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Planning for Individual Excellence

Effectively Communicating Personal Concerns

When people are asked to name the number one problem in their workplace, nine times out of ten, the answer is communication.

There is a delicate balance between accepting responsibility, and over-stepping your boundaries. The goal is for you to find a way to communicate issues that are getting in the way of service excellence.

There is a recommended process for presenting your observations:

  • list the obstacle or barrier or issue,
  • briefly state what it affects,
  • detail any recommendations you have for a solution, and
  • ask for input about what actions you should take next related to these issues.

These recommendations help you to keep your objectivity and prevent your supervisor from thinking you have some hidden agenda. Influence works far better than intimidation.

If you focus on the ways cultural problems are hurting service, and stay away from personal agendas, you can inspire improvements in the service culture.

Planning for Individual Excellence

Just as an organization has a distinct culture, so does each individual department. You may have noticed other areas of an organization seem chaotic, but your department is running smoothly.

A company might not be service-focused, but a single department could still deliver superior service. This department could be called a “pocket of excellence” — its team has developed cultural strength.

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Removing Barriers to Excellence: Initiating Change

Symptoms of a Rigid Organizational Culture

Inflexible or rigid corporate cultures inhibit service excellence. In a rigid cultural environment, employees are not given the authority to directly address customer concerns, there is little communication between senior executives and staff, and extensive paperwork consumes everyone’s time.

In this kind of environment, employees turn inward to tasks they can control rather than deal with customer concerns in an open and empowered manner.

Rigid cultures can prevent a company from competing in the marketplace by destroying customer relationships. In most cases, companies with rigid cultures eventually fall into one of three categories:

1. Almost out of business

These organizations are inwardly focused. They don’t grasp what attracts their customers, and fail to generate enough the income to stay afloat. The little money they do make is typically wasted on things that are of no interest to their customers.

2. Barely mediocre

These organizations survive in spite of themselves. They have little commitment to organizational excellence or to the customer. These businesses struggle to stay afloat and are left behind when the competition arrives.

3. Stagnant

These organizations survive with the status quo. They are locked into their old ways of doing things with no particular internal inspiration. They get okay market share, but miss great opportunities.

Rigid, controlling environments fail to energize or inspire employees to achieve excellence. Without people who care about excellence, companies can’t deliver the kind of service that sets them apart and keeps their customers coming back.

Before you can counteract or avoid this kind of organizational inflexibility, you need to recognize the symptoms of rigid environments, including:

  • people become preoccupied with procedures, rules, and written processes,
  • the organisation loses sight of the ultimate objective, which is creating customer value,
  • employees lose direction and mission focus, and
  • employees just go through the motions, without considering the changing needs of their customers.

If you see these signs, it’s time to revitalize your organization and change your cultural norms before inflexibility destroys your customer service standing and, ultimately, the health and well-being of your business.

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Diplomacy and Tact at Work

Relationship

There are four main categories of people you may have professional relationships with — superiors, subordinates, coworkers, and customers. Each requires a different approach for communicating with tact and diplomacy.

Superiors can have hectic schedules. Time limitations may require you to use a more direct communication style with them. This doesn’t have to come at the expense of pleasantries though.

Superiors may also sometimes want to talk to subordinates about their own problems. Superiors may have to make unpopular decisions as part of their jobs, but it’s important for subordinates to be sensitive to their superiors.

When communicating with subordinates, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re tactful and diplomatic. They include staying calm and professional, providing clear expectations, showing appreciation, and giving criticism privately.

When communicating with coworkers, you can be informal and still be professional. In fact, tasteful humor can help you make connections. A good way to ensure a conversation is appropriate is to consider if you’d say the same thing if the entire workplace could hear.

Tactful and diplomatic conversation also usually involves supporting team members and working collaboratively with them. Working against a coworker or providing unsolicited advice shows insensitivity.

It’s easy to get defensive and aggressive when a customer is critical of a product or service. However, it’s important to listen carefully before responding and to demonstrate professionalism by not taking the issue personally. You should ask pointed questions. Then, you should try to focus on only the issues that the customer has brought up.

Each professional relationship requires a different communication approach. This is especially true in difficult situations where tact and diplomacy are needed.

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Communication Style, Diplomacy and Tact

Identifying communication styles

To communicate with tact and diplomacy, you need to be sensitive and respectful. However, this can be more challenging than it first seems. People are sensitive to different things.

And what one person sees as a lack of respect may not be an issue for another. For example, some people think it’s respectful to make eye contact, while others do not.

It’s important to take into account the communication styles of others. These communication styles are based upon their preferred behaviors. There are a range of behaviors that fall within a people’s communication styles. This includes not only what they say, but also what they do.

Situational factors also affect communication styles. Someone who’s excited will act differently than someone who’s angry. And a person might be more serious when speaking to a manager than when talking to a coworker. It’s all relative.

You can deduce people’s communication style preferences by their verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Communication styles tend to be open or closed and direct or indirect.

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