In an age where inclusiveness is talked about, but not well executed, and diversity is becoming more real, the ability to communicate is the lubricant in an organisation. It especially impacts accounting and finance professionals, who some people feel speak a different language to the rest of the business, or their clients.
Language is one of the main ways in which culture is expressed. It is also the cause of a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Leaders, managers and other valued team need to develop new levels of confidence and skills so they can break down communication barriers and build the types relationships needed to really connect - making business more about an exchange of ideas and services, instead of just a role description.
This is exactly what Leonie Tillman, the CEO of English for Business (E4B), does. Leonie is an expert in the area of communication, working to break down the barriers that prevent staff from communicating effectively with clients and colleagues. She works with international organisations such as PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Lindt & Sprungli and HSBC to improve their corporate linguistic capacity.
In a fascinating interview with Brad Eisenhuth from the Outperformer, Leonie explored several key areas, including:
- Learning that "culture" is a distraction
- Understanding that focusing on survival will kill you
- Reigniting your fascination and passion through the way you look at your career and role
- How to leverage conflict to achieve
The full interview – which is well worth devoting an hour of your time to – can be accessed by our members via our webinar page. In the meantime, here are just a few of the fascinating areas Leonie covered during our enlightening talk.
Is Culture A Distraction?
Leonie stresses that diversity and inclusion are both desirable and important in any working environment. But she also believes that effective communication transcends cultural barriers. “Ultimately, what flies above diversity and inclusion is the ability to communicate,” she says. And communication is all about reaching out to people and connecting. If we start living in all the silos of differences and diversities, then we lose the ability to connect. Differences are really important, and they’re important to have in the room, but if we focus on the differences, we lose sight of being connected to each other. “
Leonie believes that everyone - whether they’re in Finance, HR, or Admin – approaches a challenge from their own perspective, and that is also a form of diversity. “Diversity gets bogged down in gender and cultural difference,” she says, “but actually, we all have many diversities within us. Are you an only child, did you grow up in the suburbs of a big city, have you lived abroad for a period of time….all these things feed in to who you are. You need to work out what is your objective, as a group, and what is the best outcome, instead of trying to just get the data out there.”
Understanding The Audience
It’s really important, when communicating, to understand who is front of you. Who do you need to reach with what you have to say? Look at where you are, consider the information you want to impart, and then decide how you’re going to impart it.
Leonie’s company has developed a great acronym to help with this – KAN. This stands for Knowledge, Attitude and Need. Knowledge relates to how well you understand what your audience already knows, Attitude refers to the way they’re going to react to what you’re about to tell them - are they going to be reluctantly receiving this information, and will they respond negatively to it, for example. Finally, it’s important to understand the Need of the person or people you’re talking to.
“Conflict is essentially the gap between our needs,” says Leonie.
Constructing A Good Story
Leonie has developed a useful, five-stage method to communicating effectively. “Imparting information is like telling a story,” she says, “and we all like a good story.”
The five stages are:
- Orientation – where does the story begin?
- Interruption/Complication – What is it that interrupts the status quo that starts you off on a journey?
- Chain of events
- Climax of the story
It’s important, stresses Leonie, to make sure you don’t just tell others about the journey you’re on, but that you bring other people along with you, to share it with them.
“Sometimes, this might seem as if you’re trying to influence how someone should feel,” she says, “but it’s actually more a case of creating a space in which people feel confident enough to tell you how they feel.”
She cautions, however, against taking collaborative management too far. “Sometimes people don’t care how you feel,” says Leonie. “They just need you to make a decision and tell them what to do. And that’s fine. As a leader, you need to make decisions - but you can also show a willingness to accept feedback at certain times.”
Survival Is Killing You
We’re all looking for more passion and purpose in our lives. If we’re in survival mode, we simply wake up in the morning and say “I have to go to work,” or “I have to do this.” When you feel as though you don’t have a choice, then you’re living in a poisonous world.
“We always have lots of options, we just close our eyes to them,” says Leonie. “You might not be able to leave a job you’re not enjoying, but what you can do is shift your perspective within the organisation around what your focus is going to be. Could you start communicating differently, or approaching leadership differently? You need to find a way to reframe things. Look at what your bigger goal is. You might not be able to force yourself to love something, but you can choose to find it fascinating.”
Click here to listen to the whole webinar.