Effective Communication & Collaborative Problem Solving
March 9, 2022
Bridgett Lindsey is an accomplished business and people leader with an undeniable sense of purpose for guiding organizations through change and building infrastructures that can scale across a diversified workforce. She has successfully championed culture change in both start-up and large matrixed organizations by providing intellectual and strategic insight to help leaders think differently. Her specialty is in leading teams through significant organizational restructures, culture shifts, and towards evolving, yet ambitious goals.

Bridgett is nimble at unlocking the best of a brand, company, and its people by creating initiatives that amplify culture and increase engagement internally and externally. Through this lens she has been able to develop and execute organization-wide management and people training programs with an emphasis on leadership, effective communication, culture, conflict resolution and DEI. The hallmark of Bridgett’s legacy is ensuring that these systemic, positive organizational changes last long after her tenure. In the following discussion, she shares how to communicate effectively and collaboratively solve problems.

What should we take into account as we endeavor to become better communicators?

George Bernard Shaw once said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." If you think about that for a second, we're communicating all the time. With technology, it seems like we're never not communicating. There's a principle fundamental to the proponents of neuro-linguistic programming: we cannot not communicate. This means whether we're consciously aware of it or not, we humans are almost always communicating.

We communicate in multiple ways and on various levels: through our tone, voice, facial expressions, posture, body language, and even through our silence. Silence is a strong communicator. Those who have either dished out or received the silent treatment can attest to that. When we speak to others we want to think about what we're conveying that goes beyond mere words. This is especially true when we add text messages and emails into the mix - a lot of context gets lost in translation.

How can we be more effective communicators?

Here are some questions to consider to communicate more effectively: What am I saying? Is my point getting across? Is someone actually hearing what I'm saying? Am I taking away what I'm supposed to be from the conversation?

You also want to think about your audience by considering the parties involved and their communication skills. You may have to adjust based on how they receive information, their attitudes, their knowledge base, and their backgrounds. All of these things affect the way somebody either delivers or interprets a message.

Your channel for sharing the information can also make or break the effectiveness of your message. Some conversation topics are best left to in-person to avoid the lost in translation moment more likely to occur when sharing via text or email.

What are everyday issues that impede our messages from getting across?

Any distraction that affects the reception of the message, impedes our effectiveness. Multitasking is a big one because it impacts how much of the message we receive. The varying information and unrelated facts get in the way of what's being communicated.

The other thing that I always like to talk about is building a culture of trust. As leaders, we can build that culture by being empathic, honest, and credible. Having integrity in our messaging and being transparent is incredibly important. Other vital traits are relatability, genuineness and consistency. Your team wants to trust where the information is coming from.

Last, not noticing how the receiver receives the message can cause miscommunication. As we speak, we also want to pay attention to the signals coming back to us. Too often, we assume that our words are clear and easily understood, yet sometimes it's not clear, and people walk away from conversations feeling unengaged, hurt, or misunderstood.

The healthiest company cultures are ones where leaders and employees alike feel able to express opinions honestly, without getting defensive.

Explain the importance of asking questions.

I love Bill Nye, I'm a little bit of a science freak, and he says, "Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don't." When engaging in a conversation, you should always assume that you have something to learn. So ask questions. Sometimes the most difficult questions to ask are the best ones, but we don't ask them for fear of it not being the right timing or of being seen as "too much." But we really should ensure we're asking questions and listening to the response.

The healthiest company cultures are ones where leaders and employees alike feel able to express opinions honestly, without getting defensive. Being authentic and having open communication are vital to success. We want to encourage one another to be influential communicators. That means being able to move things forward without pushing, forcing, or telling.

What is a framework for giving feedback?

Once you start recognizing and identifying behavior patterns, focus on the behavior, be specific about what the person has or has not done. Then without judgment - that is incredibly important - tell the person the impact of their behavior. Finally, describe what you want the person to stop, start, or continue to do.

What are the steps for engaging in the framework of giving feedback?

  1. Establish communication
  2. Address issues immediately
  3. Engage with the mindset of an ally
  4. Share your perspective, carefully
  5. Avoid absolutes
  6. Leave room for discussion
  7. Use objective language
  8. Focus on the issue
  9. Don't come into it with anything but the facts.
  10. Listen to understand

You want to be heard, but that person also wants to be heard. You will be navigating facts and feelings simultaneously, so make sure you are meeting the person on a level playing field, giving you both an opportunity to share information and establish a connection. Validate where the person is coming from and why you're having this conflict conversation. Show curiosity, ask some open-ended questions, reflect back what you're hearing and whether you agree with it or not. Then work together to come up with a solution.

How long should one wait to have a difficult conversation?

I'd say a couple of hours. Conflict can be uncomfortable, so take some time to check your mindset. But don't wait two weeks or a month - that's too long. If you are angry or upset, those are valid feelings. We all have them. We're humans. We're not robots. We're supposed to have feelings. However, how we choose to engage with one another and how we choose to step back and be open to our counterpart's perspective impacts whether the conflict is productive or not.

The other thing is for leaders to have managerial courage. That means you might need to deal more effectively with difficult people or situations, while also encouraging your teams to have direct and tough conversations among themselves and be unafraid to really push the needle forward.

What is psychological reciprocity, and how does it impact the way we relate to others?

Psychological reciprocity is when we move towards another style so that the other person feels like they can move towards ours. Think of it as the platinum rule versus the golden rule. We've all heard the Golden Rule growing up, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In other words, treat other people in business and in life the way you yourself want to be treated. Well, Dave Kirpan, the author of the book, The Art Of People says that following the golden rule isn't necessarily the best rule to follow because it assumes everybody wants the same thing you want. And that's not really the case. It's better than mistreating people, but it's assuming a lot.

The platinum rule recognizes that people are different, and not everyone wants to be treated and communicated with in the same ways. When you follow the platinum rule, you can be sure you're actually doing what the other person wants done, and you're assuring yourself of a better outcome.

The platinum rule recognizes that people are different, and not everyone wants to be treated and communicated with in the same ways.



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