How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships That Really Work

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The trouble often starts when leaders start listing five or seven or 11 priorities. Those priorities have to be lined up as carefully as the trajectory of a rocket launch, because even the slightest miscalculation can take a team off-course over time. Another benefit of having a simple plan is that it creates a shared goal that will offset the tendency of people to identify themselves as part of smaller groups. Think of a football team, for example.

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In the absence of that simple, shared scoreboard, people will make up their own ways to measure their success, Mr. Nash added. Once you have a simple plan, you have to keep reminding your team of the priorities, even if it can feel repetitive. People often have to hear something a few times before they truly remember it. Marc Cenedella , chief executive of TheLadders. There are certain behaviors that are encouraged and discouraged — like rules of the road — for how everyone is going to try to get along and spend their time. As a leader, you can take a laissez-faire approach and hope the team meshes well over time.

There are no hard and fast rules for developing the cultural values of a team. In some cases, the founder of a company will issue them to employees. In others, top executives will turn the exercise over to employees to make it a bottom-up effort. The most important thing is for the team or company to live by their stated values, rather than just going through the motions of the exercise, with people earning promotions even though their behavior runs directly counter to the stated rules of the road.

Unfortunately, most of us have worked for at least one bad boss and sometimes many of them over the course of our careers. They often share many of the same bad tendencies. They micro-manage. They see employees only as pawns to help them accomplish their goals. They point fingers rather than owning their mistakes.

Effective Communication Skills - Building Business Relationships

They dress people down in front of their colleagues. The list goes on and on sigh. That kind of treatment puts people in a defensive crouch and they start subconsciously checking part of their self-image at the door before they go into work.

How To Say Anything To Anyone

And it means that if they have an out-of-the-box idea for the team, they may think twice before sharing it, out of fear it will be dismissed. In this kind of environment, innovation is hard, if not impossible. It is incredibly important for leaders to set a tone, and model the behavior, that everyone will respect one another. So you can say anything to anyone, as long as you say it the right way. John Duffy , chief executive of the mobile-technology company 3Cinteractive, said he established a zero-tolerance policy for disrespectful behavior.

We make everyone understand that the reason the culture works is that we have that respect. There is a comfort level and a feeling of safety inside our business. Treating people with respect is part of a two-way street to help foster teamwork. At the same time, leaders also need to hold everyone on their team accountable for their work and role on the team. At many companies, this culture of accountability is discussed explicitly.

Brett Wilson , chief executive of TubeMogul, a video advertising software company, uses a smart phrase to signal the importance of being reliable at this company. You can count on them, and you can get by with fewer layers of management, and communication flows faster.


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A big part of holding people accountable for their work is a willingness to have frank discussions about problems and misunderstandings that inevitably arise among colleagues. They can be unpleasant, and most people would rather deliver good news instead of bad. That is why problems are often swept under the rug, and maybe dealt with months later in an annual performance review. Consider, for example, the small but important difference in approaches in the following paragraph:. This approach was first described to me by Andrew Thompson , the chief executive of Proteus Digital Health, who said he uses it as a counterweight to a natural tendency of human beings.

Thompson said. How often people give feedback is just as important as how they deliver it. Some leaders tell their employees upfront that they are going to give them frequent feedback. If you get into a rhythm of giving feedback, they get used to it. And be flexible — prepare for the conversation to change direction as the other person's thoughts and feelings also change.

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You're likely familiar with the saying, "Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Placing too much emphasis on your own assumptions and beliefs doesn't leave much space for empathy! Once you "see" why others believe what they believe, you can acknowledge it.

This doesn't mean you have to agree with it, but this is not the time for a debate. Instead, be sure to show respect and to keep listening. When in doubt, invite the person to describe their position some more, and ask how they think they might resolve the issue. You can explore a powerful five-step approach for seeing other points of view with our article, Perceptual Positions. There's no one "right way" to demonstrate your compassionate empathy.

It will depend on the situation, the individual, and their dominant emotion at the time. Remember, empathy is not about what you want, but what the other person wants and needs, so any action you take or suggest must benefit them. For example, you might have a team member who's unable to focus on their work because of a problem at home.

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It may seem the kind thing to do to tell them they can work from home until the situation is resolved, but work may in fact give them a welcome respite from thinking about something painful. So ask them which approach they would prefer. And remember that empathy is not just for crises! Seeing the world from a variety of perspectives is a great talent — and it's one that you can use all of the time, in any situation. And random acts of kindness brighten anyone's day. For example, you likely smile and take the trouble to remember people's names: that's empathy in action.

Giving people your full attention in meetings, being curious about their lives and interests, and offering constructive feedback are all empathic behaviors, too. Practice these skills often. When you take an interest in what others think, feel and experience, you'll develop a reputation for being caring, trustworthy and approachable - and be a great asset to your team and your organization. Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions and to share perspectives with other people. It's one of the five key components of emotional intelligence, and it helps to build trust and strengthen relationships.

To use empathy effectively, give your co-worker your full attention, looking out for verbal and nonverbal clues to help you fully understand their situation. Set aside your own assumptions, acknowledge your colleague's feelings, allow an emotional connection, then take positive action that will improve their well-being. This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools.

Subscribe to our free newsletter , or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career! Expert Interviews Audio Forums Infographics. Quizzes Templates and Worksheets Videos. For Your Organization. By the Mind Tools Content Team. Tip: Find out how emotionally intelligent you are by taking our emotional intelligence quiz. Tip: You can explore a powerful five-step approach for seeing other points of view with our article, Perceptual Positions. Key Points Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions and to share perspectives with other people. There are three stages of empathy: Cognitive empathy is being aware of the emotional state of another person.


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  6. Emotional empathy is engaging with and sharing those emotions. Compassionate empathy involves taking action to support other people. Add this article to My Learning Plan. Mark article as Complete. Show Ratings Hide Ratings. Rate this resource.

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    Find Out More. Comments 39 Over a month ago Michele wrote. Hi rosiewwilliams12, Couldn't agree more! Promoting and practicing empathy at work not only creates excellent customer experiences, it also improves the employee experience. Michele Mind Tools Team.

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    Over a month ago rosiewwilliams12 wrote. Great thought! It's true that successful companies invest in promoting empathy because truly meaningful customer experiences spring from empathy. So, developing an empathic approach is perhaps the most significant effort an organization can make toward improving their people skills.