Increase Self-Awareness

Communicate better, everywhere.

Too often a workplace conversation goes something like this:

Employee: I wish you had checked with me before making the decision.

Manager: I just assumed that it worked for you.

Employee: It puts me in a difficult position with the team.

Manager: Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to them.

Employee: Ok (aka, I don’t trust you, as you’ve done this before)

This is not a healthy workplace scenario.

survey of 400 Canadian workers by Robert Half Management Resources asked, “What skill do you think your manager needs to improve most?” Communication and Diplomacy won in a landslide:

Skills your manager needs to improve most

Employees expect their managers, as workplace leaders, to be effectual communicators, mediators of workplace interpersonal issues, and facilitators of positive team dynamics. That may be a lot to ask of a manager, yet its’ what employees want, even in a non-hierarchical workplace.

Communications is a base element of collaboration

Many of the workplace problems we face are complex. They require collaboration, often among diverse people, to solve.

My view is that effective communication is a base element of collaboration success. If there was a periodic table for collaboration, communication would be right at the top, element #1. If we aren’t communicating well, we have little chance at succeeding with collaboration.


Whenever I give a talk on the topic of collaboration, I almost always start off with some points on communication.

How can we collaborate if we aren’t on the same page? Doubling down on that thought – how can managers get others to collaborate, from the same page?

Conflict as proxy for poor communications

Communication literally means to make “common”; to get on the same page with someone else.

George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” One way of explaining the communication challenge is the intent-action-effect model:

Did my actions match my intentions? Did they interpret my message as I intended?

My observations, as a mediator of scores of workplace-related conflicts, is that a communication breakdown is, as often as not, at the source of conflict. Often, the stated conflict, e.g., “he didn’t follow the rules”, is proxy for what really galls the person; e.g., their irritation in not being able to authentically dialogue with the other person.

Of course, when you reflect for a moment, conflict as proxy for an unstated need is a scenario that plays out in any type of relationship; family, business, community.

Diplomacy is a negotiating skill

Merriam-Webster defines diplomacy as:

  1. the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations
  2. skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility; e.g., “she handled the awkward situation with diplomacy”

By any definition, diplomacy involves negotiation, and tact.

In the workplace, differences are bridged and consensus is built through negotiation. Negotiation acumen is essential.

Diplomacy in the workplace speaks to our negotiation style. How do we resolve differences? How do we relate to each other?

To improve your communications and diplomacy skills, start with self-awareness.

Increase self-awareness. Assessment instruments, such as Myers & Briggs and Conflict Dynamics Profile (my tool of choice) can give you a benchmark to journey from. The Conflict Dynamics tool effectively benchmarks your conflict behaviours and hot buttons. Know thyself. Go from there.

Learn communications in context. Language, culture, and a safe environment are pre-conditions for effective communications. Each context is different. Do your homework. Step to the other’s side. Get to know their world(s). Apply a Culture Map. Or, better yet, experience first-hand.

Take a negotiations course. Negotiation is a learned skill. Get the rudimentary down. Dr. Roger Fisher’s seminal book, Getting to Yes, gives the direction. Improvise from that base.

Seek to make your interactions constructive and positive. Remember, the Magic Relationship Ratio. Collaboration starts with you.

The bonus of learning communication skills is that they are transferable, everywhere.