Sunday, October 28, 2012

Communication Styles and Family Systems, All a Matter of Every Day Business? How Coaching Can Improve Your Small Business

A year ago I had the great pleasure of working with the leadership team of a small, progressively run, manufacturing company. The following is from an email response to a final assessment I requested from the CEO.

The primary goal, set early in my preliminary work with the CEO, was to open and facilitate communication between the four men on the leadership team. Our conversations primarily revolved around improved communication flow and efficiency. Once established and practiced by the leadership team the hope was that it would “spill over” into the way communication was handled in the workplace in general. We identified this workplace as a good place to work and do business, with a great product and an efficient system of production and delivery. It was a good company that wanted to be better.

To the CEO the most difficult aspect of running the workplace had become the varying interpersonal styles of those involved. He was frustrated by how different personalities meshed and created friction, impacting productivity and morale. The CEO ( who preferred to remain anonymous for this presentation of our work together) often repeated that he felt very competent in running the business end of the operation, and he felt he had an excellent crew, but he felt out of his element and his ability to be patient when it came to the interpersonal aspects of problem-solving and interacting with his partners and workers.

This is a family-owned and run business, and the size of the workforce is also family-sized, so our discussions often revolved around how family systems and small business systems function similarly. It was made clear that the stress was on a self-improvement strategy and NOT therapy. We worked on educating and empowering the leadership team in ways to self-identify communication styles and how to more seamlessly interact with those who have different ways of communication. We discussed identifying how people inadvertently bring their own family roles into the workplace, particularly in the unavoidable periods of increased stress and duress. Basic systems theory as well as psycho-education about communication styles was provided and integrated into our sessions to assist in making each person responsible for self- identifying potential friction points. In this way each person in the operation could become more adept at facilitating less problematic communication in the shop as well as implementing ways to fold in acknowledgement and incentive at all levels of the operation.

Another result of our work was a more fine-tuned tool to define roles and job descriptions in all levels of the operation. This was helpful in maintaining the informal and essentially non-hierarchical nature of the vision the owners had about how their shop should function by reinforcing and defining limits of roles and how they interfaced and overlapped in the day-to-day functioning of the workplace. The concrete result was a more practical and less subjective way of measuring on-the-job performance and expectation.

The aspect of this work that was most satisfying, I think, was the degree of self-motivation and pride I witnessed over the course of the year I worked with this company. I was also proud to work for a leadership team that was so concerned with the whole-person well-being of its workers. In spite of the CEO’s concern about his own feelings of inadequacy in dealing with the interpersonal aspects of his company, his desire was clearly focused on making his shop a pleasant and productive place to work where everyone could feel like a productive and important part of the whole operation.


 - I’m definitely glad that we went through the exercise of meeting with you several times in order to better understand communication issues and how they relate to our company on a day to day basis.

- As a direct result of working with you I have a much better understanding of my own personal communication style and how it can positively and/or negatively affect the success/outcome of any communication.  My personal communication style has changed some…  it may have become even a bit more direct as before, but also a bit more calculated and with a different tone if possible and appropriate. 

- By the way, “YES” our first annual, formal and documented performance reviews were conducted as a direct result of our working together.  It seemed to be the best way to convey to our employees that management believes that poor communication is a problem at our company and often the root cause of interpersonal relationship issues and conflicts.   Though it took most employees by surprise, when presented with specific instances and examples, I think they kind of got the point.  Furthermore, I can definitely see a significant improvement in everyone’s efforts to communicate more/better.

- The biggest most positive change by far, I see in my brother [a co-owner of the business and a co-member of leadership and ownership team]. Not necessarily from a communication standpoint but more on a personal level.  He appears to be more actively engaged and interested in being part of the company’s ownership team and seems to have grasped the concept that as long as he does something productive he feels better about himself and as part of our operation.  (Priceless)

We will continue to monitor and evaluate communication and will definitely call upon your services if we deem it necessary to take additional steps to improve communication within our plant or if poor communication continues to lead to problem situations.

Thanks and Kind Regards…..”


Iris Arenson-Fuller said...

It sounds like you did an excellent job! This might be well suited to go out iin a flyer or an email to your mailing list.

Bob Vance said...
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