Business Success: Principles of Dialogue Part 1

Last week was discussed what dialogue is and how important it is to business intelligence success. Over the next two weeks we will cover the practices and principles of dialogue. Dialogue can be learned.  A “‘practice’ is an activity you do repeatedly to help bring about an experience.”

A practice based on principles establishes a tradition. It is intentional and designed to create choices.audience-in-classroom-listening-intently-to-speaker-during-meeting_w725_h492

The Practice of Listening: “The Principle of Participation”

• Develop an Inner Silence”; Listen with All the Senses
• Notice the self; “attend to both words and the silence between the words”; be aware of thought.
• Let go of the inner clamor.
• Slow down; be still.
• Stick to the facts; suspend judgment.
• Stay in the present; do not jump to conclusions based on the past; look for evidence that challenges any convictions.
• Find the gaps.
• Listen together; question self and others.
The Practice of Respecting: “The Principle of Coherence”

• Observe, honor, and defer to others. See others as legitimate.
• Honor people’s boundaries; do not intrude; do not withhold the self or distance the self. Imposing is not honoring; sharing personal experience is.
• Accept that others have something to teach us.
• Pay attention to connections in differences; look for the relationship among the parts.
• Look for the whole; find the hub, the center in order to slow down and stay in the present.
• Notice the internal disturbance; suspend the desire to fix it or tell others to change. Find your own center and focus on yourself as part of the whole.
• Look for the elephant in the room and name the feeling. Make deliberate space for those who have a different point of view.
• Hold the tension; do not react to it.

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Leadership Skills: Dialogue, it is more than just talking

May 15, 2012 @ 02:00 PM

Communication works for those who work at it.
—John Powell, Creator of the Five Levels of Communication

Dialogue goes beyond communication to describe a style of conversation that taps into the energy of an organization through shared intention. Jalma Marcus, executive coach and energy healer, shares her perspective on dialogue.

What Is Dialogue?

Dialogue is “a conversation with a center, not sides.” It is a way of taking the energy of differences and channeling it toward the creation of something new. It lifts us out of polarization and into a greater understanding. In essence, it is a means for accessing the innate intelligence and previously untapped power of the organization.

Dialogue is “a flow of meaning.”

leadership_techniques

Dialogue is “a conversation in which people think together in relationship.” Rather than holding on to their own position, the participants relax their grip on certainty and listen to the possibilities.

Dialogue is “about exploring the nature of choice.”

The intention of dialogue is to reach new understanding and, in so doing, form a totally new basis from which to think and act. In dialogue, problems are not just solved, they are dissolved. The goal is not merely try to reach agreement but to create a context from which many new agreements emerge. By unveiling a base of shared meaning, the group’s actions and values come into alignment.

Dialogue seeks to address the problem of fragmentation not by rearranging the physical components of a conversation but by uncovering and shifting the organic underlying structures that produce it.

Dialogue requires thinking, not just reacting. It requires a deep awareness of personal feelings as well as other’s reactions.  Dialogue can be learned. It requires a set of practices based on theory and principles. A “‘practice’ is an activity you do repeatedly to help bring about an experience.”

I would love to hear your comments about this way of exporing dialogue and in the next few weeks we will cover several principles of practice to improve dialogue.

Leadership Techniques: How is Your Nonverbal Communication?

In business, both verbal and nonverbal communication are important.  Many people are visual learners and in fact focus on what they see when spoken to.  If part of your leadership techniques include focus on your nonverbal communications you are on the right track.

nonverbla_communication

Given the role that nonverbals play in communicating, there is a real need for self-awareness. To facilitate understanding and management of each parts of communication, it is useful to look at the three categories: Paralanguage, Kinesics, and Proxemics.

Paralanguage
Paralanguage is the vocal or tonal quality and pitch as well as the speed and emphasis of our words. It plays a role in face-to-face communication and in telecommunication. Paralanguage is the “how” of our speaking and can be broken down into several areas:

  • Increasing loudness or softness and high or low pitch can designate a question or convey emotion.
  • Timing variation and changes in pitch can provide emphasize or convey meaning.
  • Vocal constriction versus openness can imply tension or emotion.
  • Drawling or clipping is evident in various accents, where someone either drags out certain syllables or skips letters entirely.
  • Emotion reflects how the speaker’s feelings affects the delivery. Crying versus laughing while speaking will almost always convey a different meaning.[i]

Kinesics

Kinesics is the study of body language. Whether speakers are aware of it or not, their bodies communicate messages. The ability both to manage these messages as a speaker as well as to understand them as a listener is invaluable in business. Effective speaking engages the emotions of the audience, and the use of body language is a powerful aspect of that communication.

A story told about President Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrates his belief in nonverbal communication. One evening he decided to have some fun while greeting people. Many of them said, “Good evening, Mr. President, and how are you?” to which he responded with a warm smile, “I’m fine, thank you, I murdered my mother-in-law.” Not one person reacted to his comment. It is possible that no one even heard it because his body language was so contradictory to his statement. Because body language is typically unconscious, it is believed to be the most genuine form of communication.

Because body language is based on feelings, it is valuable to read the recipient’s body language when communicating. More important, it is possible to leverage the use of body language as well as other nonverbals to enhance the delivery of a message. A list of the most common body actions that can lead to intended or unintended impressions follows.

  • Erect posture. Power, confidence, control
  • Two people sitting in similar positions. Harmony, agreement
  • Leaning forward. Interest in other, confidence
  • Open hands. Sincerity, openness
  • Crossed arms.  Defense, closed
  • Head tilting toward the speaker. Agreement or interest
  • Smile. Pleasure, compassion, trust, desire for connection[ii]

There are certainly exceptions to this list, particularly when considering other cultures. It is best to consider body language in combination with cultural behaviors before drawing conclusions.

The use of the hands to guide the eyes is one of the most powerful body language techniques to convey or guide attention.

Proxemics

Proxemics  relates to the space in which we operate and its effect on our level of comfort. [iii] There are two general aspects to proxemics:

1.       Physical territory, such as the orientation or characteristics of furniture or surroundings, can have an effect on our comfort. For example, a desk facing a window versus a dingy wall can affect a worker’s mood. Or a presentation in a poorly lit room might change the experience of the audience.

2.       Personal territory reflects our comfort level in proximity to others. Depending on the level of intimacy, there are basic ranges for each level.

a. Public space. The distance maintained between an audience and a speaker is generally 12 to 25 feet..
b. Social space. The distance between business associates in communication or strangers in public settings is 4 to 10 feet.
c. Personal space. The distance between close friends or family members, or between strangers waiting in line, is 2 to 4 feet.
Cultural differences can lead to variations in these distances. Becoming familiar and respecting these cultural differences will improve cross-cultural relations and build connection. Distances can also vary by gender, age, and personal preferences. Reading body language and observing reactions are the best way to determine the best distances.


[i]             “What Is Paralanguage?” www.work911.com/communication/nonverbparalanguage.htm.
[ii]             Patricia Ball, “Watch What You Don’t Say,” www.speaking.com/articles_html/PatriciaBall,CSP,CPAE_592.html.
[iii]             Mike Sheppard, “Proxemics,” www.cs.unm.edu/~sheppard/proxemics.htm.

Business Success: Economic Impact on Communication

The highly technical and global nature of business today presents specific communication challenges. Many companies are hiring top technical and business talent from around the globe and equipping them to work virtually to save on travel. This section discusses some of the challenges confronted by the style of communication and the changing nature of the workforce.

business_success_Computer-Enabled Communication

In today’s global economy, many companies are using technology to hold virtual meetings and trainings. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is the term for using computers to interact through the Internet. CMC comes in many forms, including electronic mail (e-mail), chat rooms, instant messaging, electronic bulletin boards, list-servs, as well as audio and videoconferencing.

A net conference is a conference that is “electronically mediated by networked computers.” Teleconferences are very common applications in companies using Business Intelligence. Video capabilities to share documents are common.

There are some challenges to virtual meetings for obvious reasons. It is not possible for participants to read others’ facial expressions and body language. This fact may limit communication or make some participants less comfortable.  Ease with virtual meetings develops over time. A well-trained moderator can greatly enhance the experience.

Communication Challenges for the Technical Professional

In an organization that is Business Intelligence intensive, the largest or fastest-growing sector of the workforce tends to be technical professionals. For a majority of technical professionals, communication in general and with nontechnical people in particular can be difficult, given their specialized education and linear style of thinking. In addition, the influx of persons from other cultures has added to the challenges of effective communication.
The technical skills of a professional are very important to the organization. But the skills to communicate results, explain concepts and concerns, and engage in dialogue with nontechnical workers are equally important. Therefore, it is useful to have a balance of both the technical skills and interpersonal skills.

Technical professionals tend to be task oriented than people oriented. If their focus is on precision and solution, with little concern for dealing with various perceptions or emotional reactions, the true value of their research or analysis may never generate value. At some point, the information must be sold to the business decision makers.

Another challenge is the potential complexity of findings, which may be hard to translate into everyday business language. The ramifications of this complexity of findings on the functioning of a team, department, or organization may be significant, resulting in the loss of the value of the work and the worker.

There may be a desire to overanalyze, seeking higher complexity or perfection. The best analysis may be the one that is simpler and easier to communicate and therefore implement.
Liz Haggerty, program manager for business and manufacturing-process improvements for the Carrier Corporation in Hartford, Connecticut, commented on the importance of communication for scientific and technical professionals:

Scientific and technical professionals need to understand business. We all need to be cognizant of the fact that there are many aspects of business, finance, and marketing that have an impact on what we are doing in our chosen field. We must understand that many people think differently than we do, and we must expose ourselves to different types of training that will help us to communicate more effectively, do a better job of accepting and receiving criticism, and giving feedback to others. We must help scientific and technical professionals see how they fit into the big picture. Training on understanding other and increasing communication effectiveness can be very helpful in broadening the skills of those of us in these professional areas. This is especially critical for those who have ambitions to move up in the organization.

Come back for more business intelligence and change management focused blogs by The OLIVIAGroup! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. 

Business Success Skills: High Quality Relationships

High-quality relationships are the lifeblood of an organization that seeks to leverage complexity and emergent knowledge. Once a set of solid communication practices are in place, relationships begin to form. To use these relationships effectively, however, the dissemination of crucial information, such as the goals of the business and the knowledge needed to attain those goals, is essential. As relationships form through effective communication practices, a culture of mutual respect will emerge.business_relationship

Shared Goals

Traditionally, goals are shared within functional teams. The overall goals of the organization, however, are less well known. In an organization with a highly interdependent framework, each member of the organization must focus on the overall goal. Since the framework is designed to allow structure and process to emerge, the shared goal of the organization is the unifying force that empowers that emergence.

Shared Knowledge

Sharing knowledge goes hand in hand with shared goals for any organization using a highly interdependent framework. Knowledge shared between teams from different functional backgrounds creates connections that foster cross-functional support while reducing competition and conflict.

Mutual Respect

Highly interdependent organizations thrive on mutual respect. Effective communication practices as well as shared knowledge and goals go a long way to create a culture of mutual respect. Within a respectful dialogue, differences in opinions unleash energy and creativity. Problems are minimized when the involved parties feel respected. This behavior is best learned by watching those in positions of power.

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Business Success: High Quality Communications

High-quality communication comes in many forms, all of which play an important role.business leadership

Frequent Communication

Effective communication is necessary to exchange information in highly interdependent organizations. Frequent communications are important for building familiarity and trust, which leads to increased sensitivity and responsiveness.

Timely Communication

Organizations that thrive on turning information into knowledge understand that timing is everything. As speed to respond has grown in importance, delays can lead to waste and increased costs. Timely communication facilitates the smooth transition of information in highly interdependent organizations.

Accurate Communication

In an information-driven economy, accurate communication is essential. However, as an integral part of relational coordination, accuracy often suffers when organizations become more complex and greater speed is encouraged. Business Intelligence systems provide a solid framework to ensure accuracy.

Problem-Solving Communication

Highly interdependent organizational processes can run flawlessly until a problem arises. However, when members of these complex organizations face problems and are not skilled in dealing with them, conflict often arises, leading to blame and loss of communication. Organizations that focus on developing communication skills will benefit from the increased contacts and depth of connection.

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Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival: Part II

In Information Revolution, Jim Davis, Gloria J. Miller, and Allan Russell discuss the

message-in-a-bottle “Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival.” Each reality illuminates the need for new business models as well as styles of leadership. Here is Part II.

Business Reality 4: The Only Constant Is Permanent Volatility

This is a common theme but bears repeating: The company that is most agile and adaptable will gain and maintain a competitive advantage. Instead of just relying on past results to predict the future, companies need to tap into current trends through social networking, Web analysis, and employee feedback.

Business Reality 5: Globalization Helps and Hurts

Globalization presents many advantages, especially to small companies seeking a worldwide presence. Any company that is connected to the Web can strategically partner, outsource, or insource with relative ease. The downside is increased complexity when dealing with international languages, standards, and cultures. Strong communication skills are essential for navigating this terrain.

Business Reality 6: The Penalties of Not Knowing Are Harsher than Ever

In the new era of billion-dollar corporate scandals, personal accountability at the highest levels is not only prudent, it is now legally mandated. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was designed to systematize ethical behavior. In addition to the need for strong, honest leadership, information systems to handle this complex business data are essential.

Business Reality 7: Information Is Not a By-Product of Business; It Is the Lifeblood of Business

The seventh business reality is a direct result of the first six. Due to shrinking business cycles, level playing fields, changing rules, volatility, globalization, and the cost of ignorance, information has become the lifeblood of many businesses. Today, accurate, accessible, actionable information is necessary to compete in the global economy. There are strong pressures to achieve more results while spending less time and money. Companies need up-to-the-minute information about their customers, suppliers, competitors, and markets.

These realities also point to the need for new business models as well as for visionary leadership. With the complexity of business today, decisioning throughout the entire organization has to operate like a well-oiled machine. The sections to come expand on optimal organizational structures as well as the core competencies, or success factors, necessary to operate at this level.

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Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival: Part I

In Information Revolution, Jim Davis, Gloria J. Miller, and Allan Russell discuss the “Seven Realities that Jeopardize Business Survival.”[i] Each reality illuminates the need for new business models as well as styles of leadership. business_survival_life_ring

Business Reality 1: Business Cycles Are Shrinking

In today’s Web-enabled economy, speed within all parts of the business model is the great differentiator. To accommodate changing markets and consumer preferences, product development and testing that used to take years has been shrunk to months or even weeks. Today, the first to market often enjoys the competitive edge.

This shortened cycle challenges managers to make decisions with less time for consideration or analysis. As a result, they must depend on a combination of accurate, actionable information and intuition. And their decision must be in alignment with the overall strategy of the company.

Business Reality 2: You Can Only Squeeze So Much Juice Out of an Orange

The goal of improving operational efficiency drove a majority of the investment in the last decade. Initially the returns were high and provided a competitive advantage. However, now that enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is available, the field has been leveled. The next step is greater innovation and agility.

Business Reality 3: The Rules Have Changed; There Is No More “Business as Usual”

The days of following a typical path to business success are over. The same factors apply: profitability, customer satisfaction, stakeholder value, and competition. However, the path to success is very different and is fraught with new challenges:

  • Mergers and acquisitions have hindered agility and cohesiveness.
  • Productivity advancements have increased expectations from both customers and management.
  • Advancements in IT have overwhelmed the abilities of some companies to manage and leverage the knowledge.
  • The technologies that were introduced as the key to success often failed because the human issues were overlooked.

Stay Tuned for Part II and come back for more business intelligence and change management focused blogs by The OLIVIAGroup! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed at the right of the page to subscribe.

Visit www.OLIVIAGroup.com to learn more about Business Intelligence and hiring Olivia Parr Rud for your next conference!

 


[i]             Jim Davis, Gloria J. Miller, Allan Russell, Information Revolution (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006), xv.

Business Success: Morphing Current Businesses

Business Success: Morphing Current Businesses

Many traditional businesses are adapting their business models based on customer behavior. Amazon.com, the online bookseller, has grown into an Internet giant while many brick-and-mortar bookstores have closed. The publishing world has seen a change as authors enter the market independently using print-on-demand services.new-business-model

Many small businesses are now gaining access to world markets. And larger, more established retail businesses, especially those with a traditional catalog presence, are creating sophisticated shopping experiences for their customers on the Web.[i]

Why are Amazon.com, Lexus, and Disney partnering with lesser-known online companies to sell products? According to Wiredmagazine’s Ian Mount, the large companies are moving toward the manufacturing-as-a-service model to stay competitive. It has become necessary to compete with the small entrepreneurs who are producing and distributing products on demand. The production of products has become a commodity.  Because of the low cost of entry, anyone with a good idea can compete in this market.

New businesses that leverage this model are popping up everywhere, and many have global reach. Jeffrey Wegesin, a furniture designer, advertises his designs on the Web. Upon receiving an order, he contracts with an on-demand manufacturing service in New Zealand to create and ship each piece. He has no inventory or other up-front costs. His business is pure profit.

Designers of clothing, jewelry, robots, you name it! The model is inherently charming because of its efficiency and simplicity. Individual musicians and authors can market their goods without any up-front investment. With little more than a product idea and a good design, anyone can become an instapreneur.[ii]

Come back for more business intelligence and change management focused blogs by The OLIVIAGroup! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed to subscribe.
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[i]             Bradley and Nolan, Capturing Value in the Network Era, 7-8

[ii]             Ian Mount, “Upside of the Downturn: 5. The Rise of the Instapreneur: Manufacture and Sell Anything in Minutes,” Wired (April 2008), 129

Modeling Innovation With Business Intelligence

In today’s global, digital economy, companies that excel at innovation and speed to market unquestionably have competitive edges. Small companies have an inherent advantage. The challenge is for larger companies, especially those that have been around for a while. Think Google or Apple vs. IBM or HP. It’s not that IBM and HP aren’t innovative at times, but Google and Apple are known for their innovation. So what makes them different?

For companies to be innovative, they must be highly adaptable. This may sound simple, but several characteristics of an adaptable company can be modeled. One characteristic is a well designed enterprise business intelligence solution.data_mining

I really like the model put forth by Jim Davis, Gloria Miller, and Allan Russell in Information Revolution: Using the Information Revolution Model to Grow Your Business. In this book, they propose four dimensions to consider when evaluating your organization’s ability to leverage information:

  1. Infrastructure. This dimension addresses all the software, hardware, and networking tools and technologies that support every phase of the information process. The assessment, purchase, implementation, and use of these components must be part of the overall business intelligence strategy. This requires an effective communications process to ensure that everyone’s needs are considered, and that all decisions are optimized at the organizational level.
  2. Knowledge process. This focuses on the strategic as well as specific uses of the information infrastructure. This includes the policies, best-practices, standards, and governance of all aspects of the information cycle, as well as the performance metrics, reward systems, and commitment to strategic use of information at the highest levels of the organization. For this dimension to operate smoothly, a cohesive, collaborative leadership team is essential.
  3. Human capital. This focuses on the importance of assessing and developing all team members to their highest potential. An inherent organizational wisdom is unveiled and leveraged for maximum innovation and adaptability through the skill development and nurturing of employees.
  4. Culture. This focuses on how your organization positions information as a long-term strategic asset. Specifically, it addresses the interaction between organizational and human influences as it relates to information flow. This includes the moral, social, and behavioral norms of corporate culture as evidenced by the attitudes, belief, and priorities of its members. This requires effective communication skills and an ethos of trust.

Evaluating an organization on these four dimensions highlights a shift in our view of business intelligence. Until very recently, organizations thought of BI strictly as a technology issue. This is the underlying reason for most BI failures. The power of the model proposed by Davis, Miller, and Russell is its holistic focus on the impact and relevance of these important dimensions on all aspects of an organization.

Come back for more business intelligence and change management focused blogs by The OLIVIAGroup! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed at the right of the page to subscribe.

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