Relationship Seating

I'm packing my bag for the Igniting Leadership Program which I'm facilitating this week for Leadership Victoria. We concluded a program on Friday and here we go again; however, rather than feeling ho-hum, it’s quite the opposite; I'm always intrigued to learn about the people attending, reading about their leadership aspirations and workplace challenges.

We pair up participants to create Buddies, the first relationship to be formed prior to the program commences - asking these Buddies to meet or at least communicate prior to attending to encourage engagement, networking and reduce people’s anxiety of arriving in an unknown destination.

Another aspect of relationship preparation is the worktable seating placements. Whilst I’m not into detail I am into challenging people to grow, learn from their peers and quickly connect with the whole group as a high level of trust is required to discuss leadership.

So, for Day One, I seat ‘like-minded’ folk together. Using the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) team profile results, I seat the ‘Hubs’ together, the Blues together and so on with the Reds, Greens and their respective Blends. In other words for the uninitiated – I seat ‘value sets’ together – people with more common ‘this is Why I do what I do’ language.

 On the Second Day, we introduce the Workplace Challenge, an amazing yet simple exercise which has profound consequences given the choice of behaviour being challenged upon each other. How do you think I create these groups?  I mix the profiles – I ensure that each group has a couple of Hubs (Flexible), a Red (Assertive), a Blue (Nurturing) and hopefully a Green (Analytic). Given the mix of motivations I know that everyone will view the challenge differently and more ideas will be generated through their ‘code of silence’ discussions.

On the Third day I group people at tables according to Conflict – First Stage.  It’s not always that simple, more often than not, there is a good representation and the folk at the table provide a gorgeous array of behaviour examples on their colour conflict continuum when challenged with the day’s discussions and activities.

The SDI is explained and dissected on Day Two, Three & Five and it’s always a laugh when the first person makes the discovery of my purposeful placements. On the final afternoon of Day Five each person makes a heartfelt commitment to their Leadership Journey and most comment on their new respect for: relationships, their own strengths, the impact they have on others and the dynamic network they created in such a short time-frame. Funny about that!


Working with different groups of people over recent weeks, it has been interesting to note the increasing participation in any discussion around ‘conversations’.

Whether those discussions were around peoples’ performance, difficult customer scenarios or asking a tough question, everyone was eager to understand models and methods to help them discover a dialogue which they could control and implement.

In a society which is gripped with digital advancement and powerful social media, our skill development is diminishing in relationship building and defusing conflict.  The way we communicate face-to-face, over the telephone and via our fingers (twitter, email etc.) requires thought, skill and a selection of behaviours.

Your role as leader can be simplified if you are positive & consistent when you communicate – YES, you are the role model and are the ‘lead’ role in this activity. So, here are some tips to prepare for your conversations:

Choose the mode of communication to match the message – human or digital or a blend - it's easy to type with emotion and be misunderstood whereas human interface is far more effective to keep on track with the purpose

Consider who you are communicating with – do they have a communication style preference - try and match it or use the opportunity to help them learn e.g. passive to assertive

Determine if the message should leave a legacy – use a hash-tag if you wish to keep it alive - keep it face-to-face if you want to keep it private 

Seek feedback from others to understand if your message works – test it, practise it, draft it - once it's out in the public, it's difficult to retrieve

Do Communicate beyond your normal style – your influence must be a blend to converse with the people you lead - multiple simultaneous conversations are now an expectation - each is as important as the other

This week I have introduced people to Twitter, Snapchat, Google Hangouts, Google Drive in the digital sphere of communication, coached face-to-face for several hours and spent a day on the telephone talking to people. I have my conversation preferences, however I challenge myself to learn what works for others.

How will you broaden your communication skills today to lead more effective conversations next week?