. As this is so important I thought I would mention it again!

• Why am I really staying on?
Is it really I just want something to do and hate the thought of retiring. Or could it be that the business is truly dependent on me. Check to make sure that the reasons are true.

• Who is the best person to take over?
In reality may not be someone in the family. Often these decisions are based of emotional not fact. The incumbent may not be the best person to decide. Once again it may need the opinion of an external independent advisor to help with selection.

In most cases we have found that it’s the incumbent that is not ready to leave rather than the successor not being ready to take over.

Many years ago, someone wise said to me “Time maketh the man” which is really about giving someone the opportunity to step up to show they are the person for the job. First they have to be prepared to step up. It’s not easy and there are no excuses. They may need a safe environment, with tight boundaries, so they can spread their wings and learn to fly. At the point of flying they must be left to step out of the nest, we can’t protect them. Yes, they may need help, guidance, mentoring or coaching but surely it is never too early to be investing in the future. This should all be included in the plan, the process.

In 1988, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld in his book The Hero’s Farewell, identified four attitudes that prevail at the time of succession. We certainly see these traits over and over again

Monarchs
Do not leave office until they are decisively forced out through death or an internal coup. Normally there is no plan for succession and in the end the incumbent can get out of touch and even put the business at risk. The successor has an uphill struggle.

Generals
Are forced out of office, but plot their return. They quickly come back out of recruitment to save the company. Sometimes there is a plan for succession but there is no commitment behind the plan and key areas of understanding are not passed on. The successor is set up to fail.

Governors
Rule for limited term of office, retire and switch to other interests. Everyone working to a fixed date can work well as long as succession is planned. Care needs be taken to ensure there is no abdication which can result in not passing on understanding. The successor has a clean break and can work to fixed time scales.

Ambassadors
Leave office gracefully and frequently and serve as post- retirement mentors. Definitely a succession plan and it’s a process not an event to pass on the understanding so the successor has the best chance of success.

Which one will you be?

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Family Business – Who Can You Trust?

In the UK two out of three small and medium enterprises (SME) are family businesses with many being multi-generation of the founding family.

In the early days of a growing business, it is normal for the business owner to be involved in the recruitment process. They personally select every member of staff from top to bottom. This has the distinct advantage that there is a consistency in the type of employee recruited.

Without necessarily knowing it, the business owner is choosing employees that they like, that they feel they will be able to work with, people that they feel they can trust. People naturally like people who are like themselves and this intuitive approach probably selects employees with a common set of values. There is a great spirit in the business with motivated employees wanting to help build the business.

It is natural for the founder to recruit family members to be the first employees. The business owner believes that they can trust family members as they feel that they all have the same values. As the business continues to grow it may be expedient to recruit more family members due to time pressures or a feeling of loyalty. It just feels comfortable to employ people they know and why not family?

Certainly, this is often true of the founder’s children but is it always the case for other family members? Often this family trust belief can extend beyond the immediate blood family to include in-laws, cousins etc.

These first employees go on to have senior roles within the business based on their perceived loyalty rather than ability. In the worst cases, family members can take precedence over non-family employees despite a lack of skills, education or ability to do the job.

Even when the business owner knows a family member is not aligned with the business, the issues are often ignored so as to not upset the family. In due course, this leads to a resistance to change creating a comfort bubble to protect the incumbent family members.

As in so many areas the ideas and habits needed in the early days of building a successful business become outmoded and can start to hinder the businesses long-term future. In the area of recruitment these habits can be particularly damaging for the long-term health of the business.

Perhaps, the business owner is still doing all the hiring and the firing or has handed over some of the responsibility to their senior team as it is assumed that they all have the same standards. But this assumption may not be correct. Indeed, to protect their own egos the incumbent management may not be prepared to take on talented people who have greater knowledge or skills than the interviewer.

Therefore, recruitment of talented people to help the business transition to the next level becomes an issue. When joining the company it quickly becomes obvious that they will always be viewed as outsiders and they may be mistrusted with little chance of career or personal development. This leads to demotivated employees which undermines the business and forms a cultural cancer that becomes hard to remove.

However, for the business to continue to grow and attract the right talented people for the future described above the ethos and ethics i.e. the culture must be developed and written down so that all employee’s behavior is driven by a set of common values.

The foundation on building any team is trust and trust is underpinned by this set of common values.

So one of the first tasks when considering bringing in fresh talent is to clearly identify and write down the current culture of the business. It can then be identified that all new employees are aligned with the culture of the business.

This is not as easy as it sounds. It must not be rushed or taken lightly or even abdicated to someone else.

Get it right and it will be the solid foundations on which to build the future.

Often when this is completed the founder may find that the underlying culture of the business is actually not aligned with his or her own core values. It may be that some of the current employees and this may include members of the family, are not aligned with these values.

For the long term health of the business this is an issue that needs to be tackled. Tread with care; the outcome will be well worth the angst.

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Family Succession- Boundaries

We are often asked to resolve succession issues within multi generational family business. In many ways issues that exist with family businesses can also appear within long established professional firms.

There are often many complicated inter related issues that causes problems at this critical time in the long-term success of the business or partnership.

We have found over the years that these issues can be summarized under one of four areas.

  • Communication
  • History
  • Boundaries
  • Timing

In this the third of the series we will briefly look at how lack of defined Boundaries can impact on Family Business Succession.

The relationships within a first generation business can be relatively simple. However as the business is passed on to future generations the relationships and the vested interests can become more entrenched and more complex with the passing of years. As it is not a problem the founding generation do not put time aside to consider the businesses future or perhaps do not even want to think about it. The rules for the ongoing ownership and management succession are not considered and so it is left to chance and abdicated to future generations to resolve.

Later, where there are no guidelines, the perceived wishes and principals of the founding generations can become misinterpreted. As the value of the business increases there may come a point where this misinterpretation can become intentional.

As the size of the family grows through marriage, relationships etc the number of stakeholders becomes larger and more diverse then the likelihood of emotional and personality issues influencing what should be commercial decisions becomes greater and greater. The boundary between family and business become blurred. With no guidelines and boundaries in place these pressures can undermine the business success and the wider family wealth.

It is understandable that with the main focus of those family members involved in the day to day management of the business it is easy to ignore the future structure and constitution of the family business. Leave it to another day or not even want to consider the implications of the legacy – The Pink Elephant is waiting to enter the room! This omission can have far reaching implications.

Calling a meeting of all the family stakeholders to draw up a Family Plan and Constitution which sets out the purpose of the business and the rules around future ownership participation and management succession sets those clear boundaries so that future generations can benchmark their decisions and actions.

Without a clear Family Plan and Constitution we are allowing that Pink Elephant in the Room (see other articles in this series). Due to the complexity of relationships the family may need an external advisor to bring clarity and impartiality to what can be defining documents that can impact future generations.

To read the next article in this series click here.

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Family Succession- History

We are often asked to resolve succession issues within multi generational family business. In many ways issues that exist with family businesses can also appear within long established professional firms.

There are often many complicated interrelated issues that causes problems at this critical time in the long-term success of the business or partnership.

We have found over the years that these issues can be summarized under one of four areas.

  • Communication
  • History
  • Boundaries
  • Timing

In this the second of the series we will briefly look at how history can impact on Family Business Succession.

The story behind how a business starts is often fascinating. There are many reasons, from no one would employ the founder, to the founder having a clear shining vision of the future (perhaps with even starting a business dynasty).

  • Interestingly, like all things in life, it is how we look back on the history, that our experience is really important. Indeed, in our role as advisors we are often chided that as the owners have forty years experience what can we add? However, is that forty years experience or is it the first five years that just gets photocopied every year?
  • Either the past is polished or tarnished based on the experiences over the important initial growth stages. The real skill, surely, is to learn from our mistakes and to pass on that understanding. Not for the next generation to have to make the same mistakes. ‘They are not ready to take on running the business yet they still need to ripen!’
  • Often we try to protect our children from the mistakes of the past in the mistaken view that is their role in the business. Family and business boundaries become blurred (separate article on Boundaries to follow). Actually by not recognising the maturity within the next generation we are stifling their development. When considering these issues timing is so important, a topic that is also the subject of a separate article.
  • Sometimes when there is a breakdown in family relations the positions become so entrenched that there is no going back. Particularly with sibling rivalry and between more extended members of the family, cousins etc. This needs to be resolved as its commercial impact on the business and family is potentially huge. (See ‘The Pink Elephant’). Sometimes the basis of the breakdown is a misunderstanding that has just been allowed to fester.

When we view family history we have to be aware of the paradigm (internal filter) we see the past through. Our perception of reality is seen through our own internal filter. Often two people looking at the same actions and behaviours will come to two totally different versions of reality. It’s difficult to communicate clearly if we are seeing them differently. There needs to be a consensus by all involved that the past will be consigned to the past, take the understanding and allow the business to move on to a bright and better future.

Once again we come back to that ‘Pink Elephant in the Room’. The individual members of the family may need an external advisor to be able to change the filter.

To read the next article in this series click here.

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Family Succession – ‘The Pink Elephant’

We are often asked to resolve succession issues within multi generational family business. In many ways issues that exist with family businesses can also appear within long-established professional firms.

There are often many complicated inter-related issues that causes problems at this critical time in the long-term success of the business or partnership. We have found over the years that these issues can be summarised under one of four areas.

  • Communication
  • History
  • Boundaries
  • Timing

However, the major barrier to the smooth transition of family businesses to the next generation is true open communication. I will discuss the other three areas under future articles.

In many instances there exists the proverbial ‘Pink Elephant' in the room. This is an obvious problem or risk that no one wants to discuss and therefore is ignored.

This may be an issue that has grown up over the years that various family members are aware of but no one is prepared to name. There maybe fear that the naming the elephant will cause a major rift in the family and so the issue is not confronted. There is no straight talking to bring the issue out into the open. However it does not go away, it just festers and grows.

The result is resentment, lack of focus, possibly the creation of warring factions. Sometimes the pink elephant is so large it can ultimately have a destructive impact on the business and could mean talented family members leave or the business has to be sold outside the family or in worst cases the family breaks down – a high price indeed.

It’s not surprising that when we look at the statistics that some 73% of family businesses want to keep the business in the family but only 33% make it to the second generation and only 9% to the third.

Interestingly, studies also show that 57% of family businesses have no defined plan for succession; which perhaps is a direct result of not confronting the pink elephant in the room.

So let’s have a look at some of the reasons that open communication can be an issue specifically within family businesses, but also can be relevant to professional practice.

Fear of expressing feelings and wants.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to look at the succession through the eyes of the next generations. Often their wants and desires are subjugated to the needs of the business and the current leadership generation. They get caught by what they believe is expected rather than what they truly want.

Often feeling uncomfortable discussing their emotional needs and wants as they may feel that it shows their vulnerability and/or disloyalty to the family and so leave it unsaid and just bottle up their frustration.

Indirect communication

This can be the result of lack of confidence and manifests in people not talking with each other directly. Factions within the company can result in family members talking with other family members who are not involved directly. A deadly triangle is created and eats away at the core of family relationships.

Recognition

Perhaps one of the most insidious areas is that of lack of appreciation and recognition. This takes many forms from the incumbent generation to the new generation not recognising their contribution to the growth and success of the business (or indeed vice versa). This is bad enough within the business but has an even deeper impact when it is from external family owners to those family members working hard within the business (or indeed vice versa).

Implied expectations.

This covers the whole area of assumed responsibilities and expectations. It is just assumed that the succession will go to the next generation without explicitly discussing the implications. Just assuming that all parties are happy with the arrangement or implied arrangements.

Lack of plan

It has been found that some 39% of family businesses expect the founder or MD to leave within the coming years but as already stated 59% of family businesses have no defined plan for succession. This leaves a lot unsaid and assumptions on the date have to be made. The incumbent does not want to formalise the date and so the future leaders are left in limbo, perhaps a little like the Prince of Wales!

These are only some of the issues impacting succession in family businesses. Succession in any business can have a significant impact on the future of the business. For effective long tern sustainability of profits and cashflow, succession should be a process not an event.

So succession and the many issues around the subject can become the pink elephant in the room. Often people can’t see it but they can certainly feel its impact.

Before the business can move forward the pink elephant needs to be named. Once it can be named then all involved can see it and with careful direction can start to deal with it. Often this needs firm but sensitive external professional involvement to truly align the family members to create a family plan as well as a business plan.

To view the next article in the series click here.

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How Important are Emotions in Leadership?

With the rapid pace at which the current business market changes, the ability of the leaders in any business to make quick and good decisions is becoming more and more important. As more time is needed from leaders to keep up to date with the current business market, they have less time to manage their people, so they need to delegate a great deal more of the day to day operation to their teams.

For many leaders, delegation brings out a number of fears that tasks and functions will not be done with the passion and commitment that the leader applies. They are torn between delegating and keeping up to date with the market and this is often the reason that slows or stops a business growing.

Recruiting, keeping and inspiring good quality people is quickly becoming one of the biggest challenges for UK businesses, wanting to grow.

So what role do emotions play in all of this?

The most important factor to remember in leadership is that it is about leading people, not tasks or jobs, and people connect with others in a predominantly emotional way.

The three key areas where emotions play a key role in the leadership of a business are;

  1. The external relationships with customers and stakeholders build the value of any business more so than the majority of services or products that a business offers. Customers want to buy from businesses they like and who show them respect. This value is most often measured at the lowest level of relationship and not by the quality of relationship between the leaders. A leader’s key role is to make sure all their employees connect to their business and build an emotional contract with their own business and the customers and stakeholders externally.
  2. The second area is the internal relationships and it is measured by the emotional commitments of the people within the business. To build emotional wealth within your business, as a leader you must treat your people as investors because that is what they are, investors of their talents and emotions.
  3. The third area is the level of energy, focus and passion you invest as a leader in your role in the business and in your personal life. As a leader, you will quickly realise that you cannot lead by asking people to do what you say when the way you act and behave is the opposite of this.

The primary role that you have as a leader is to create positive emotions in all of the key areas above in order to create a competitive advantage for your business.

When people do not really know or understand each other or when relationships are plagued by lack of trust or bad feelings, the ability to grow or even carry out business deals becomes more and more difficult.

Successful business leaders in today’s business environment are not just those who can see and act on opportunities in the market, but those who can inspire and connect with others so that they achieve and perform at levels higher than they thought possible themselves.

As a leader, building emotional wealth in your business is a great strategy to build a difference between your business and your competitors and could be the secret to taking your business to the next level of success and profit.

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Improve Your Sales Performance: Empathy

Sales is all about human interaction and the building of relationships. Too often, sales people just follow their natural instinct and believe that sales is about convincing the buyer how great their product or service is.

One of the most significant barriers to becoming a successful sales person is focusing more on yourself as a sales person, than the prospect in front of you. In every sales opportunity, the only person who has the power to make any purchasing decision is the buyer. Therefore, all focus must be focused on gaining an understanding of them and how they view or feel about the need of the product or service.

I have found that empathy is the most crucial building block I have used in my sales process; however it is often one of the most misunderstood words around. Many people get confused between sympathy and empathy. In my simple way, I define them as follows;

  • Sympathy is looking at an emotional issue through your eyes.
  • Empathy is looking at and understanding an emotional issue through the eyes of the person experiencing it.

To earn a prospects respect, time and attention, sales people need to understand the problem and look at it from the prospect's perspective. Approaching the situation in this way is how we get to understand why it's important to them. We need to stop talking at them and put yourself in the position alongside them.

How do we apply empathy to a sales meeting?

Let’s start by breaking empathy down into some key areas. Then at how to apply these to build better relationships with the prospects and buyers we come into contact with.

The three key components of empathy I would like to look at are;

Curiosity

In order to practise curiosity, we need to start with the mindset that we know nothing about the person or challenges they are facing. This will mean that that we do away with that old problem in sales, assumption.

By asking open-ended questions and exploring the emotional words in the response, we journey down the road of discovery. I like to equate the word curiosity with children. I remember my kids, when they were young, asking continuous questions until they received the answer that made them happy. This is a skill that every one of us had when we were children, but life just seems to often override it. If we are to improve our sales skills, then it's time to recall some of those wonderful skills we were so good at as kids.

Listening

The first point I would like to make here is that listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is about the sounds and words you hear. Whereas listening requires focus and the ability to understand what the person speaking to you is saying. Listening is not only taking in the words the person uses, but also picking up the tone and pace of voice and how the other person’s body language changes. This is the only way we can determine what emotional impact the message they are giving you has on them. In sales, one of the most important things to listen out for are all the emotional words. These are the key for asking those really penetrating questions that help you delve under the surface.

Building an Emotional Connection

The decision to buy something, no matter what it is, is predominantly an emotional one. It's vital for sales people to build this emotional connection with their prospect. We started by saying that sales was about human interaction and building relationships, so it's vital that we focus on understanding the emotional connection the prospect has with the challenges they are trying to solve. Relationships are built upon emotions and rely on us taking a true and personal interest in the prospect. It means really getting to understand their situation from their point of view. They need to feel that we are very much on their side and are focused on helping them solve any problems they have in a way that brings the solution they are looking for, not the solution that we think is best.

If you want to make a dramatic improvement in your sales performance, then practising your empathy skills is vital. Not only will you improve your results, you will build deeper and longer term relationships with your customers.

If you want to reduce the amount of closing techniques and effort you are putting into your sales meetings, then practice your empathy up front in the meetings and the need to use harder closing techniques will decrease dramatically.

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How Emotionally Intelligent is Your Marketing?

If you have attended any top level sales training or read any of the numerous books on sales available today, you will see repeatedly that the decision to buy anything is predominantly an emotional decision, in fact, most people who will say that 80% of any decision to buy something is an emotional one. How do we transfer this across to the many marketing messages we put out into the market?

We need to start by understanding how people measure marketing messages in general. Just think how you react to any marketing on the TV, do you hear yourself saying words like, “I love that ad” or “I can’t stand that advert?” What about when those local newspapers arrive and as you pick them up, all those flyers fall out all over the floor, have you ever said, “I am sick and tired, of all this junk mail they send!” All these words we use are almost always emotive words, so how often as a business leader or marketing person, do you think about how the audience you are targeting will react emotionally to the message you are sending out?

I believe that we measure marketing on the perception it creates within us and this perception is determined by the experiences of marketing messages we have seen and read, both past and current.

So how do we go about creating the emotional reaction in our marketing that will make our target audience contact us first or see us as their solution?

The starting place is in depth and effective market research, not market surveys. To understand more about the difference, please read my article titled, ‘Marketing, The Forgotten Piece.’ The key difference between market research and a market survey is that market research is all about finding out and then truly understanding the emotional reasons why people choose your business over others that offer the same or similar services, whereas a marketing survey is about evaluating and measuring your customer service or product offering. Marketing surveys are ideal to measure the processes and ways you communicate with your customers, but they do not unlock the emotional reasons why people choose your business over another.

Once you understand the emotional reasons why people buy from you rather than others, we can tailor the marketing message to hit those key emotions within your target audience. In many cases, it’s not your product or service, or what it specifically does that makes people choose it, but rather the way it is positioned to them and the way that the positioning connects emotionally to them that makes the difference.

Here is an example of this point. I worked with an Independent Financial Advisor who had dealt with my investments and pensions in an incredible way, completely different to any other advisor I had worked with in the past. His ability to listen to my concerns and what I wanted to achieve really gave me the wow factor, but what was even better, was that the results and level of follow up communication he had with me were exactly how he had said they would be. Based on my feedback, he decided to start a marketing campaign to attract more customers for his pension service. He created a flyer which he sent out to his database of contacts with the following headline; “Is your current pension plan going to deliver what you are looking for?” Now I am sure that many of you who understand marketing may be thinking, “Looks like a good headline at first glance, what is wrong with that?”

The problem with the headline on this flyer was all about timing, at this time, the press was full of numerous reports about how badly pension schemes were performing and that many people were losing money by investing in a pension scheme. When we did some market research around the flyer, we found that many people were reacting very negatively to the “pension” word and as such, as soon as they saw the word, they just stopped reading. The fact that this persons pension investments were performing incredibly well just did not matter as the target audience’s emotional reaction to the pension word in the flyer just stopped them reading the details.

So in addition to researching the emotional reasons why your clients choose to buy from you over your competitors, you need to also be very aware of the emotional feelings that are happening in your market sector as well as being aware of any press or TV coverage that may have an emotional impact on your target audience.

Understanding the emotional factors in your target market and ideal prospects can help you position your marketing message in a very effective way and help you differentiate yourself against your competitors in the market place. When your marketing message creates the correct emotional response amongst your target audience, you may be amazed with the change in perception people will have about your product or service.

Just how much are you aware of the emotional reasons why your key customers and ideal prospects come and buy from your business? What perception is your current marketing communication creating within your target markets? It is important that you only measure the emotional response and perception from those clients and prospects that you consider ideal to the profitable growth of your business and not those who you would rather not deal with.

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Understanding an ‘S’

Recent studies have shown that the ‘vast majority (82%) of UK business leaders identify disengaged employees as one of the top three greatest threats facing their business’ 1. Communication is listed as one of the top factors influencing and improving employee engagement. Yet still a recent study showed how effective communication in companies fell from 2011 to 20122

DiSC is a communication tool to create effective communication. It is a look at someone’s observable behaviour and encourages us to understand how we and others like to communicate. It also gives us the tools to deal with any misunderstandings if they arise, but crucially prevent them from arising to start with.

This series of articles will look closely at DiSC taking each dimension in turn. To understand the motivations and characteristics of each dimension in turn. Discussing how to recognise a style, and what adaptations we need to make to communicate effectively.

This article will be looking at the ‘Steadiness’ dimension.

Let’s quickly recap the DiSC quadrant. From a communication point of view people will have a natural tendency to be either Task focussed or People focussed and either faster or moderately paced. In reality we all have a balance of each of these but most people will have a natural preference and one style will stand out above the others.

From the quadrant we can see that the steadiness dimension or S’s are moderate paced and people focussed. So if we met a person with a high level of S in their profile we would expect to see someone who is relaxed, methodical, amiable and calm. Someone who would be described real team player.

The words that are used to describe an S all contribute to an S being the rock of an organisation, qualities such as loyalty, reliability, patience.

A high S is typically a really good listener and their calm approach means they are great diplomats within an organisation. They get the best from the team by co-operating with other behavioural styles.

The S will work best in an environment that allows them to work to a routine at an relaxed pace. They will work best when the have consistency and security. The moderate pace of the S contributes to the S not being fond of change. Many texts refer to the S as being fearful of change, in fact many high S people are comfortable with change providing they maintain their security. They will resist change if that are unsure where their security lies, be it job, personal, financial or relationship security. Managing change with an S can cause conflict in many organisations, the reason usually comes down to the faster paced styles (D & I) not giving enough consideration to the changes and how this will affect the security of the S.

The S style will get on with all lots of different personality styles and other dimensions will see the S as just a really nice person that is easy to get along with. They are patient and supportive and so work well as part of a team.

A S can be controlled and so their reactions can be hard to read unless you ask them specific questions. The S will assume you know how they feel, which can again cause conflict in many organisations. The faster dimensions (D & I) can sometimes miss this with an S. in their haste to get going they may take the nod of an S that they are comfortable with a task but actually they are just trying to process what is going on and are really not happy with everything that is going on.

Sincerity is very important to an S. This includes sincere eye contact, genuine active listening, and a genuine value of the work that they do. The S will see through insincerity very quickly and it will have a detrimental effect on your relationship with and S if you are insincere and it will be hard work to rebuild the relationship, as they will bear a grudge.

If you think you may have a high level of the steadiness dimension in your profile, how can you improve your communication with others?

  1. Take initiative in clarifying situations that you feel are difficult and confusing.
  2. Develop your capacity to accept change/instability
  3. Be more independent, have faith in your own opinions and abilities.

In the next article we will look at how to work with, manage and motivate an S.

1 HR Magazine Taken from Global management consultancy Hay Group and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

2 Aon Hewitt – 2012 Trends in Global Employee Engagement

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Understanding DiSC- ‘D’

Recent studies have shown that the ‘vast majority (82%) of UK business leaders identify disengaged employees as one of the top three greatest threats facing their business’ 1. Communication is listed as one of the top factors influencing and improving employee engagement. Yet still a recent study showed how effective communication in companies fell in 2012 from 20112

DiSC is a communication tool aimed to create effective communication. It is a look at someone’s observable behaviour and encourages us to understand how we and others like to communicate. It also gives us the tools to deal with any misunderstandings if they arise, but crucially prevent them from arising to start with.

This series of articles will look closely at DiSC taking each dimension in turn. To understand the motivations and characteristics of each dimension and discuss how to recognise a style, and what adaptations we need to make to communicate effectively.

Let’s begin by looking at the ‘Dominance’ dimension.

disc-d

Let’s quickly summarise the DiSC quadrant. From a communication point of view people will have a natural tendency to be either Task focussed or People focussed and either faster or moderately paced. In reality we all have a balance of each of these but most people will have a natural preference and one style will stand out above the others.

From the quadrant we can see that the Dominance dimension or D’s are faster paced and task focussed. So if we met a person with a high level of D in their profile we would expect to see someone who is competitive, determined, decisive, bold, and a person that loves to solve a problem.

The D style is a quick decision maker, and often won’t wait to be given the authority to take action. This makes them natural leaders but it does mean that they can struggle with being a ‘control freak’. D’s are most comfortable when they are in control of their situation and environment, when they are free from any restriction or control measures. A D will make their decision quickly and will act upon it quickly. Speed is of the essence to a D, they become bored quickly and will lose interest if things move too slowly or become bogged down with the ‘fluffy stuff’. New and varied tasks will appeal to the D and keep them motivated.

The D style has a tendency to make big logic leaps. When they are explaining a task to someone they may start at A but go straight to E, missing out steps B,C and D. This has the potential to leave other communication styles very confused. This is a key development area for a D.

For some of the other communication styles such as the C and S, a D can be hard to handle, the speed that they process information and decisions can be too quick and lacking in detail. Whilst for the D, communication with the other styles can be frustrating because they perceive them as slow or obstructive, because they don’t act quick enough. The contrast of styles can also mean that other dimensions are intimidated by the D’s communication style, meaning that they may not feel comfortable asking for clarification, fuelling the D’s frustration. The D will do things like finish the other person’s sentences, keep jumping in when someone else is speaking, become fidgety. This communication situation can often lead to the D being very blunt and lacking tact in their criticism. This is one of the most common areas of communication tension in a workplace.

D’s may often have their communication style reinforced because it brings them success, in their terms of getting results. However in many instances it is getting the task done that is important rather than the people involved in getting the task done.

If you think you may have a high level of the dominance dimension in your profile, how can you improve your communication with others and ease your frustration?

  1. Slow down and think before you speak. This is much easier said than done but will make a massive impact on the communication with other styles. Pausing before you speak and considering the feelings of others will help with being more tactful.
  2. Active listening. This means actually listening to someone when they are talking to you, not thinking about the next thing or new ideas. Give the person you are talking to 100% of your attention at that moment.
  3. Try and reach win:win situations. So the other person feels the outcome is as positive for them as it is for you. This may also be achieved by praising others more, recognising a job well done and giving recognition when it is deserved, will go a long way to getting people on your side.

In the next article we will look at how to work with, manage and motivate a D.

1 HR Magazine Taken from Global management consultancy Hay Group and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

2 Aon Hewitt – 2012 Trends in Global Employee Engagement