Guest post from Dr Alan Watkins:
Organisations are collections of human beings and the success of our businesses are grounded in our relationships with each other and with our customers. Successful relationships require a multi-dimensional approach.
Unfortunately too many leaders today are one-dimensional. They are so preoccupied with what they need to do (the IT dimension) that they often fail to pay sufficient attention to themselves (the I dimension) or their relationships (the WE dimension) that ultimately drive performance.
The best leaders operate well in all three dimensions and they recognise that they also need to develop in the fourth dimension, which is their level of sophistication in the I, WE and IT dimensions.
Start with being (the I dimension)
Our ability to build successful relationships is entirely dependent on the sophistication of our interior landscape and our ability to regulate our own emotional state.
Unless you are an Oscar-winning actor, you will not be able to hide how you are really feeling at any point. How you feel is ultimately determined by your biology. If you’re anxious, your heart will be racing. When your heart beats fast, that biological signal is actually radiated off the body. Your colleagues may not have an ECG machine to know for sure, but they will notice an inconsistency between what you’re saying and the biological signals your body is emitting.
Getting into the right emotional state means taking control of your biology. We can only sustain confidence in the face of pressure if our biology actually supports this state. Such biological consistency is the ultimate level of ‘authentic leadership’. Inspiring confidence, something critical to successful business relationships, is much easier when we shift ourselves into a genuine state of inner biological confidence. Our emotional state completely changes our ability to think clearly and build high quality relationships.
Move on to relating (the WE dimension)
Once you are more aware of how you are being and are able to control your emotional state, you will find building successful relationships comes much easier. But relating to others successfully means really listening and hearing what people mean rather than what they are saying.
Think about a conversation you’ve had recently. Can you say you were really listening to the other person? Did you pick up on the tone, body language and subtle nuance of their communication? Unfortunately, communication for most people is a combination of talking and waiting to speak.
Instead, if we cultivate a fascination in what the other person means, not just what they are saying we can connect much more effectively with them. In such a condition, we can make people feel heard, and ‘seen’. Creating such a dynamic based on warmth and appreciation rather than indifference or judgmentalism will put the speaker more at ease and they will open up more.
Once the speaker has stopped their transmission, you can playback what they really meant at the deeper level rather than just repeating every word they said. You are not trying to simply summarise what they said or even offer an, opinion, solution, counterargument, reaction or interpretation. Rather you are simply reflecting back what you feel the speaker meant – the deeper meaning beneath the literal spoken words.
Successful business relationships come not from doing more things, but through a better understanding of ourselves and how we relate to others.
Dr. Alan Watkins is CEO and Founder of Complete Coherence. Both physician and neuroscientist, he has been a coach to many top CEOs and business leaders for over 15 years. He is also the author of Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership and 4D Leadership: Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development (both published by Kogan Page).