The importance of Interpersonal & Communication skills in organisations
First article in a series of 3
By , Lead Consultant at Consulting Synergies Africa CC.
Wilfried has worked as a consultant in the organisation development field for over 22 years. He worked as HR Director for Namibia Breweries Limited and SAB Miller. His formal background lies in Business Administration, Human Resources Management and Psychology.
We are social beings that need meaningful interpersonal interactions in order to feel connected to life and its abundant possibilities.
Working together in the past has taken us to where we are now, even as flawed as that interaction may have been at times; we learn from one another and the experiences we share. Human kind’s achievements are largely based on connected thinking, based on learning from one another.
While frequently individuals rather than teams are credited for or bring about a breakthrough in insight or innovation through an invention or discovery, this must be seen in the context of many others’ inputs and developments that contributed to this. So, our social nature enables us to seek out others, interact, build on each other’s contributions, together drive progress, as well as mitigate risk and threats.
However, in a complex world in which there are many often-conflicting demands placed on us, our anxiety levels are raised quite significantly to often distressing levels, and much “emotional energy” is needed to cope under these circumstances. This emotional energy is frequently exhausted through on-going demand and stress subsequently leading to frequently ineffective reactions to cope as well as us feeling drained and weakened.
The emotional disengagement, the compensatory behaviour to reward oneself for all the stress experienced, the bouts of aggression in the face of helplessness, and so forth all contribute to maladaptive and ineffective behaviour patterns that may become entrenched and eventually lead to severe syndromes such as depression, excessive anxiety and panic, high blood pressure, and psychosomatic illness.
When doing “work climate surveys” in organisations the consistent factors of inadequacy and/or ineffectiveness that keep coming up are mainly within the areas of communication and the interpersonal climate. In addition there is also an overriding factor of frequently inadequate, misguided and detached leadership, which is however interconnected with the other factors.
Anxiety is an important emotional experience, and all of us experience it unless we are certified psychopaths; it is part and parcel of the human condition.
It is also an important emotion that constitutes a vital prerequisite for learning. However, we must acknowledge that it is an emotion that essentially tells us to watch out, to be careful, to be on our guard, to avoid, otherwise we might perish – it is the emotion “that keeps us safe”.
Therefore, typically in response to anxiety we need to narrow down to what we can manage with certainty. Under anxiety, people tend to narrow down to the specifics, to the content, to the concrete, to the apparently tangible factors. Much more can be said about anxiety, but the purpose of this article does not allow for deeper exploration of the intricacies of this emotion/affect at this stage. The point here is that anxiety not consciously managed is in many aspects counter-developmental/ counter growth oriented; it leads more to a “dig-in strategy” or longer-term to “heightened risk aversion” than moving forward and growth. Within reason this is OK, because there are real risks in this world and they need to be managed. However, too much anxiety leads to severe narrowing down, being overly concerned to maintain own interests, holding onto what is very certain, not venturing into uncertainty. It leads to a reactive rather than a proactive behaviour pattern.
We need to remind ourselves that all progress has been a significant departure from the known. The inventor of the wheel, Gutenberg, Columbus, Newton, Benz, Diesel, Einstein, Planck, Marconi, Watson & Crick, Semmelweis, Curie, Freud, Kahneman, Jobs, etc., all have something in common, in that they were prepared to explore new ground, to move into uncertainty. Yes, they were all endowed with talent and possibilities; however, so is each one of us in different ways!
When encountering limitations and challenges in our lives most of us need to reconsider what we must do differently in order to achieve “satisfaction and success”. Many of us are not overly creative in our endeavours, because we are anxious to venture into uncertainty; creativity requires a certain degree of boldness to face the unknown/the untested. We are doubtful and insecure about our possibilities, so we stick to what we apparently know with certainty. However, with interpersonal acceptance, support and encouragement, we can overcome these doubts and raise our confidence levels to move beyond certainty.
Our inadequacy to manage emotions, our own and others’, constitutes a significant obstacle to productivity!