The Rules Of Engagement

The effectiveness of our communication is in the response we get. I’ve noticed despite having the right intentions, our intent can be completely misread when communicated poorly and we will often experience resistance to our goals and ideas.

Have you ever…

- Tried to introduce someone new to your team over a teleconference -- did it go the way you planned?

- Tried to sell your idea and been met with a wall of resistance?

- Replied back to an email regarding a delicate issue that had the potential to backfire if not worded correctly? i.e. giving someone feedback over email?!

- Sent a message to somebody and couldn’t tell whether they understood what you meant? Or maybe you have had someone over-analyze your exclamation marks and CAPS and took it to mean that you were upset, annoyed or angry with them?!

- Had a joke go wrong and mistakenly perceived as an attack to an individual’s sense of status?

Challenges Of Communicating In The 21st Century

Text messages, emails and social media are all relatively new to our way of communicating. The rise of technology promotes challenges in the way we read and understand individual’s intentions when communicating. This occurs because of little nerve cells in our brains called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons help us make sense of people’s thoughts, feelings and intentions.

Without the social cues of body language, facial expressions and/or tone of voice, there is an ever increasing rise in social blunders, especially in the workplace which in turn decreases our ability to collaborate effectively. If these blunders are taken personally by an individual and not clarified by the communicator, the individual will save this experience and lock it away in their memory bank, also known as our hippocampus- the brains memory centre.

Because the hippocampus is a part of the limbic system, our brains emotional network, we tend to classify these experiences as a toward (positive) or away (negative) experience or similarly, a friend (I trust you) or foe (avoid this person). This begins a downhill battle and our threat response increases. Improving cohesiveness and collaboration within our teams becomes a challenge and it often becomes ‘us’ versus ‘them’. If you are the leader or a team you can easily be perceived as a foe subconsciously. When anyone deems a leader or colleague as a foe they will focus almost exclusively on dealing with the threat (i.e. creating resistance, lashing out or holding grudges) rather than the goals at hand (i.e. working together, sharing ideas and creating high levels of commitment). This stems from our biology, we dealt with the threat of a predator first before having a reward of eating our next meal.

Reducing Threats In The Workplace

The rules of engagement for successful collaboration and reducing misinterpretation of our communication vary from platform to platform.

Regardless of the communication medium, to illicit successful collaboration it is important to be aware that individuals who are new to a team or leaders that have been newly promoted to their role must work hard to create a sense of relatedness by connecting on a human level (personal rather than just business) first and always.

While our efforts to create successful teamwork may have been a lot simpler before technology arose, minimizing the threat responses in an age of teleconferences, email and social media is crucial to building healthy and happy teams…

I would love to hear your thoughts, what challenges have you encountered communicating with your staff or teams?

For more solutions to how leaders can communicate to drive productivity and engagement and how to address this through leadership behaviour including; reward and communication systems, communication flow, and remuneration structures contact Ben today.


Benjamin Young

Speaker | Coach | Trainer | at Job Performance Coaching & Training

I help executives, managers & team leaders to influence human behaviour and in essence get more out of individuals and teams in terms of execution and results, sustainably. I help both leaders and employees improve excellence, energy & productivity in the workplace. I do this by teaching three specific skill sets: 1. Dealing with having too much to do 2. Staying cool under pressure 3. Influencing Behaviour -(Presenteeism, Absenteeism, Underperforming staff, Constructive Feedback)

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