Published date: June 28, 2017
Last modified: February 10, 2020

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to respond.

Unlike in any other form of communication, concentration while listening is the hardest to achieve. However, there are habits you can create so that you can listen conscientiously and build on conversations to the benefit of all participants.


1 Lend your ear out of curiosity, not generosity.

When you listen as a favour, you’re no really open to embrace new perspectives or to be proven wrong. So, you’re not gaining much, except for an inflated ego maybe (since you’ve been so generous).

Being curious conveys genuine interest and intent, which stimulate your interlocutor to elaborate and share more. Asking questions not only prevents you from falling into the trap of wild guesses and mind reading, but also builds a deeper feeling of engagement and cements the story in the minds of all participants.

So, you should ask open-ended questions like “How did that make you feel?”. As you’re requesting clarification, your interlocutor will be more likely to express deeper attitudes that will otherwise remain silent in the background.

Also, you should make sure you ask more questions than you give answers. This implies that you pay attention to your talk/listen ratio. This is something you might find hard to observe in the beginning, but you can start by marking down your interventions vs. those of your interlocutors on a piece of paper.

2 Repeat back, it’s called active listening.

In spite of their aim to bring clarity, conversations sometimes lead to misunderstandings. That’s because people’s ability to understand accurately what someone is saying is frequently hindered by interruptions, distractions preconceived ideas, egos and so on.

To put it simply, your power of understanding starts with your ability to listen. It builds on curiosity, patience, and empathy – skills which you cannot develop overnight; they take time time and determination. However, you can start with a simple exercise called active listening. It’s pretty basic: repeat back to the person talking what you heard. It helps you ensure that you really heard what they intended. At the same time, it shows you’re interested in what is being said.

With a simple question like “If I understood correctly, you said that…, didn’t you?” or small request “Could you repeat that, please?”, the person talking has a chance to revisit their story, reword statements, and clear confusion, while you remember better.

Active listening creates an opportunity for mutual understanding. Because you’re no longer working with assumptions, you’re dealing with certainties. Imagine how effective meetings would be, if team members resorted more often to active listening.

3 Show non-verbal encouragement.

You need to show your interlocutor that you’re listening.

Sometimes, asking too many questions will break the conversation, in spite of proving you’re genuinely interested in what is being said. However, you can still indicate that you’re paying attention through less intrusive gestures. It can be anything from maintaining eye contact to a reassuring head nod or a friendly “mmmm” or “uh-huh” utterance.

4 First listen through, then think of your response.

As hard as it you may find it, you need to let the other person finish their message before you respond. When you’re already thinking of an answer while your interlocutor is still speaking, you actually stop listening and miss out on the complete information that is being delivered.

Other than that, if you’re already assuming what the other person is thinking, you’re actually inclined to accept only information that confirms your preconceived opinions. It’s hard not to make assumptions, but it’s better to check them out loud when your interlocutor is done talking.

5 Refrain from moralizing or passing judgments.

It’s not easy to let the other person talk all the way through, especially when opinions and beliefs clash. But the thing is, when you interrupt someone to label or to argue against what they’re saying, you’re shutting yourself down. When you’re too attached to your knowledge and experience, you’re missing important messages that might reveal a different perspective and teach you new things.

You should also consider that some truths are hard to tell; they require effort and courage. As you cut off your interlocutor to openly express your surprise, shock or fear, you’re inadvertently altering their message. Because your poignant reactions will most likely prompt them to adjust the heart of the matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to avoid conflict or distress, or simply to keep themselves in the comfort zone. They are likely to get emotional, to the detriment of the conversation and their own state of mind.

The outcome: they might keep essential/enlightening information from you, they might avoid talking openly to you in the future, they might resent you, whereas you will miss a chance to learn something new.

As hard as you might find it to let the other person talk, show some empathy. Even if you disagree, suspend your judgment until they’ve walked you through their experience. Put yourself in their shoes, see things from their perspective first and then share yours. You will be surprised at the things you might learn.

A short note for the impatient

Every time you hear yourself more often than the others, you’re not exactly making conversation. You’re doing personal broadcasting. While your audience might learn something from your monologue, you will hardly gain anything from them. Because they won’t have a chance to speak up, and information-wise you’re not really accumulating much.

The imbalanced talk:listen ratio makes the exchange of experience and knowledge unfair. An ideal ratio is 2:1. That’s what you should aim for.

On the other hand, becoming a better listener takes practice and patience. And, if patience is not exactly your strongest point, you can try a quick formula coined by Julian Treasure, sound consultant and author of “Sound Business.” In one of his TED Talks on sound, Treasure recommends a simple technique that you can easily try in both your personal and work conversations. It’s called RASA.

The acronym, which in Sanskrit is a word in itself and means “essence”, is the abbreviation of the following recommendations:

  • “RECEIVE” – pay attention to the person talking;
  • “APPRECIATE” – make little noises like “hmmm’, “oh”, “OK”;
  • “SUMMARIZE” – use “So” to conclude and signal that you’re listening conscientiously;
  • “ASK” – ask questions afterwards.

Listening is not inaction

We may hear well, but we don’t always use our ears for conscientious listening. And communication, whether in business or personal relationships, depends more on the spoken word than it does on the written word.

The effectiveness of our communication is dependent not only on how we talk, but also on how we listen. To be good listeners, we must resort to skills that we can acquire either through experience or training.

Aside from a series of habits that you can easily create hopefully with a little support from this article, it’s important to see listening not as inaction. Because keeping silent doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not doing anything. It means you’re paying attention, or at least it should.

In fact, listening allows us to do plenty: we show empathy, we allow the conversation to progress, we encourage our interlocutors to share more, we strengthen relationships, we take a big step towards understanding. And the level of mutual understanding is an indicator for the effectiveness of the communication process, which in the end is something we all strive for, whether at work or in our personal lives.

Taken from original text from Emilia Bratu in Teamwork

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Published date: June 22, 2017
Last modified: June 22, 2017

8 reasons why behaviour is important

There are a number of factors underlying behaviour: personality, motivation, values, abilities and environment, to name a few. So why measure behaviour in particular?

1.   It can change.

Personality is fixed and unlikely to change, so it makes sense to focus our efforts at the point where changes can be made: our behaviour. Since behaviour is within our locus of control, affirmative feedback on behaviour offers a positive lead for personal development, showing where and how we can adapt to meet the needs of a particular situation or job role.

2.   It can be observed.

Personality is what’s on the inside; behaviour is what comes out, and it affects – and is affected by – those around us. Measuring behaviour allows us to focus on the words and actions which shape our interactions with others. Arguably, we aren’t experts on someone else’s personality – we don’t know what’s going on “behind the scenes” – but we can comment on what we can see before us.

By giving and receiving feedback on behaviours within a team, we move to a democratic, evidential process. We can corroborate – or disagree with – one another, and provide evidence of the behaviours in question from our own experience. This can depersonalise difficult conversations and take the heat out of conflicts which might otherwise descend into ad hominemattacks. It can also provide a significant learning opportunity – your observers might uncover strengths you didn’t know you possessed.

3.   It’s situational.

Our behavioural tendencies influence the kinds of work we might be best suited to, and who we work best with. Some people behave very differently at work than they do at home, despite the underlying personality being one and the same. Measuring behaviour in a particular context allows discussion to focus on the workplace, whereas more wide-ranging measurements might muddy the waters.

4.   It’s practical.

Psycometric toos… well they arn’t just a label to apply or a box to put someone in, but they are in a language designed to help people better understand each other. Once people understand the Team Roles and the basic concept behind them, this language can be used as a shorthand to describe how different kinds of work might be approached or what sort of contributions are required at a particular meeting.

5.   It makes individuals and teams tick.

Understanding strengths and weaknesses makes people more engaged, happier and more productive at work, promoting a positive working environment and reducing turnover costs. In 2013, Gallup reported that only 13% of employees were engaged at work. In 2016, their findings showed that teams in the top quartile for engagement outperformed those in the bottom quartile by 21%. In another 2016 study, Harvard Business School outlined the importance of “relational affirmation” in this process: identifying and communicating individual strengths, and using a common language and frame of reference.

6.   It can be predicted.

Since we can observe behaviour, we can predict it too. People may not always behave as we expect in every little way – as human beings, we always possess the capacity to surprise one another – but broadly speaking, we settle into ways of working, communicating and relating to others that can be expected to remain the same over a period of time. This means we can use behavioural styles for recruitment and teambuilding, to suggest whether someone might be a good fit for a particular job role or to join an existing team.

7.   It’s more important than intelligence in predicting success.

“The best way to build a great team is not to select individuals for their smarts or accomplishments but to learn how they communicate and to shape and guide the team so that it follows successful communication patterns.”  – “The New Science of Building Great Teams”, Alex “Sandy” Pentland, April 2012

8.   It can be extrapolated.

Personality comes down to the individual – it’s their outlook on the world. By its very nature, behaviour is more fluid and interconnected with others, so it lends itself naturally to collation. We can aggregate key team role information to design and build teams, or map the behavioural preferences of two individuals to examine how well a partnership might work.

Martin Rafe

Talent Development Director

Join the Dots

Published date: June 19, 2017
Last modified: June 19, 2017

Developing difficult people


“If you don’t give people a reason to kick up they usually don’t,” says Mike Morrison, Director or RapidBI Ltd, who believes that for the most part, taking preventative measures such as showing respect to participants and giving them airtime will stave off any chance of unpleasantness in the training room. However, the difficult participant comes along occasionally, and there’s no single response that works every time.

Often, however, negative, disengaged, or disruptive behaviour is a result of participants not being interested in learning, and only taking part because they’ve been coerced, or because they see the course as a way of getting out of the office and messing around with their friends. Rich Lucas at Supremacy Training, who has written various ezine articles on the subject, categorises these types of participant as the ‘prisoner’ and the ‘timewaster’.

Whatever the cause, trainers agree that the starting point to tackling difficult behaviour in the training room is to try and establish the reason behind it.

Getting it out in the open
One approach is to ask people outright at the start why they are there, says Rich Lucas. This can be enough to break the ice and reduce the tension. After that, you “can ask about ways that you can change their perspective and give them value from the day,” he adds.

Richard Nugelt at Kaizen Training adopts this type of approach when faced with a negative or disengaged participant, and believes there is no such thing as a difficult delegate, only an inflexible facilitator. “If someone is being difficult it means I haven’t met their needs,” he says. “I have a transparent conversation with them about what they need to make the session really valuable to them.” As well as being effective, this strategy is also “a more resourceful place for me to be,” he adds. “If I just stand up there and get pissed off with the person it gives them all the power. If I believe they are being difficult because I haven’t met a need in them it is absolutely in my power to do something about it.”

Karen Drury at fe3 consulting has taken this open approach with an entire group, when conducting a presentation training session with eight senior executives who didn’t think they needed to be trained in presentation skills, and had been instructed to attend. “About ten minutes after walking into the room, I’d realised that most of the people were there under duress and boiling mad about it,” she says. “I decided it would be better to have it all out in the open. Having had their say about the way they’d been coerced into the two days training, how busy they were and how pointless it all was, they seemed to relax slightly, and after a general discussion about the need to make the training as business-focused as possible, they started to participate and respond.”

Having a quiet word
When an individual is rocking the boat, rather than the group being up in arms, a more discreet approach is favoured. “If someone decides not to participate in a way which disrupts the activities, ask them what the problem is, although proibably not in front of the whole group,” says Karen.  Mike Morrison agrees that “pulling people aside and having a quiet word” can work sometimes. Bryan Edwards comments that when giving feedback in private, trainers could try using E.E.C.: “Example of what you observed, Effect of the behaviour on the rest of the group, and Change – what Change would you expect.”

Rich Lucas advises: “Say that you worried about the tension between you and the offender and apologise if you have done anything to upset them, but you don’t want anything to come between the group’s learning and if they could leave any ‘challenges’ to the end/kerb their behaviour… This should do the trick… you’ve marked their card in a nice way and shown that you won’t stand for it.”

The power of peer pressure
Sometimes, pressure from the rest of the group can pull a delegate up short. Mike Morrison witnessed this effect when faced with a disruptive particpant on a two day course who “never got back from a break on time, slowly sauntered in and made sure his entrance had an impact, chatted to people around him, got his phone out and started texting, took a phone call and walked out to answer it.” Mike ignored the behaviour, but found things improved after he set an overnight group activity which the delegate disrupted by leaving early and arriving late. “He got a lot of peer pressure back for that,” says Mike. “By the end of the workshop he came up to me and said how much he’d enjoyed it.”

A strategy used by Bryan Edwards is to set the usual session groundrules – such as no talking over one another; listen to contributions; be positive etc – and put these in full view. “Putting the ground rules on a flipchart and in view for the rest of the workshop can help,” he says. “Certainly if the trainer gets people to agree to the rules, then this can help with self-policing as delegates remind each other of the rules, when abused.”

Karen Drury adds that if someone objects to what she’s saying or disagrees with the training content, she asks the views of the rest of the group. “Often peer pressure can make them behave – or at least shut up for a while to give you a breather! Negative behaviour is also something I’d ask the group to ‘leaven’ by asking if everyone felt that way; quite often the group itself will try and ‘jolly’ the individual along.”

The last resort
“If a delegate decides the training is not going to be valuable to them, even after we’ve discussed the ways we can try to make it useful, then I give them the opportunity to leave,” says Richard Nugent.

Karen Drury also regards this as a final option if trying to engage a difficult delegate hasn’t worked. “If they still don’t participate, and it’s getting to the stage that they’re disrupting the group, as a last resort I have asked people to leave,” she says. “ I’d choose a break on a one-to-one basis, rather than during the training, and never in front of the whole group.”

Mike Morrison has found that this stragegy can actually turn things around. “I once asked someone to leave,” he explains. “I said that they were signed in, and as far as I was concerned they were present all day, so why didn’t they just go. That changed their behaviour. They decided to stay and they stopped playing up.”

More tips from the training room
While the person who doesn’t want to learn may be the trainer’s nemesis, there are other types of challenging behaviour that are encountered from time to time. The trainers we talked to gave us their tips:

“Someone once told me that cynics are just really passionate people who have been hurt too many times before,” says Richard Nugent. “A cynic might just need a bit more evidence or reassurance. I say to a cynic: ‘how can I prove to you that this isn’t just another fad?.’ After that, there is often a shift in their perception of me. They many not believe the company will follow through on it, but they believe that I believe in it. They might then turn into the person who asks the most crucial questions, or becomes totally engaged in the process and acts as a catalyst.”

Dominating the proceedings
“If someone talks too much, don’t look at them (and implicitly invite their comments), but ask others for their views,” says Karen Drury.

A person who appears pedantic may be what Rich Lucas calls a “a specific communicator”, who needs more information than most. “There are two types of a communicator,” says Rich. “A general communicator will take the information on and assimilate it later. On the other hand, you have a specific communicator; these individuals want to know the ins and outs of everything. To us as trainers, they can come across as difficult and pedantic! But this is rarely the case. The best way to engage a specific communicator is to be specific yourself, leave no stone unturned. If you don’t have time for this, do it in the break.”

“I find one of the most difficult behaviours to manage in training is that of shy people, who won’t get involved because they’re afraid to speak up,” says Karen Drury. “I’ve found that putting people into pairs will mean that the shy individual can still participate in activities, but won’t necessarily need to speak up, as the other partner can do so.”

Being forewarned: a two-edged sword
Bryan Edwards believes that being forewarned about someone who could be difficult can help to alleviate problem. “A key aspect for me is whether the difficult behaviour could have been predicted and therefore avoided/coped with better,” he says. “Perhaps the trainer could discuss the delegates and their motivations for attending with the line manager beforehand. Perhaps the manager could do a pre workshop briefing to lower any barriers in people’s minds. Perhaps the delegate’s line manager could hold a 1-1 pre-course meeting to discuss the content and establish some key outcomes with the delegate.”

But being forewarned can be a two-edged sword. “I have been warned in the past that people were going to be difficult, and in about 50% of the cases they were,” says Mike Morrison. “But how much was my reaction to the people causing the problems?” he asks. “I think the trainer’s reaction in this situation could be an issue, particularly with in-house training where people know the personalities involved. In the tape version of the One Minute Manager there is a good example of this: the trainer is expecting a manager to be difficult and they are.”









Published date: June 13, 2017
Last modified: June 13, 2017

Do your customers really feel the difference?

You will know that your customers are the lifeblood of your business, but even so how often do your customers receive poor service, and a poor experience?
  • In a world where customers have so much choice, employers need to engage their people for success by integrating a few simple ‘people’ tactics.
  • It starts with, making sure all of your employees are clear about what your company stands for, what part they play and how their role fits in.
  • Equip and encourage your managers to have and use engaging behaviours to direct and support your employees to do the job they’ve been hired to do.
  • Give your employees at all levels the permission and opportunity to have a voice, asking them for ideas and contributions to deliver what is needed. Act with integrity by sharing your company values and embed these into your performance review processes. Customers and employees will judge you and your company on your values and behaviours, so make sure they’re making the right judgments.
  • Having engaged employees is essential to delivering a great customer experience. It’s not just about face-to-face employees. Everyone throughout the company needs to appreciate that it they are not serving a customer then they are serving someone who is.


Most employees want to do a great job, and to be part of something good, that is known for quality, so as well as an employment contract they should have a psychological contract. Very often the latter is broken before the employee decides to leave or is asked to leave. Also believe that customers aren’t stupid either and they vote with their feet (and wallets) too. Your job as a leader is to bring these two beliefs together to safeguard your business in today’s competitive world.


Published date: June 7, 2017
Last modified: June 7, 2017

Over a third of employees are not ‘actively engaged’ and 14% are ‘actively disengaged’. This has implications on productivity


According to recent research over a third of employees are not ‘actively engaged’ and 14% are ‘actively disengaged’. This has implications on productivity, the morale of the whole workforce and, fundamentally, an organisation’s bottom line.

This represents in the order of 17,600 people per average company feeling disconnected and demotivated – unable (or unwilling) to give their best and often acting as a brake on performance. If ‘actively disengaged’ employees, for example, operate at only 75% of the performance of ‘actively engaged’ employees, that represents in the region of $176 million up in smoke each year – clearly a prize worth fighting for. To solve this glaring issue, employers must first explore the source of disengagement. Does blame rest with the employees or, in part at least, with the organisation?

 A reactive tool?

Many employees start a role ‘actively engaged’, but their early enthusiasm is too often sapped by poor management, barriers to getting the job done, or lack of learning and development. For others, the job and culture fundamentally didn’t fit from the start – ‘active engagement’ never existed.
Whilst the Amazon approach may have some benefits, it seems somewhat of a reactive tool. With the right intervention, these misalignment issues could be managed more effectively earlier in the personnel process, at the point of recruitment and as people on board during the crucial first few months.
Drawing on insights into length of service from our database of employee opinion, an interesting picture emerges. There is little difference in the level of self-motivation between employees in high performing and non-high performing companies. In both there is a honeymoon period, which fades away over the first couple of years before gradually recovering. What is interesting however, is that high performing companies are much more effective at creating an environment that reinforces the self-motivation that already exists. Non-high performing companies on the other hand see a continuous drop in the level of motivation they are able to generate.

The best way to avoid reliance
on a Pay to Quit policy is to ensure effective practices at the earliest possible stage of the recruitment process.  Employers need to consider the following as part of this:

Know what you’re recruiting for and why – Organisations need to look critically at the job they are offering, particularly if it is a reoccurring role and the job description has remained unchanged for a period of time. Organisations change, and these shifts have implications on job roles and the type of individual best suited to succeed in them.

Make the process easy for hiring managers – Allow time-poor line managers to focus their efforts on the most likely applicants by giving them clear assessment guidance and structures. This can include interview training and access to psychometric tests.

Imprint your brand and employee value proposition – Clearly convey what the role entails and give applicants enough information to self-select out of the process if they realise they’re not right for the role.

 Sustaining engagement

Beyond hiring the right people, organisations need to consider how they can sustain the intrinsic motivation of new hires once joined. Hay Group research shows that weak enablement is the enemy of engagement. If an employee does not feel enabled to perform to their best ability and progress in the organisation, they will rapidly become frustrated. To tackle this risk, many organisations are introducing new joiner surveys to obtain structured feedback on the onboarding experience once employees have spent 3-6 months in the role. Such surveys provide an early warning indicator, so that dissatisfaction and frustration can be proactively monitored and addressed.

Only time will tell whether Amazon’s Pay to Quit solution becomes a more widely accepted and adopted management practice. What is clear however is the importance of developing a defined strategy to recruit the right employees, alongside one for gathering and acting on their feedback.
Source- Hay Group research has shown that within the average Fortune 500 company,