Effective Communication in the Workplace

Communication takes place every day in the workplace. It happens through different channels and scenarios. You could be emailing your superior, sharing a joke with your fellow colleagues or even an informal chance meeting with your company CEO at the lift lobby. The diverse avenues in which communication takes place creates challenges as each situation may require a tailored type of communication method. So how do we become all rounders in communication at the workplace?

The first and most important thing is to be able to read situation accurately and expertly. This is the first and most important step. We have to be able to differentiate that a work conversation with your best buddy at work is very different from a chance conversation with your CEO. The easiest way to differentiate is by your positional difference. A more formal and professional tone has to be used when speaking and communicating with a person of higher position and authority. Conversely, a less formal tone can work in the workplace for colleagues who are at your level. This common sense approach works and is relatively fool-proof.

Secondly, conversations at the workplace have to be clear and concise. The workplace is often an hectic and fast-paced environment. This means that many things are going on at each points of time. Clarity in the content communicated is highly important as it eliminates the probability of misunderstandings due to wrong interpretations of your messages. You do not want to send out an email which contains a high amount of ambiguity. It would lead to the need to clarify which slows down the entire process and also tarnish your reputation as an effective worker. One big misconception that people have is that they have to use big and bombastic words in their written communication. This leads to misunderstandings especially if the person’s command of English is not strong. Short and direct words bring across points clearly. A short email with clear language is much better than an email that is long and unclear in its message. If you want to be an effective communicator in the workplace, always remember to be clear and understandable in all forms of communication.

Professional communication can and should be personable at the same time. Often, people focus too much on the professional part when communicating that they tend to sound distant and uncaring. This leads to negative impressions being formed as people view your communication as merely a means of work and getting the job done. We should not forget that communication is an act being two human beings. As humans, we often crave for personal affinity as we communicate with others. Favourable impressions are also formed of people who we deem to be more personable. Would you rather do a favour for the guy who communicates like a robot or would you rather help someone who has a personal touch when talking to you? The answer is clear. Therefore, never forget what a difference a personal touch can make in creating effective communication.

Communication in the workplace is diverse. However if we manage to integrate our accurate reading of the situation with clear, effective and personable communication, we will well be on the road to be an effective communicator at the workplace.

Situational Leadership: Adapt to Lead Effectively

There are many school of thoughts on what is the best form of leadership. Some proponents state authoritative leadership is the way forward to command respect and push your followers to greater efficiency. On the flip side, there are ardent supporters of coaching leadership with the emphasis on growth and development. There are many more other styles of leadership that are highlighted such as coercive, afflictive,  democratic and pacesetting. With all these theories floating around, we often lose track of what actually defines great leadership. It is not defined by a singular method but rather, is measured through the successes of the group that is being lead.

Additionally, there is rarely a one fit method for successful leadership. What may work for one leader and his followers would likely not work for another leader and his followers. This is due to the a multiple of factors such as the company’s culture, individual personalities and also situational aspects. Essentially, the point is that the type of leadership has to be adapted to suit the situation to achieve the best possible results. This brings us to today’s key topic; Situational Leadership.

What is situational leadership? The idea is basically that the type of leadership applied should depend on your followers’ level of ability and willingness. There are three steps to situational leadership. Firstly, one has to assess the situation at hand and identify what are the most crucial tasks to be completed. The tasks can be seen as the end goals and thus like what we know about goal setting, these tasks have to be S.M.A.R.T.


First Step: S.M.A.R.T Goals

After these goals are set. One has to measure the ability of your followers against these set goals. The level of competence that your followers have towards the completion of these goals will decide the amount of directive behaviour that you would display.

The next aspect to be considered is the willingness of your followers to achieve these goals. The willingness aspect will correlate with the amount of supportive behaviour that the leader would need to display.

Situational Leadership Model

The willingness level will work in tandem with the ability level in determining the four main types of leaderships that are best suited for each of these situations. They are Supporting, Coaching, Empowering and Directing respectively.

The model states that if your followers have high competence and high commitment, you should adopt an empowering style of leadership. This sounds logical as with a greater ability and also willingness to act on that ability, the leader should provide some level of autonomy so as not to stifle his followers.

Following, the model also states that coaching leadership is more suitable in the cases where followers have some competence and commitment. Next, supportive leadership should be displayed in cases where there is high competence and low commitment. Lastly, directing leadership should be applied where commitment is high but competence is low.

These styles of leaderships in the Situational leadership model essentially showcase that there is not a one single leadership style to suit your followers. It is important to first look at who are your followers specifically their strengths and weaknesses. Situtational leadership’s emphasis on the situational factors allows a better evaluation of which leadership style to adopt.






The Best Company Culture?

Culture’s importance in improving a company’s ability to retain its employees, enhance its reputation, increase productivity and quality has led to the commonly agreed viewpoint that a company’s culture to important to its continual existence and success. The recognised importance of culture has now brought about the next question, what are the best cultural norms and forms for an organisation to follow?

In my opinion, there is no one standard template for culture for companies to take on. Despite the consistent successes of Google in being seen as having the most desirable company culture, it should not serve as the de-facto model for all companies. The best culture for a company should be dependent on its industry, company structure, the profile of its employees, country and customer context.

For instance, Google provides its employees with a great amount of independence. The profile of its employees are also such that they are highly motivated individuals who greatly value the aspect of independence and more flexibility work structures or arrangements. This aspect of independence may serve Google well but may not be an optimal cultural aspect in a construction company. The essence of the construction industry relies on teamwork constantly due to its physical nature compared to the intellect-focused jobs of Google. This implies that a culture of dependency would be more aligned to its purposes. Can you imagine the scenario if construction workers are given the liberty to work from home? There would be buildings left incomplete or in ruins and it would result in detrimental results for the company’s productivity and quality.

Google’s Culture for Everyone?

The culture of a company should also be shaped by the cultural factors of the country in which it is situated in. The cultural aspect of having a low power distance in companies like Facebook is shaped not only by their industry but also because of their origins in America. Given that the founders and employees of USA are influenced by American culture, the American preference for lower power distance is also imported to their workplace. This parallel between company and country culture usually creates a more conducive environment as employees tend to be more comfortable when in contact with familiar aspects of culture. Conversely, if Facebook was to set up operations in a high power distance country like India, the company culture of low power distance may not be the most optimal for Facebook India. While a company’s culture is important, the country’s culture and in relation to that, its employees’ cultural norms also has to be taken into account to create a suitable cultural environment. Facebook India may have to adapt its cultural orientation to a middle power distance to achieve a better assimilation of company and country’s culture.

Balancing Company vs Country Culture.

Lastly, a company’s customers also determine the aspects of culture that should be incorporated. Starbucks prides itself on its relatively informal culture despite its immensely large organisational size. The reason for its informal culture within the organisation is due to the need for highly informal and fun interactions during contact with customers at its coffee shops. If a company’s customers demand a more formal approach, especially in the case of business-to-business markets, it is likely to influence the company’s culture to be more formal. Thus, customers play an important role to define the type of culture a company should shape.

Starbucks’ Culture and its Customers

In conclusion, there is no one best fit for a company’s culture. Each company is unique in its internal and environmental factors and these should be taken into when shaping its culture. A custom-fitted and designed culture is the best culture for a company.