The Effective Team: Cultivating Mindful Interactions
By Nicholas Brice, The Business Soulman, CEO Soul Corporations®
In our modern digital workplace, many of us are experiencing less social connection with colleagues that before. This trend places a real emphasis on our ability to connect with others when we’re called to give and/or receive support for important initiatives.
I’ve been chatting this week with a senior IT engineering executive, exploring the role that the seven principles in the Mindful Communicator will play in her 300-strong team as we implement our new development programme. One of these key principles for success in modern digital-hybrid working is to Cultivate Mindful Interactions.
“I’ve been thinking about the cross-functional environment and the way we run our business. Often, people are lacking either the capability to communicate effectively, or they just don't make the effort to think about how they can effectively communicate what they're trying to achieve to first understand the end goal before expressing their ideas, proposals, etc.
If we could solve that problem, then the impact would be huge. It would fix many of the roadblocks that are happening when people are sharing their ideas about what they're trying to achieve and about what support they need from somebody else.
So, for example, we have functions for user experience and engineering. These teams often have different perspectives on what we are building. UX is thinking for the end-user experience, Engineering is thinking about the performance, scalability, and so forth. When these two groups need to design something together, they have different perspectives and different priorities, and they each share different things that are important for them in the solutions that need to be considered.
Often, they need to talk to each other about the ideas they have and what needs to be done, but to have any kind of productive conversation, they need to be able to communicate the idea they have, what they hope to solve with it, and most importantly, what the outcome is that they're trying to achieve. What often happens is people just try to communicate their ideas. Very often they conduct the conversation in a way that it is difficult for the other group to fully engage. It may even appear to be a crazy idea from the beginning. It's just not relevant to what the other group is doing. The goal of mindful interaction is to create an opportunity to listen and explore whether there's really something behind what is being proposed.
Someone in engineering might come up with a proposal on how to organize the design. But, in general, designers don’t like this because they often feel it's their job and nobody else knows it as well as they do…so they tend not to listen mindfully, and they even tend to disengage.
One example was a recent case where one of the marketing people came and suggested an idea for us to explore. But he didn't explain whether this was an idea for product implementation to serve certain needs of our customers, or an idea to drive market awareness. These are two separate things. He didn't communicate the outcome, and as a result, the people who needed to decide what to support didn’t fully engage with the idea and then suggested something else.
I often observe where the gaps are and what’s needed to close these gaps. Ideally, we should all learn how to talk about outcomes first. This is a skill set that is very important for people to have. I think it's important for them to realise that if they have it, it's very powerful. It's a good way to influence decisions. So that's one area that I believe there's a need for awareness of how powerful it is and how impactful it can be when you do it right.”
THE DEEPER WHY
Being a mindful communicator in these kinds of interactions is often a question of people being able to really understand the other person's deeper why before they start talking about the how that they've come up with. And when you propose something to someone else, make sure you first communicate what you're trying to achieve, what the expected outcome is, and why you have come to this meeting to communicate this. Establish why you're doing it before you jump in and start doing things.
A mindful interaction means making sure that if you're having a business conversation with someone, you've clarified the purpose and the outcome of the conversation before you start having the conversation: “The reason I'm in touch with you is because I'm aware that…I've found this…and this could have this impact on you…and that's why we're having the conversation.”
“When people grow in their careers and they start to grow as more senior professionals, they acquire these skill sets. But if we can make it a skill set that is developed across the board, we’ll have a much more effective workforce. If everyone can do it and knows how to do it, we’ll be much more effective in getting things done.” It’s important to seek to understand other people's priorities in each conversation. “What would success look like to you? What are the things that you folks are wrestling with right now? What are the main customer challenges you're facing?” Ask these kinds of questions and take a reading of what's important to that person, and then frame your ideas and proposals in the context of that rather than, "Hey, I've got some great ideas for you...” and then feeling frustrated if the person disengages.
“When people grow in their careers and they start to grow as more senior professionals, they acquire these skill sets. But if we can make it a skill set that is developed across the board, we’ll have a much more effective workforce. If everyone can do it and knows how to do it, we’ll be much more effective in getting things done.”
It’s important to seek to understand other people's priorities in each conversation. “What would success look like to you? What are the things that you folks are wrestling with right now? What are the main customer challenges you're facing?” Ask these kinds of questions and take a reading of what's important to that person, and then frame your ideas and proposals in the context of that rather than, "Hey, I've got some great ideas for you...” and then feeling frustrated if the person disengages.
ARE YOU LEADER OR RECEIVER?
“There are two roles in such conversations. One is when we are leading and proposing something, or when we are receiving and somebody else is proposing something to us. When we are receiving, we need to always try to understand where the other person is coming from, what he or she is trying to achieve, by asking good questions. This is a key skill set for everybody to have, to always to try to understand. But when we are leading and planning to propose and communicate something, we need to make sure we start with the answers to those exact same questions, which we would normally ask if we were the receivers.”
It's about making your interactions reciprocal by focusing on really showing you understand the other person and making sure what you put forward is relevant to them. It’s about behaving in a way that increases the richness of communication between both of you as opposed to just broadcasting at each other.
“These cycles of communication can start from the top, and they can be cross-functional. They can happen in smaller groups across the board. If we have the same level of effectiveness and impact in all these cycles, it would be very powerful.”
This is the ability to have mindful interactions with people. It's about understanding these dynamics, understanding the other person, getting over to their side of the bridge, and working from a real understanding of their perspective. The challenge is having the energy to do it when things are so busy, because it takes energy.
It takes time to be mindful. It's hard, but it’s worth it. In the longer term, it can save a whole lot of time and energy for all concerned.
FIND OUT MORE…
Some of the ideas and tools used in this blog are covered in the new book from Soul Corporations® - The Mindful Communicator by Nicholas Brice (Amazon, Nov 2022). Order a copy for you and your team here.
To discuss your challenges and look at how to tackle them with some of these tools and methods, you can contact Nick directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44(0)7778-356954.