26/03/10

By Marielena Sabatier, CEO of Inspiring Potential

As Chancellor Alastair Darling spelt on in yesterday’s budget, the UK is facing with record levels of debt. And, although there were reports earlier this year that we are officially out of recession, it certainly doesn’t feel like it for the majority of businesses. With job losses, cut backs and pay freezes continuing in the private and public sector and damaged employee morale in many companies, much work is needed in order for them to rebuild successfully. All eyes on the election in six weeks time, but the majority of business owners are not overly optimistic about the prospect of any party alleviating some of the difficulties they face.

But even though 2010 looks set to be another tough year there is a great deal that companies can do now in order to rebuild trust and re-energise their employees to focus on the goals ahead.

Are your leaders communicating the business goals?

A good starting point for rebuilding is examining communication. Are leaders clearly and consistently communicating the company’s vision and business goals? This sounds obvious, but it is something many companies do poorly or fail to do at all. A recent survey from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) revealed that just 24% of employees said that the management at their company had communicated clearly their business objectives for 2010. In addition, 32% had no idea if a clear vision for their business exists.

It goes without saying that if your workforce doesn’t know where it is going, it can’t be expected to get there. Creating a compelling and believable vision will motivate your workforce and you will be far more likely to achieve your goals.

Do you have the right leaders in place?

The recession has tested the mettle of leaders in companies across the UK, highlighting in some cases, skills gaps and poor leadership behaviour. With recovery around the corner, it is a good time for leaders to look closely at their skills and identify areas of development and training needed.

According to the recent International HR Barometer survey of 550 senior HR management professionals from The Scala Group, The Ace Network and law firm Salans, many companies have already started to address their leadership challenges. The research stated that almost two thirds (64%) of UK respondents said they were strengthening their leadership capability, whilst 70% were looking to coach line managers, focus on training, up-skilling and dealing with under performers.

In fact, executive coaching is increasingly used by companies around the world to improve the self awareness, confidence and communication skills of leaders. A 2009 study by the International Coaching Federation Global Coaching Client Study of more than 2,000 coaching clients in 64 countries highlighted the benefits coaching can deliver with 80% of respondents stating they have made positive changes in areas such as interpersonal skills, work performance and team effectiveness as a result.

But as well as coaching leaders, it is important to look at the impact of their leadership behaviour on employees. How do staff in the company rate the leadership? What do they see as the key strengths and weaknesses of the leaders? A 360 degree assessment will not only pinpoint areas of learning and development for leaders, but at the same time provide valuable insight into the mood of the workforce.

Building communication and trust in your teams
To improve how teams work together, it is also essential to build trust and improve communication. How do team members relate to each other? Are they tolerant of each others’ working style? One of most common communication problems in any business is people misunderstanding what other people tell them or what they are trying to say, so communication is a key area to focus on.

According to the Myers Briggs type Instrument (MBTI) there are 16 types of people all of whom receive and process information differently. Some people need to talk to process what they are thinking; while others need time to reflect. Some people come up with big creative ideas, whereas others are focussed on practical issues. Some people make decisions based on logic and others make them based on their impact on others, and of course, there are organised people versus spontaneous ones.

Team building training sessions not only can reveal how different we all are and how our brains are all wired differently, but the importance of not taking other peoples’ behaviour personally. For example: people often get angry if someone is late and they have to wait for them. They think their time is not being valued and that the person is disrespectful or irresponsible. But, in reality, the person could be late because they are trying to do too much, and it doesn’t have anything to do them. Improving trust and communication is all about understanding and being tolerant and accepting of different personalities in the workplace.

So here are a few tips to rebuild morale and improve communication:

• Have a clear vision. People feel more motivated and united when they have a clear vision and meaning. It’s the opposite of “Divide and conquer”; if you have an effective united team, success is inevitable
• Examine the leadership in your company — is coaching or training being used to support leaders and improve their skills?
• What is the impact of the leadership on the staff? Could leadership be damaging morale?
• Encourage your team not to take things personally and to understand that all people are fundamentally different
• Concentrate on understanding others, rather than being understood. In a theoretical world people make logical decisions and commitments, but in the real world they act based on their type preferences, emotions, and unconscious influences. If you are focusing on understanding them, you’ll start building tolerance and taking things less personally.
• Trust has been broken with all the changes that have taken place in the past 18 months. It is difficult to work in an environment of uncertainty and chaos. If you focus on building trust, people will be much more likely to cooperate with you.
• Manage conflict. There are positive sides to conflict, if handled properly, it could promote innovation, validate the way of working and increase loyalty and quality. But, it has to be managed effectively. Unresolved conflict can create stress and destroy a team.


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