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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Enhancing Organizational Assertiveness Quotient

I think we still underestimate the value of improving everyone's communication skills. By communication skills I mean more than fluency and eloquence, more than the ability to express, but more importantly, the ability to listen.

During a training lunch break, I was chatting with a participant from a tech company. I brought up an emerging technology and asked if they're on it too. The participant said no, they were too late. He said someone presented an idea a few years ago but no one listened. The proposal was shelved. When the competitions started offering the new technology, they realized they lost a big opportunity to lead the market by a few years! I asked what happened. He said two things; failure to convince on one hand and failure to listen on the other. This is not an isolated case in that organization and I would bet that it isn't a rare case in most organizations either. In a country like the Philippines where "subordinates" defer to their bosses, a lot of opportunities for improvement are not communicated.

There is indeed a need to improve interaction in the workplace and HR should champion the campaign for enhancing everyone's capacity including the leaders. Especially the leaders. The way to do it is to empower people to communicate at an assertive level.

So, how do we enhance people’s assertiveness? I have a number of recommendations.

Establish norms for open communication.  As I mentioned, the Filipino culture is quite hierarchical. It’s almost a taboo to  challenge the ideas of the bosses or express a dissenting opinion. We are also conflict averse. Many has this belief that expressing disagreement or criticism is a form of attack or disrespect. That’s why practically no one wants to give it and no one wants to receive it either. This needs to change because it slows down issue resolution and could cause expensively wrong decisions. At ExeQserve, we help our clients establish rules of engagement for collaboration, coordination and cooperation so that fear don’t get in the way of productive collaboration. Click here if you want to know more. 
Equip leaders for shared leadership – Leaders need to learn that the more they share power, the more powerful they get. This is because they get more things done and make better decision when they allow people to speak up and share the responsibility of problem-solving and decision-making. ExeQserve’s program on High Performance Leadership and People Management skills provide tools for moving from directing to empowering people.

Train everyone on Assertive Communication.  Not just assertive expression but assertive listening. There is a need for people to learn that they have choice beside talking nice or talking tough. They need to learn about reflective and generative dialogue where they learn to move from conforming to confronting, to connecting and collaborating. It’s a skill that not a lot of people have, including managers.  When people learn how to set aside coercive influences (authority, seniority, personality, relationship) during conversations, they can learn a lot from each other. Know more about ExeQserve's Assertive Communication Skills Training here.

Train them to send their message across effectively. In business we communicate through correspondences and meetings or presentations.  The lack of confidence and competence to present and idea or to express it writing is hindering people from stepping forward with their solutions. Establishing a venue for people to learn and practice professional communication and practice them builds the necessary confidence and competence. Some companies set up their own Toastmasters Club or communications clinic to help people sharpen their communication skills and I think it is a worthy endeavor. Learn more about ExeQserve's  full range of communication skills training here.

Overall, creating a healthy communication culture helps an organization in so many levels. It prevents bad decisions, speeds up issue resolution, and empowers great ideas and people. Moreover, it makes human resource management more interesting!

If you wish to know more about how you can enhance the Communication Quotient of your organization, you can talk to me. Call me at 893-3199.



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