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A real need for global communication

Jul 17th

Collaboration is easy to understand, but hard to do – and yet it’s never been so urgent to work together on a global scale. The issue also includes: making tough decisions fast; the six Cs of communication; and building a leadership framework.

Editor’s view

A real need for global collaboration

Collaboration is easy to understand, but hard to do. Global collaboration even more so, and yet it’s never been so urgent to work together on a global scale.

The Governor of the Bank of England recently made headlines by endorsing the coalition government’s plans for £6bn cuts in this financial year. But Mervyn King’s message was deeper than politics as he talked about the urgent need for global cooperation:

“We need to balance demand around the world economy so as not to end up with a downturn in the world economy … the real need is world rebalancing measures.” This, he said, could only be achieved by working together on a global scale.

This theme of world cooperation is timely, as the coalition government discovers just how much it depends on each side being willing to sacrifice cherished policies and principles for a larger goal. It also echoes the priority our clients give to the need for collaboration, as essential to achieve more innovation, better decisions, and more effective engagement, systems and processes.

Collaboration is easy to understand, but hard to do. Everyone signs up to it, but in reality there are always a thousand reasons why it comes more naturally to work with your immediate team than the one next door, or on another site. It also taps into the natural competitiveness and power dynamics in any group. We all want what we want, and we often focus on doing whatever we can do get it, rather than making personal sacrifices for the sake of a shared ambition.

What does this mean for your business? You could try asking these questions:

  • Do you all have a shared vision of the strategy? Ask people to describe it in their own words. You could be surprised how much the versions differ.
  • What is pulling you away from the shared commitment you have all made to the success of the business? An honest answer to this question from each key individual could be the basis of a fundamental rethink about how to re-energise the business and make it work for everyone.
  • Has everyone bought into the vision and the strategy? How do you know? Even when times are tough, people will retain commitment to a business they have helped to shape.

Advancing your own agenda might win you a few battles. But, as Mervyn King made clear, it won’t win the campaign. Real collaboration can sometimes mean letting go, not lobbying.

In the news

Making tough decisions fast

As companies face pressures on profits and changing markets, it can be tempting for leaders to act decisively and make bold decisions fast. But there is a trick to getting it right.

The emergency budget on 22 June is expected to spell out comprehensively where spending will be slashed and taxes raised. David Cameron says he is making ‘momentous decisions’ that will ‘change our whole way of life’ and lead to ‘years of pain’.

Hubris? Over-dramatic? Time will tell. But whoever won the general election was going to have to do something about the fiscal deficit – the only question was how much, and how fast. Labour’s view is that swingeing, immediate cuts will derail the economic recovery. The Governor of the Bank of England supports the government’s ‘act immediately, act decisively’ approach.

Companies can find themselves in the same kind of crunch, triggered by changing markets, customers’ lower disposal income and higher taxes putting pressure on profits. Making the right decisions can be the first real test of the strength and unity of the top team. Whether to make incremental cost savings and try and ride out the storm, change the shape of the business to match the changing market, or change the strategy – or all three – is the sort of debate that can polarise views and quickly become circular.

It’s tempting to act boldly, even if for the sake of action itself, and to appear as strong, decisive leaders. But even the biggest global companies can point to low points in their history when a new chief executive put his stamp on a shiny new strategy which never took off. Quality of thought, discussion and business understanding is essential to reach the right decision. The trick is to make sure that this careful decision-making happens with pace and momentum.

Tip of the month

The six Cs of communication

In the face of having to communicate high concern messages, many managers handle it poorly or try to avoid it altogether. Find out how to use the six Cs of communication for your next conversation.

Nearly every client meeting at the moment touches on conversation that managers may find difficult – communicating downsizing programmes and redundancies, or just the need to manage general uncertainty and anxiety that can affect performance.

When emotions are involved, too many managers handle the conversation badly, or avoid it altogether.

We use a simple, effective tool for communicating high-concern messages, known as ‘The six Cs’. Of course there’s a skill to how you use them, but if you follow them in order, you can be sure you have at least touched all the bases:

1. Care – show empathy with the person/people receiving the message

2. Cut to the chase – say in a simple, clear sentence the news you have to communicate

3. Criteria – give the three main (evidence-based, not opinions) reasons why the decision has been made, or the criteria used to reach a decision

4. Concerns – acknowledge the concerns of the potential human or personal impact of your message

5. Confirm – repeat the headline message to re-state the facts, and add any helpful practical details such as next steps

6. Commitment – genuine personal commitment to provide support, keep people informed, and an organisational commitment to treat people fairly and well.

Your questions answered

I’ve been asked to build a leadership framework – but which model is the best one to use to help senior managers raise their game?

Leadership has fashions like everything else. The charismatic leader – the cult of the single strong personality – gave way in the 2001 Collins and Porras best-seller ‘Good to Great’ to the quiet leader – someone who doesn’t seek personal glory but makes things happen behind the scenes. The fox versus the hedgehog and countless others have been offered as the silver bullet answer to successful leadership.

My view is that there is no single model of leadership that works for everyone. This piece of common sense is developed in Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones’ 2006 book, ‘Why should anyone be led by you? What it takes to be an authentic leader.’ They describe the concept of authentic leadership as ‘being yourself more – with skill’.

Our coaching and leadership work starts and works not with a fixed model of leadership, but with a question: ‘How can you be the best leader that only you can be?’

This article is filed under: business capability, Change, leadership, leadership development, organisation, organisation design, organisational development strategy, strategic capability, strategic change management, strategic communication, strategy, transformational leadership

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