Adapting to Their Style

We commonly hear the phrase “just be yourself”, but following that advice is not necessarily the best thing to do if you are hoping to get the other person to see it your way. In fact, in many situations, you are likely to have much greater success if you deliberately modify your own behaviour and personal style of communication to accommodate the person you are dealing with. When you think about it, all of us do this all the time. No one will talk to their CEO in the same way they speak to a colleague who sits at the next desk. Similarly, everyone knows how to address “the guy from IT”, and this is markedly different from the method used to talk to the managing director’s secretary. We instinctively recognise that everyone is different, but we do not always take the next logical step by understanding what those differences are and how to more actively adapt your own style to match that of the other person. Understanding Business Styles There are many different styles of communication in business. One easy way to think about styles is to break them down into four general categories: Analytical, Driver, Expressive, and Amiable. We’ll talk more about these categories later; for now, let’s just say that it’s very important to identify and adapt to the style of the person you are trying to influence. How do you figure out the style of the other person? It comes down to the powers of observation, but there are clues everywhere. Their industry, company, and role in the organisation will give you plenty of insights....

The Design-Centric Company

Jon Kolko contributed a great article in the September 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review. In Design Thinking Comes of Age (subscription required), Kolko makes the case for corporate leaders to develop a more design-centric culture within their companies. There is a general shift under way towards greater design centricity as leaders look for new ways to deal with complexity in business. Below are some principles that Kolko lays out to help define a design-centric culture. If adopted, they could help bring design closer to the centre of any business. Focus on users’ experiences, especially emotional ones. Companies can accomplish a lot by empowering employees to observe and give feedback on processes and user experiences. When doing so, leaders should allow space for emotional language, not just specs. For example, some financial processes, such as invoicing and payments, can be key client touchpoints for a company. In a design-centric company, these financial touch points could be designed in a way that focuses on a user experience that goes beyond operational efficiency. As a result, simple touchpoints can create a good impression and reinforce a trusting relationship. Create models to examine complex problems. Design thinking was originally associated with tangible objects, but more recently has worked for intangible processes, such as a customer experience. Companies can use “design artefacts”, such as charts, diagrams and sketches, to better comprehend and solve problems that can’t be visualised on a spreadsheet. Use prototypes to explore potential solutions. Whilst models help to explore the problem space, prototypes help to examine the solution. Great design-centric companies tinker with ideas openly and iterate quickly with prototypes....

Design Thinking for Change Managers

The September 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review devoted an entire section on design thinking. Among the articles was a great piece by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, called Design for Action (subscription needed), where he argues for using design to drive change. Tim Brown is a well-known guru of design thinking and his company, IDEO, has not only helped develop some of Apple’s most iconic designs, but has also been contracted to help design new processes and lead change for municipalities, country governments, and non-profits working in the developing world. Two of core ideas that Brown draws on to develop his point are that 1) design is not so much a physical process as it is a way of thinking (Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial) and 2) design is not only for developing products, but also solving complex problems (Richard Buchanan, Wicked Problems in Design Thinking). Brown discusses “designed objects” and the challenges of introducing a new design to an organisation. A designed object might be a new product or service, but it could also be an internal process or an idea. When the design is tangible, as in the case of a new product for launch, then the adoption of the design is fairly simple and low risk. Stakeholders can see how the new product will drive revenue, how it’s an improvement on the old product, or how it can open up new markets. However, the less tangible and more complex a design is, as with a new work process, the risker the introduction of the design becomes. There are ripple effects as stakeholders perceive...

Listening to Others

“Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.” – Benjamin Disraeli, author and politician Building on an earlier post about Asking Better Questions, it’s important to get others talking about themselves in order to better understand their interests, motives, and concerns. As a result, you will show empathy and build rapport, which leads to a better relationship and greater degree of influence with the person. The second half of the equation is about listening in a way that demonstrates you genuinely care about their point of view. Done well, you will be inviting them to share more about themselves, and the result will be an even deeper connection during the conversation. Listening Without Interrupting When we are in social gatherings or just catching up with old friends, it is easy to stop listening and look for a break in the conversation so we can get our story or comment in. We tend to think about what we are going to say next and do not really listen closely to the other person. Signs of this are the habit of finishing someone else’s sentence, looking away, or giving various “hurry up” responses. We usually want to cap the other person’s story, which is not conducive to building rapport, particularly in the business world. The best thing to do is to listen without interrupting. Ask a question and allow time for a full answer. Do not jump right in with a comment. Give the other person the chance to say what they want and then provide insights into their guiding values. Active, Not Passive Listening Give the other...