The importance of Interpersonal & Communication skills in organisations.3
A Vital Aspect of Work Culture Productivity
By Wilfried Rupieper, 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 HR Manager for SAB Miller. His formal background lies in Business Administration, Human Resources Management and Psychology.
Consulting Synergies Africa keeps offices at No 6 Ametis Street, Eros, Windhoek and can be called at 061 340 0582. His contact number in SA is +27 6134 00 582. In Namibia the CSA contact number is 0811 299 710,
The starting point would be an analysis of an organisation in terms of its leadership, managerial, interpersonal and communication “climate”; its work culture. This should result in an evaluation of the existing factors and behaviours that are either furthering or limiting the interpersonal and communications climate.
This should be presented and shared at various levels of the organisation as a status quo analysis; without blaming anyone, but rather as the concrete manifestations of the work place relationships and interactions at this point in time. One would then establish randomly selected focus groups to clarify reasons/ causes and remedies and weigh these against each other as to their importance in the resolution of the identified deficiencies and barriers. These remedies should flow into the strategic plan, with clear responsibilities for the various remedial initiatives. These are subsequently translated into operational and individual plans via performance management. It is vital that the follow-through is right up to individual levels of responsibility, and does not remain a theoretical analysis where everyone waits for everyone else to do something about it. In Namibia (and this is most probably not dissimilar to many other economies in this increasingly globalised world) we place too much hope into mechanistic and content solutions such as restructuring, new systems, new techniques, etc. to solve our perceived problems. In addition, problem analysis is inadequate, and solutions are too quickly arrived at merely satisfying a need to having done something without subsequent due analysis of its impact on the identified problem area. However, the problems lie closer to home, they “rest” largely within our inability to relate and communicate effectively, and take ownership for problem solving within an interpersonal setting where the sum total of the staff complement is able to solve the problems, but they are not empowered to do so. The interpersonal skills are about separating fact from emotion, analysis from conjecture, yet dealing with both logical and emotional factors effectively, since denial of the emotional side will tend to become a barrier to problem solving. It is about communicating openly without fear of prejudice, ill-founded judgement or victimisation. It is about accepting one another, since that also reflects our respect for ourselves – a rejection of others often implies a lack of self-acceptance. The analysis informs the specific nature of interpersonal and communication competence/skills requirements and their development remedies. These skills must be learned largely behaviourally. Ideally, this should be a modular process over say 18 – 24 months leading to certification via tested competence. Ideally an element of coaching and possibly also systematic mentoring should beintroduced to enable workplace follow-through. Significant behavioural change is only possible over a prolonged practice period, since staff members are somewhat entrenched in their own way of coping, which is their certainty and reality. In particular managers and supervisors should be intensively trained, which should include robust coaching elements, so that they become effective interpersonal and communication coaches to their staff as well as being able to link their function into the organisation with colleagues, interdependent departments, customers and users.
Summary of the Series
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. Behaviourally, we need to build the interpersonal and communication skills beyond a theoretical level, in order to enable staff to cope more effectively with problems/challenges, personal development, conflict, and assertion & management of self within the work place. These skills become portable skills to the social setting, which can only be positive. At this stage, the frustrations in the workplace are carried over into the social setting, leading to aggressive, defeatist or compensatory behaviour (excesses of materialism, overspending, excessive use of alcohol, etc.). This can also be the other way round, in that defeatist attitudes and behaviour are carried into the workplace, and there is no sufficient capacity to deal with this constructively. The interpersonal skills that are so desperately required are about separating fact from emotion, analysis from conjecture, yet dealing with both logical and emotional factors effectively, since denial of the emotional side will tend to become a barrier to problem solving. It is about communicating openly without fear of prejudice, ill-founded judgement or victimisation. We need managers and staff to interact in constructive and progressive ways, so that both problems can be resolved quickly and enduringly, while building the emotional capacity in terms of insight and confidence to deal with challenges and cope better in life in general.