Boosting Communication to Boost Productivity (My EduTECH Keynote for Schools)
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A few weeks ago I was invited to speak to school leaders at the EduTECH conference at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Gabriella Horak at EdutechHere is the transcript of my keynote on how to improve communication in a school community to boost productivity.

“I work a lot in the corporate arena, but I have also worked with many schools and their teaching staff on the fundamentals of increasing productivity through communication techniques.

Our ultimate aim is to create with them something we call ‘Success Culture’. In schools, for example, we help build a Success Culture for the teachers so that they can build a Success Culture for their students. We have about 12 different processes and thoughts around that but I would like to talk to you about the four (4) fundamentals today, that are all around communication.

But first I’ll introduce you to to type of people I often meet when working with schools and I’d like you to think about how they might relate to people in your sphere and in your teams.

Meet Mary

Do you have someone like Mary?

I’m working on a large project or an integration project with a school at the moment, and there is a Mary. Mary is fasted paced, very direct, knows what she wants, she has all of the details laid out and she is very decisive. But sometimes Mary comes across as a little bit pushy. Mary wants to be at every single meeting and seems to stop some of the progress of this particular project. Her intention, by the way, is absolutely perfect, but sometimes what happens after she gets involved is it gets skewed, and then the perception of what Mary is doing is not always that it’s perfect.

Meet Michael – with Mary

Mary is working with a colleague and his name is Michael. Michael doesn’t always get Mary. Michael likes Mary and Mary likes Michael, but Mary doesn’t get him in that Michael wants to slow the project down a little bit.

Michael in this particular team is trying to slow the project down and get Mary to consider how everyone is going to feel about the project and how the changes are going to impact everybody. And not just the people that are going to be implementing the project but the other people, like the rest of staff etc. Meanwhile, Mary is sitting there going, ‘why do we care about how they feel? they have to do it anyway’.

Personality typesThis where we see Mary and Michael really at each other sometimes – even though they do like each other, as I said.

Meet Sam – and Michael and Mary

I also have Sam on this team. 

Sam gets along with Mary and Michael, she works well with them both. Sam works really well with Michael from a people perspective so she gets that they need to get people on board including the staff for this project. And she wants to get them excited about it, but she also gets that Mary wants to get things done. Mary and Sam want to get the project started.

Meet Peter – and Sam and Michael and Mary

However we have Peter.

We need Peter on the team. Peter has been chosen to be on the team for his specific skills. But Peter is looking at everyone and saying things like ‘we need to work out the systems and processes that need to be put in place before we roll this integration project out’

Peter and Sam just don’t get each other – but they like each other. In fact, everyone on the team likes each other, they just frustrate each other on these particular projects. With Peter for example, he looks at Sam and says ‘how can you come up with 100 ideas, 99 of which are terrible and I can take one of those and go and implement it?’

Sam however, looks at those ideas, and says ‘gosh I’ve got so many ideas we should try all of them!’ and Peter is going ‘No, lets just go with one particular thing, lets work out the systems and processes, let’s dot our i and cross our t first and then we can move forward’.

Now can you see how each of these people might frustrate each other but why they are so important to be on the team? So now have a think about who is on your team.

  • Who has a Mary? Someone that is really direct and gets things done but comes across a little bit blunt?
  • What about Sam? Sam is the type of person that will tell you and everyone that will or won’t listen what she had for breakfast. She has lots of great ideas, wants to be rewarded for those ideas, is so enthusiastic, gets everybody on board – does anybody have a Sam on their team?
  • What about a Michael? A steady, calm, really wanting to make sure that ‘yes we want to put the change in but we don’t necessarily want to just put change in for change sake because we have just had a change, and another change, remember that? Who’s got a Michael is very much about people’s emotions? Are you a Michael? …Sometimes Mary when she is working with Michael, she thinks she has to have the tissue box in the room because it’s always all about the touchy feely. And Michael is like ‘you’re too harsh Mary’.
  • And how about Peter? Peter is the one that has the lists, and the lists of the lists and the lists of those lists. That’s not to say that Mary, Sam and Michael don’t have lists. But Sam’s list are different to Peter lists, Peter’s lists are very, very comprehensive and these lists all the sublists. However, Sam’s lists are all over the shop which Peter doesn’t like. Does anybody identify with Peter?

Perhaps you recognise all or combinations of these types. Perhaps you see yourself. From a personal productivity perspective, if you want to improve your productivity, its good to have a little bit of all of those people in you – you just also need to understand what your preference is and what is your style. This is incredibly important for building team intelligence.

Productivity definitionProductivity

What does productivity mean?

I love this definition, it’s about utilising resources from all angles as in other people’s resources and energy. When researchers have asked ‘what does productivity mean to you?’, people say things like

  • delivering things on time
  • quantity and quality
  • customer service
  • customer satisfaction
  • all about getting things done in the time that you are given. 

And that fantastic, that’s what we are looking for. But what we know through working with teams for decades is that when we have poor communication, when the leadership teams in schools or the staff or support staff do not communicate well, we see productivity go down.

Productivity in Decline

The way we see a decline in productivity manifest in the workplace is through things like lack of trust. Have you experienced when staff don’t trust each other? They working silos.

But we aren’t we all coming to the school with the same vision and the same value of helping children get to their outcome?  And yet there still seems to be some infighting or fighting between departments. ‘How come the English department got more money than me?’ or ‘how come they aren’t working as hard as me?’ or ‘why is the library getting more funding than the English department?’ Are you seeing this?

So we see this in schools all across and it’s because they don’t have great communication. And so silos happen, trust goes down and it presents as things like:

  • Absenteeism
  • Increase of staff complaints
  • People getting sick. 

Because poor communication can lead to stress and affect the overall well being of a school.

Team Intelligence (TeamQ)

One of the things we work on with teams to improve their communication is something we call Team Intelligence.

Team Intelligence is about everyone in the business working together to bring out the champions. And by the way, they are already champions. Every single person I have ever worked with has perfect intent and they want to be the champion they are meant to be but what happens is there’s a miscommunication along the way.

Team Intelligence works like a miner, digging to find the gem in every single person, bringing that gem up to the surface, and then bringing the team together through wonderful communication that is open, creative and allows for design thinking to make a perfect piece of jewellery.

What is TeamQPossibly the best thing about Team Intelligence is how it builds Trust.

Focusing on building trust is the absolutely the first step toward a Success Culture powered by a team’s intelligence. The second step is that you want to have constructive conflict. You really want people to have great healthy arguments. I say healthy because once they have had that debate or argument, the stress levels around the issue tend to dissipate – and far more effectively than a tea room rant. Giving space for team members to have robust conversations together facilitates commitment, team innovation, personal accountability and accountability for each other’s results.

  • Why is it that the English department is competing with the Maths department for the better results? 
  • Why is it that we are all not working for everyone to get the equal and great results?
  • Why is it that we have those silos? 

4 Steps to Increasing Productivity through Effective Communication

To have a team effectively communicate they need to be mining for their Team Intelligence and we know from lots of research, there are 4 main things or four steps to bringing Team Intelligence to an organisation or team.

  1. You Have to Have the Right Mindset

You have to have the right mindset, and shortly I am going to tell you about a book called The Slight Edge – because I think it’s wonderful but first, Carol Dweck. You may already be working with Carol Dweck’s book called Mindset as she does a lot of research with children on fixed and growth mindset.

I think everything starts with the right mindset. If you have the right philosophy about why you are doing something with the understanding that everything takes time to get right, clear and communicated correctly, then you’ve got this first step.

  1. Aligning Values

The next step I think that is really important is the aligning values. Not just the school’s values up on the walls or on the back of the toilet doors for the kids to see like Honour, Community, Education, the school’s people’s values. Like the teachers, and what about the staff? What are their values?

Let’s look at reasons why people come to work at a school. Yes, there are some reasons that are altruistic like wanting to change kids’ lives and that’s wonderful but what about money? What about school holidays? We don’t have to dig too much to see people sheepishly sharing that their needs, like money – like any job. But what do they need the money for? Once you can have a value based conversation, you can have a far more productive conversation because you are building trust.

  1. Identify Preferences

The next one is about preferences, that goes back to Peter, Mary, Michael and Sam. We need to understand what their preferences are.

  • How do they work?
  • What is their style?
  • When they are under stress and pressure what is it that they do? 

Now there are different models and different processes that you can use, we use DiSC and HBDI and MBTI – all acronyms you can use to identify any type of preference model. Some of them are just about getting an understanding of building that next level of trust so that you can get those results you are looking for.

  1. Understanding Time

So you need to let your teachers have the time to work in with each other, to share this information. And you need to be able to do that in an accelerated way.

The Slight Edge bookWhenever we are working with the whole teaching staff of a school say, in a room for half a day or a full day, we get them to interact with their opposites. So the Sam’s and the Peter’s for example. We get them to talk to each other and work out how are they are going to work better or differently to be more productive together. But you have to give it space and time.

The philosophy and mindset of The Slight Edge says that if you do something little every single day, and you do the right thing, the slight edge is working for you.

But it can go the other way too. It’s either working for you or it’s not working for you. I am going to leave you with thinking about something most of us can relate to: eating healthily whether that be for a diet or whatever reason. Think about this:

  • If I eat a salad today is that going to make me lose weight or lower my cholesterol? No.
  • If I eat a burger today is that going to make me overweight? No.
  • If I eat it tomorrow? Skinny? Overweight? No. 

But what about over a period of time? If I have the mindset that I am going to stick to eating salad because it is healthy, even though it is uncomfortable to begin with because I‘d prefer a burger – am I going to see positive results? Of course, we know this answer.

Gabriella Horak WYE business cardBut if I have the burger every single day and I go down that mindset that ‘it’s okay’, then I’m going to be in that 95% of unsuccessful people with my weight.

The same goes with communication for productivity. Doing something every day matters. Choosing the right mindset in the moment matters. That is how time is on our side with The Slight Edge.

Thank you very much for your time today.