+971 56 105 8825 letstalk@hardtalk.info
Board Members
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HardTalk™ for Board Members

The days where board meetings were scheduled annually merely to set strategy, dot some I’s and depart, are well and truly behind us.   Today, businesses need their boards to be more effective, more engaged and more involved, in order to help increase the company’s profitability.  Management teams need their boards to ask the right questions, to offer advice, to provide accountability and to have the difficult conversations that will keep performance at its highest level.

Good corporate governance is essential to a business’s future success and must be embraced by all types of organisations in the Middle East.  As the GCC continues to diversify and its businesses compete in the global market the requirement for transparent company practices will increase. It is the responsibility of board members to steer the right path, towards growth and investment, by using corporate governance to ensure greater transparency, accountability, stakeholder and stakeholder protection.

But, boards can only be effective if they are able to overcome the communication challenges that can be toxic to an organisation and its bottom line.  The most common examples of these are:

  • Poor communication between board members and management, which can lead to a cycle of mistrust and a lack of alignment with company goals
  • Uneven levels of contribution from board members, such as when members lack the confidence to voice concerns or choose to keep quiet based on incorrect assumptions regarding the group preference or even when members prevent others from speaking due to behaviour or formation of cliques
  • Miscommunication of decisions to management, employees, stakeholders and the general public, which can lead to a lack of confidence in the board’s abilities and proposals

When these scenarios occur it can negatively impact, not only the culture of an organisation such as morale, perception and engagement, but also the financial metrics such as, revenue, profits, ROI and share value.  None of which is good for your business.

The main responsibilities of most boards are, reviewing past performance, determining managerial compensation, assessing strategy and succession planning.  Given the nature of these tasks, it is unsurprising that they would face many difficult conversation situations.  However it is vital that these conversations not only take place, but that every member’s opinion is heard and that the final decisions be communicated in a way that allows for effective implementation.

The HardTalk Board Member application has been designed to focus on providing the tools to overcome these communications challenges.  The program will offer invaluable lessons on how to optimise board communication within individual members, internally with management and externally when required.   It will teach individuals how to listen and communicate in a way that is proactive and engaging, ensuring results that will benefit the company, its internal structure and its future success.

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HardTalk™ for Collaborative Teamwork

Collaboration amongst colleagues is now an essential part of business growth. In an increasingly globalized world, teamwork that utilises a range of expertise, views, experience and creativity is the key to lasting success for companies. According to research from the Harvard Business Review over the past two decades, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more.

Good teamwork, when effective and managed correctly, has a multitude of positive impacts on an organisation. It will foster more innovative creativity and build trust as employees work together; it will enhance learning and grow employee’s individual strengths as they learn from others; and it will improve employee retention as ownership of projects produces more pride in their work.

But not all teams collaborate effectively and when this happens companies experience unnecessary disruption, missed deadlines, poor customer service and strategic failure. Research shows that:

  • 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project

•       86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures

•       Less than half of survey respondents said that their organizations discuss issues truthfully and effectively

The key to having effective collaboration and good teamwork is honest communication and productive engagement; even in circumstances where this can be difficult, such as when working in diverse teams, determining accountability, measuring performance and assessing mistakes.   To improve their creativity levels, teams must find a way to engage in positive dialogue and capitalise on their diversity. They must be confident enough to reflect back on work to learn vital lessons that might require difficult adjustments. Those managing these teams, must learn to listen to individuals to prevent lopsided collaboration; studies show that often up to a third of value-added collaborations come from only 3-5% of employees.

Understandably, this type of communication doesn’t come easily, especially as it often goes against our natural instincts to avoid conflict.   Most people struggle to give criticism and are reluctant to speak up against the status quo. Scientifically speaking, as a species we are inclined to avoid actions that might cause ripples, especially when we don’t know what the outcome will be; this means that often the most important results are missed because collaboration wasn’t done effectively enough.

HardTalk focuses on teaching individuals how to communicate amongst their team, even when faced with difficult subjects. The communication tools taught by the program will result in positive employee engagement, both within teams and between levels, which is great for your company’s profitability; companies with engaged employees, enjoy two times more revenue growth that those without it.   Your teams will significantly improve their ability to collaborate by facing important conversations in a way that builds and strengthens relationships, not destroys them, and learning how to speak up for the good of the company no matter what the obstacle.

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HardTalk™ for Compliance

Compliance is not always considered an enticing topic but it is important to the continued health of your business.

Increased globalisation and marketplace competition, as well as heightened expectations of governance and transparency, have exploded the regulatory needs of many businesses as they strive to comply with international standards that will satisfy consumer demands.  Companies must ensure they have efficient compliance procedures, in which staff are actively involved, and if not, that someone is able to speak up to rectify the situation without damaging the organisations’ culture or goals.

Investing in compliance is a strategically smart decision.  It can prevent future mistakes or costly sanctions from occurring, improve efficiency, increase brand loyalty by projecting trustworthy business practices, offer greater risk management and allow your company to stand above its competitors.  This can have a big impact on your bottom line; one study showed that businesses with above average IT governance were 25% more profitable than those with poor governance.

Compliance requirements will vary depending on company size and type, but in most cases those responsible will deal with a range of issues surrounding policies, procedures and processes.  These can be internal, external and international regulations, both legal and non-legal, and will cross all business areas including human resources, IT, operations and health & safety. Compliance officers may  find themselves covering controversial topics such as hiring, firing, discrimination, harassment, safety, wages, payroll and benefits; all of which makes it easy to understand why successfully managing compliance requirements can be a delicate and complex procedure.

First and foremost, understanding people’s filters and how they will react to these situations is a necessary skill in compliance and those responsible must be trained to take this into account.  Employees tend to view compliance as what they have to do, rather than what they want to do, so helping them to understand the value in tasks or procedural change is key to framing their mind-set. Compliance professionals must have the confidence, skills and know-how to successfully negotiate, train others, give bad news, enforce unpopular regulations, make tough decisions and face difficult conversations, on an almost daily basis.   They must find the most effective ways to communicate with diverse groups of employees, sometimes with multiple languages and cultural nuances to content with.  This can be particularly challenging in the extremely diverse offices of the Middle East and especially when faced with delicate ethical issues.

Those who can master the tools of effective communication will be able to encourage others to make compliance considerations a part of their overall work production.  This outcome would be invaluable to any organisation; particularly as poor compliance performance can lead to injuries, production stalls, low employee retention, poor public relations, costly fines, legal liabilities and stunted financial growth.

The HardTalk programme will allow individuals to discover more about exactly how their brains work when it comes to facing difficult or uncomfortable situations.  It will teach them how to hone their communication skills, including how to listen and speak up in the most effective way.  Real life examples will be used to demonstrate how difficult it can be to always take the right action in high-pressure situations and then how behavioural techniques can ensure the perfect communication tools come naturally, in any future scenarios.

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HardTalk™ for Decision Making

We make decisions every day. They may range from the mundane to the complex but choice is a (sometimes painful) necessity in the workplace and business leaders must contend with their decisions influencing a company’s prosperity, employee performance and engagement, consumer satisfaction, morale and even marketplace trends.  HardTalk will help leaders make better decisions and ensure that these are communicated effectively

One common and highly counter-productive occurrence in organisational decision making is known as the Abilene Paradox; this is where a breakdown in group communication occurs when each member avoids raising objections to a particular course of action in the mistaken belief that it would be going against the group’s interests or preferences.   This paradox is often referred to as a driving force in the 1970s Watergate scandal in the US.

The Abilene Paradox can often be encountered in our daily lives; it was a family trip that inspired its creation after all!  But it demonstrates one way in which decisions can be mismanaged.  There are many other scenarios in which individuals, at all levels, struggle with decision making; including low confidence, a hesitant approach to change or simply a lack of understanding.  But avoidance of difficult conversations leads to poor decision making and will result in lost productivity, cultural decay and profit erosion.

The reality is that the more people involved in the decision, the better the decision will be; this is known as ‘the wisdom of the crowd’ and is derived from studies that document the benefits of collective wisdom in decision-making. However, this is only possible when the participants have the confidence to make their voice heard, in an honest and unbiased fashion. Organisations that foster the right skills in effective decision making will experience improved morale, increased efficiency and prosperity growth.

HardTalk will help your people to make better decisions by:

  • Facilitating the conversations to obtain the vital knowledge and feedback required and to ensure reliable information gathering
  • Educating on how decisions can affect the culture and structure of the organisation and the associated implications
  • Promoting the confidence to take action in uncertain times and situations
  • Training them how to communicate the decision to the right people, in the right way, even when the impact might result in difficult conversations or unpopular outcomes
  • Teaching business leaders to embrace tough decisions and ignore the factors that have previously held them back
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HardTalk™ for Engagement

Employee ‘engagement’ might appear to be a relatively new term and an ever-increasingly used phrase, but its importance cannot be undervalued.  The days of getting the best results from your employees with a decent salary and job stability are long gone, particularly amongst the increasingly dominant ‘millennials’. Your employees need more than satisfaction, they need to be engaged; and your company will be the better for it.

Through extensive research, Gallup has discovered there is a direct link between employee engagement and vital performance indicators such as increased profitability, improved customer satisfaction, lower staff turnover, less absenteeism, fewer safety incidents and 38% higher productivity.  When a company raises employee engagement levels consistently across every business unit, everything gets better; according to one study, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%.

Despite the overwhelming research into the benefits of employee engagement, it is still being widely overlooked by organisations.  According to a recent study from Gallop, a staggeringly low 13% of employees worldwide felt engaged in their current role.   This can be hugely detrimental to a company’s overall performance.  An article in Harvard Business Review recapped further research that found, “disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects”.   Organizations with low employee engagement scores were found to experience:

  • 18% lower productivity
  • 16% lower profitability
  • 37% lower job growth
  • 65% lower share prices

Put simply, engaged employees are happy employees and happy employees will always perform at a higher level.  So why don’t we have more happy and engaged workforces?   A major reason lies in a misunderstanding of what engagement means.  Employees must feel connected to the organisation and see themselves as contributing to its purpose and vision.  They must be engaged through the way they are communicated with, whether by managers or colleagues and from the top down by the C-level executives.

Engagement is also challenging for companies as a one-size-fits-all solution is not applicable and methods must be tailored to the targeted individuals or groups.  This can be especially complex in regions like the Middle East who have some of the most diverse offices in the world.  Those seeking to engage others must be trained how to understand the motivations and needs of a group of people with divergent backgrounds, personalities, values, cultures, ethnicities, ages and priorities and then how to communicate most effectively based on those filters.

If you want to attract and retain the best talent to help your business grow, putting engagement at the forefront of your priorities is a wise move; in fact engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their jobs than disengaged employees are.  This is where HardTalk comes in.  The HardTalk for Engagement application is ideal for companies who wish to improve their productivity and profitability.  The programme teaches all individuals how to engage, and be engaged, in a productive and effective way.  It teaches them to recognise the fundamental stumbling blocks to successful engagement, how to overcome them and how to speak up in order to facilitate change or improvement.  Participants experience real-life scenarios that highlight how to improve their overall engagement and how to train their brain to react and communicate in the right way, to the right audience, at the right time.

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HardTalk™ for Feedback

For a company to grow well, its employees must grow as individuals and a group.  Feedback is at the core of personal and professional growth and your employees want it; over 65% of employees say they would like more feedback.   Just as companies need customer feedback in order to better cater to market demands, so too do employees, at all levels, need feedback in order to optimise their individual and team performance.   Top performing companies are top performing companies because they are constantly searching for ways to make the best better.

Research shows how much employees actually crave feedback; by a three to one margin they believe constructive feedback is more beneficial to their overall performance than positive feedback.   In addition a whopping 92% of people agree, understandably, that negative (ie critiquing) feedback, when delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.

Feedback can develop talent, boost sales and improve quality of service; thereby making a huge impact on a company’s overall performance and bottom line:

  • 69% of employees say they would work harder with greater recognition
  • 78% of employees said being recognised motivates them in their job
  • 98% of employees will fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback
  • Companies that implement regular employee feedback enjoy 14.9% lower turnover rates

Improvement is most accessible if we can learn from an honest evaluation of our performance that is communicated in the right way.   With this type of corrective feedback, given regularly, employees are able to improve their productivity, output and quality of work which is hugely beneficial to their company.

So why is it such a challenge to give regular feedback?  One major reason is human nature.   We are not wired to seek out opportunities to give honest reviews of colleagues, especially when such conversations could upset the status quo.   This is derived from our more primal instincts to seek out groups in which to belong; ‘rocking’ that security is not to be undertaken lightly by our sub-conscious.   In fact, in situations when we might feel rejection, the brain activates the same part of our brain as it does when it experiences physical pain!   Since feedback will quite often involve dealing with sensitive issues or (what should be constructive) criticism, it is understandable that the majority of individuals and managers find it the least appealing part of their job.

Learning how to give, and receive, regular developmental feedback isn’t just a crucial facet to internal growth; it is invaluable on the external side as well.  The ability to give feedback to suppliers, clients, partners and even customers when needed in a way that is productive and develops the relationship is of huge benefit to an organisation’s success.

The HardTalk programme changes the way we interact as individuals with colleagues, direct reports, managers, suppliers, clients and beyond.  It teaches participants how to adapt their instincts and behaviour in order to give useful, timely and actionable feedback that will make a lasting difference to those around them and the company as a whole.  Overcoming these obstacles will encourage individuals to give feedback more regularly, which is just as vital to its success or failure, and ensure they are comfortable delivering updates to employees as often as possible.   It focuses on developing the skills to make feedback truly effective through productive and constructive communication that accommodates the diversity within professional environments and builds lasting, successful, relationships.

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HardTalk™ for Healthcare

In every workplace there are scenarios that can jeopardise the productivity or effectiveness of an organisation.  In the Healthcare industry those scenarios could be life-threatening.

Crucially, in most cases, the risk of this could be significantly reduced if employees had the skills and knowledge to communicate proactively, even in situations that may be difficult, intimidating or uncomfortable.    The certified HardTalk programme offers a way to help people speak up, in the right way, and teaches them the communication skills vital to combatting avoidable mistakes.

Healthcare professionals need to warrant trust and respect in order to do their jobs.  Given the high stakes of any mistakes within the Healthcare industry, surely their communication would be first rate?  The reality is that not speaking up, or speaking up in the wrong way, is a far too-common occurrence that endangers lives.

Research conducted by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses found that even well-trained and highly competent healthcare professionals struggle with HardTalk on a day to day basis.  Even in an environment where poor communication could be dangerous, many employees still struggle to raise concerns regarding broken rules, incompetent mistakes or inferior teamwork.   In fact, previous studies have indicated that nearly 84% of doctors have seen co-workers take short cuts that have endangered patients.

Some of the alarming key findings of such studies were:

  • At least 4 out of 5 nurses have witnessed shortcuts, incompetence and disrespect in the workplace, often resulting in potential or actual harm to a patient
  • Only 17% of those who witnessed the incidents caused by shortcuts would share their concerns with their colleague or manager
  • Of the third that said incompetence was to blame, only 11% were willing to speak to the colleague responsible
  • More than half experienced disrespect that compromised their ability to care for the patient, but only 16% confronted the appropriate colleague
  • 58% of respondents who have been warned about potential problems by automated safety protocols, still did not have the confidence to address the problem

Overall only 10% of physicians, nurses and clinical staff are likely to directly confront their colleagues with concerns or questions.   When these conversations are conducted in the right way, it results in significantly reduced medical errors, increased patient safety, higher productivity and lower employee turnover; all of which is beneficial for the patient and the organisation.

The HardTalk for Healthcare programme has been tailored to empower industry professionals to speak up in order to reduce errors and improve quality of care.  It will give them the tools necessary to overcome any communication challenges they might face.  Accommodating the lessons and principles of HardTalk will transform workplace effectiveness and improve, rather than destroy, relationships between colleagues.

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HardTalk™ for Innovation

“The company that builds a culture of innovation is on the path to growth. The company that fails to innovate is on the road to obsolescence.”

Innovative workplaces are the key to sustainable business growth.  The shifting commercial landscapes of the last few decades have produced an environment in which ‘sticking with the status quo’ is no longer a feasible business strategy.   Companies of every size must innovate in order to stay competitive and relevant.

Making innovation a part of your company culture, and a part of your employees’ daily routine, can have multiple and surprising benefits.  Studies show that innovation improves productivity, reduces your costs, builds brand value, fosters creative problem solving, establishes new partnerships and significantly improves profitability.

But despite the many obvious benefits, making sure your company is innovative isn’t easy.  So why do so many organisations still struggle to implement this invaluable culture?

Where most companies and individuals go wrong is in their understanding of what innovation is and how to be an innovative organisation.  Innovation isn’t just for big companies with R&D departments, it isn’t just all about technological advancements, it isn’t just for solo geniuses and it isn’t just about creating new products.  Innovation is most important in ensuring successful commercialisation and so must also be used to develop new approaches to functions, logistics, business models and processes.

Effective innovation requires social connection and a collaborative atmosphere, but this also brings its own set of challenges.  Team based innovative brainstorms can produce situations in which individuals feel uncomfortable such as when uneven levels of contribution occur, there is poor communication of idea validation or rejection, there is an increased level of risk and there are a greater number of failures to contend with.  Speaking up in the face of these circumstances does not come naturally, especially to those who may not understand the benefits of things like failure and haven’t yet grasped the essential role of innovation.

Ignoring these surmountable challenges will prevent your company and your employees from becoming more innovative which could result in the following poor outcomes:

  • Reduced productivity and process efficiency
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Loss of market share (most likely to a close competitor)
  • Decreased consumer loyalty
  • Poor public perception and more industry criticism
  • Lower profitability and revenue income

HardTalk can help you be an innovative company by educating on the facts of innovation and destroying the myths. Although there may be a multitude of approaches to innovation, at its core is creating teams that can collaborate really well, approach problem solving in non-traditional ways and imaginatively bring ideas from other areas.

HardTalk provides the vital tools for individuals to recognise the pitfalls of innovation, to face them directly and to overcome them through productive and effective communication.  Innovation comes from people speaking up and embracing the opportunity to voice their creativity, this program will give people the lessons and confidence to volunteer their ideas more often and managers the tools to create the encouraging environment in which they can.

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HardTalk™ for Integrity

Integrity is crucial for business success.  In many ways, integrity is a company’s most valuable commodity; it equates to trust, and if you can’t trust a company, why would you want to do business with them?

A company’s integrity is measured by the integrity of its employees, at all levels, and the way in which they conduct themselves in their roles.

With the rise of technology ushering in new levels of transparency, it is easier than ever before to identify companies with a poor integrity record and much easier for customers or clients to share that knowledge.  The utter collapse of Enron in 2001, following profits of over $110 billion in 2000, was a prime example of how a lack of integrity in business practise will destroy any other form of profitability.  Enron’s deception wasn’t limited to a few people either; they had created a systemic corporate culture of achieving goals no matter the cost, including an acceptance of stealing and cheating.

Claiming integrity as a value of your business, as Enron did, isn’t enough.  There must be a corporate culture, from the top down, in which the value of ethical practices and integrity are prioritised.   It must be an environment that encourages people to hold others accountable and to speak up when they see integrity being threatened.   Many employees are fearful to speak up due to the surrounding culture, such as healthcare professionals being reluctant to speak up even when patient health is in jeopardy; if life and death situations aren’t enough to overcome poor workplace culture, it is hard to imagine brand or career worry being enough.  Companies that underestimate the numerous barriers to speaking up, run the risk of serious financial implications to their bottom line.

Integrity doesn’t always come easily and for very understandable reasons.  We have a natural instinct as humans to rationalise behaviour, and will use that to justify decisions in certain ways:

  • “It will be alright this once……”
  • “That decision is wrong, but he is on my team and I am a good team player……”
  • “No one will care…..”
  • “It is only so I can meet this deadline…..”

Integrity is about standing up for what you believe in, and setting the standard you will meet and accept in others.  But integrity is defined differently by different people.  The challenge lies in speaking up when you know that your voice may not be echoed by those around you.  This requires not only strength of character, but the skills to do it in the right way, so that the outcome of voicing your opinion has the best chance for success.

Your employees must be trained to speak up effectively when they see a gap between what people say and what they do, and know that they will be heard when they do.  HardTalk teaches individuals to inject integrity and accountability in to all of their work and how to speak up effectively to maintain that standard of excellence.

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HardTalk™ for Motivation

Motivation is the driving force that converts intention into action.  Whilst we can all relate to having days where finding the motivation to get out of bed is tricky, poor motivation in the workplace poses a very real threat to businesses.  Sustaining employee motivation is important for the morale, leadership and culture of a company.  Employees are not solely motivated, by salary: companies must offer a rewarding and satisfying work environment to retain the best talent in their industry.

Offices with unmotivated staff will encounter numerous issues that can drastically impact company performance, including:

  • Employee retention – on average 1 in 5 staff will quit roles in offices with a poor motivational record
  • Low productivity – the productivity rate of a motivated employee is 16 times higher than that of an unmotivated employee
  • Poor customer service – customers tell at least 13 other people about bad customer service experiences, so even the smallest decrease in quality can affect your business

These realities can also have a more immediate, and steep, financial cost, including: temporary work cover for employee absences, recruitment and training costs for new staff or expensive outsourcing.  The Gallup Organization estimated that there are 22 million actively disengaged employees that cost the US economy as much as $350 billion dollars per year in lost productivity including absenteeism, illness and other low morale issues.

Confronting the performance problems that stem from poor motivation are all-too often ignored or bungled by managers who have already avoided the important conversations that could have addressed the motivation issues earlier.  Continuing to avoid the situation will only demotivate other staff members further, especially if they have to cover for or compensate for a colleague’s incomplete workload.

Just as crucially, employees need to be able to speak up about what elements are important for their individual motivation.  Internal and external factors of dissatisfaction, as outlined in Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory, such as culture, management style, office environment and stability, may be difficult for employees to discuss with confidence, and in the appropriate manner.

Providing training for managers on how to motivate their staff and employees to candidly discuss motivational factors is vital to the growth, and ultimate success, of any organisation.  Research shows that employees who feel motivated will:

  • Aim to complete projects or task in the optimal way possible
  • Focus more on the quality of their output and results
  • Significantly increase their productivity
  • Generate more innovative ideas and solutions
  • Self-inspire to achieve company goals
  • Take pride in their work product

HardTalk focuses on teaching individuals to evaluate their own motivational needs and identity those that need to be addressed within the workplace.  The program will give them the language to articulate motivational experiences and the tools to voice this in a productive manner that contributes to, not undermines, the team as a whole.  In addition, the training will assist managers in creating environments to encourage this type of dialogue into the future.   These positive changes will increase the productivity of your employees and by extension your revenue growth.

 

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HardTalk™ for Relationships

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”

Relationships are at the heart of every-day life.  We have built relationships with people around us since infancy, throughout school, university and work, both professional and personal.  Given this level of practice, it might seem unnecessary to advocate the need for training on how to foster good relationships by learning effective communication skills, but the truth is we need it.  Whether is it divorce, resignation, lawsuit or termination, we find ways to not get along all too easily and it is mostly due to our inability to communicate in the right way.

Discovering how to form lasting and successful professional relationships is very similar to the methods needed in our personal lives; people are all people after all.  However, in contrast to our personal relationships, we rarely get to choose those with whom we must work and with whom we  may have little in common.  Individuals need to foster relationships of divergent kinds in the workplace including with clients, employees, teams, suppliers, consumers, partners and even competitors.  The nature of those relationships will define the success of your business goals; the better the relationships the better the outcome.

Understanding that good business is not just about innovative products or advertising campaigns, but people, from your employees to customers.  Maintaining these relationships effectively can have numerous benefits including:

  • Increased brand loyalty – modern day consumers want to feel connected to a brand and building trust will ensure they continue to support your brand which gives you long-term profitability
  • Improved brand perception – the sheer volume of spokespeople or mascots shows that putting a face on your company is important for how you are viewed by your audience. It is a shared responsibility of your employees to promote the right image of your company by being likable, trustworthy and engaging
  • Invaluable marketing – everyone prefers a recommendation from someone they trust, which is exactly what makes ‘word of mouth’ advertising so valuable to your company. People who feel connected to your brand are more likely to tell others about it
  • Winning teamwork – helping your staff develop stronger relationships with each other through communication skills training will help them work better together. A collaborative atmosphere will increase morale, productivity and job satisfaction, as well attract the best talent to your organisation

Despite the obvious benefits, many people still struggle to forge effective relationships in a professional environment.  A common challenge is learning how to communicate in our increasingly diverse workplaces, individuals must contend with understanding the nuances of those around them in order to best approach good relationship building, these can include cultural, ethical, language, experience and motivational differences.   It can also be hard to maintain good relationships when you need to have difficult conversations, such as:

  • Getting a supplier to commit to and meet a deadline (particularly in the Middle East region)
  • Telling a colleague they aren’t performing to the level they should
  • Admitting to a client that you are unable to deliver on a project in the right way
  • Maintaining good customer service in the face of irrational demands or unhelpful behaviour

Navigating conversations such as these is complicated in general, but research also shows that in anticipation of having them our adrenaline rushes, we are more inclined to self-protect and our constructive thinking diminishes.   This is exactly what HardTalk is designed to assist with.

HardTalk works by developing the vital communication skills to help build relationships makes good strategic sense for the future of your company.  The programme teaches individuals to understand how their behaviour impacts their relationships and how matching their internal and external communications can draw people in.  Its training will cultivate lasting behavioural changes that will enable individuals to communicate effectively and productively, even in trying situations, and allow them to build success relationships at all levels.

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HardTalk™ for Safety

Every 15 seconds someone in the world dies from a workplace accident. That is over 2.3 million people a year and doesn’t even include the countless non-fatal injuries sustained across all industries.   Workplace safety is of paramount importance and a failure to grasp the factors necessary to improved performance is costly; and not just on a human level.

Whilst there are industries for which the risks are higher, such as construction, manufacturing, transportation and agriculture, every sector and every organisation have their own safety challenges, one of the most common of which is road safety.  A poor safety record doesn’t just affect the individuals who get hurt, and their families, but research shows it also has a direct correlation to:

  • Financial performance
  • Public perception
  • Future partnerships
  • Government scrutiny
  • Employee retention

In the last few decades technical advancements have led to an overall drop in workplace accidents, fatal or otherwise, mainly due to improvements in policies, systems and equipment safety. However, research conducted in the USA reveals that despite this, many workplace accidents occur because no one was willing or able to speak up.  Promoting a workplace culture and leadership style of proper communication is the only way to prevent this type of safety breakdown or failure.

The study revealed that 93% of employees consider their workplace to be at significant risk of an incident because difficult conversations are being avoided. Five of the most common examples of those conversations are:

‘I didn’t have time’ – 78% of employees have seen their co-workers take unsafe shortcuts to meet tight deadlines

‘I wasn’t aware’ – 65% saw colleagues create unsafe conditions due to incompetence or a lack of knowledge

‘I can do it just this once’ – 55% have encountered co-workers defeating good practices and justifying it as an exception

‘I know better’ – 66% have seen co-workers ignore safety precautions they consider to be unnecessary

‘I am a good team player’ – 63% have witnessed co-workers miss essential steps “for the good of the team, company, or customer” but said nothing

Only 1 in 4 employees, who have seen the need for these conversations, said or did anything to pretend the accident from occurring. Results show that speaking up works, but people need the confidence or training to do so. In most cases, individuals wanted to avoid the perception of raising bad news, pointing out flaws or confronting a colleague. Providing the behavioural-based training on how to speak up successfully and be an effective safety professional, without damaging relationships, and therefore avoid these situations is exactly what HardTalk does.

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Safety
Women

HardTalk™ for Women

In 2015 the actress Patricia Arquette accepted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and chose this global platform to give a passionate speech about gender equality and the unbroken glass ceiling. Advocacy groups rallied behind her charge to point out that, on average, women in the US still only made 78 cents for every dollar made by a man; a reality shared by many other countries around the world. A recent McKinsey report revealed that women accounted for just 16% of the members of executive teams in the United States, 12% in the United Kingdom, and 6% in Brazil and continue to be drastically underrepresented at the top of corporations globally.

But it isn’t just a gender bias that can affect the role of women in the workplace, many women still struggle hugely with the impact of avoiding difficult conversations. Currently:

  • 87% of women do not feel confident in raising vital issues or how to address problems
  • The #1 most difficult issue for women to discuss at work is negotiating workload limits
  • 1 in 5 women have admitted that failures to speak up have culminated in them actually leaving their job

When these difficult conversations are avoided, the issues remain unresolved and they have lasting implications for your business. Nearly half the women admitted that this resulted in a drop in their productivity or engagement.

But are women wrong to stay quiet? Maybe not; as women are still more likely to be ‘pigeon-holed’ than their male counterparts. If quiet this can be seen as an innate weakness of character and an inability to handle tough projects but too tough and a women may find herself seen as bossy, demanding .   Attempting to avoid these stereotypes by not speaking up is not only detrimental for the individual but also the overall company performance.

We know diversity in the workplace, including gender diversity, has a multitude of cultural and financial benefits to any business including; a broadening of experience, creativity and innovation resulting in improved growth. But these benefits are only manifested if your people can speak up, and know how to speak up in a way that will create lasting and productive communication between colleagues.

HardTalk will given women the tools they need to speak up in the workplace in a way that generates positive and productive results for them, their teams and their organizations.

 

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HardTalk™ for Influence

The traditional hierarchical model of workplace performance doesn’t work anymore. ‘Position’ and a ‘command and control’ style are no longer the route to success. These days to get the best results, your direct reports must feel engaged by you, not ‘dictated to’; external stakeholders should feel valued and included, not ‘managed’; and in the many situations where your success depends on people who don’t answer to you, influence is the only tool you have.

Eisenhower had a particular view of the best type of leadership, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do what you want done because he or she wants to do it.” This is truly the art of positive influence and it means listening and responding to feedback as well as creating an environment where people feel safe to raise issues openly.

Leaders, at all levels, who are able to influence effectively will generate the highest levels of employee performance and boost bottom line results.   According to a Gallop survey the leadership style of managers is responsible for around 70% of the variance in employee engagement. This is hardly surprising given that one of the most common reasons for employee dissatisfaction is poor relations with their boss.   That number is significant though, as companies with engaged employees generate more than twice the revenue of those without.

But what is positive influence and why do so many individuals struggle to get it right?

Firstly you must know yourself, and you must know others, as a way to building unifying objectives. You must lead by example; the more respect you enjoy, the further your influence will reach. You must understand how people’s filters work so you can anticipate potential stumbling blocks. You must be steady and have the confidence to keep going after mistakes, have the tough conversations and understand that failures are an opportunity to learn.   You must be able to listen, even to hard truths, and be prepared to act on it. You must understand the importance of effectively communicating plans and decisions to the right people, in the right way and at the right time.

Skills like this are not easy to master or employ in everyday life, particularly in critical situations where decisions need to be made quickly and smartly.   They require us to train our brains to change how we are naturally wired to approach situations or challenges and that is exactly what HardTalk will do for you.

Despite its obvious difficulties, leadership through effective influence is vital to your organisation, and without it, the risks are severe. Poor management will decrease retention, engagement and productivity; all of which will be a financial drain on the company. Individuals without the training to influence those around them effectively will, on average, contribute 52% less profit than their more positive counterparts.

The HardTalk Influence Application will take individuals through the key traits to productive influential leadership and how to embrace them as lasting behavioural change. The program will demonstrate how to recognise and then how to overcome the obstacles and challenges to becoming a positive influencer.

 

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HardTalk™ for Lawyers

The UAE has close to 20,000 lawyers and legal professionals both within dedicated firms and in-house council positions. Its growth as a hub for international business and deals has made the necessity for quality legal counsel even more important. Companies within the region must ensure that their legal frameworks, and the legal professionals that steer them, not only meet global standards but have the necessary skills to facilitate effective negotiation and smooth transactions.

Good legal counsel is vital to your business growth and to successfully navigating the minefield of commercial law. But it isn’t just about having knowledge or technical expertise; the individual must also know how to communicate that expertise effectively.

Lawyers themselves will deal with some of the most controversial areas of business, many of which can protect a company’s assets and personnel, but all of which come with its own set of challenges for facing difficult conversations and effective communication in areas such as intellectual property, contract negotiations, incomes and taxes, labour law, real estate, fines and bankruptcy.

A legal education is extensive, as it should be, but studies show that its densely academic style means many of those in the legal profession are introverted by nature. Whilst this trait can be beneficial in the research and solution-finding part of legal work, it can mean that individuals will struggle to face the various scenarios in which difficult conversations with clients must take place.

Having the confidence to communicate bad news to clients doesn’t always come naturally. Outside of legal advice, lawyers might also have to explain high billing, relay contract discrepancies, handle employee firing or take responsibility for highlighting a client’s mistake to them. Managing these conversations in a way that is productive, and doesn’t destroy relationships, should be an essential part of the service lawyers provide; and yet it is unlikely to have been covered in their education or training.

This is exactly the area that HardTalk deals with. The HardTalk for Lawyers application provides lasting behavioural training solutions that will enable legal professionals to not only properly prepare for difficult conversations, but to have the vital skill set ingrained enough so as to be effective even in immediate and heated situations.

The programme underlines the avenues to effective communication in HardTalk situations, including how to listen, evaluate and revise your approach according to the audience or aim of the conversation. It is designed to enhance the education of legal professionals and help them become the best versions of themselves.

Board Members
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Lawyers
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Relationships
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Women

HardTalk™ for Leadership

“The role of a great leader is not to give greatness to human beings, but to help them extract the greatness they already have inside them.”

Good leadership is a crucial necessity for lasting business success; it sets the tone for how relationships and resources are managed and is the foundation on which the strength and power of the organisation is built.

The modern day workplace has evolved into one where traditional hierarchies have given way to more lateral forms of management, within which the old school methods of managing are obsolete. Employees, particularly the Millennials, demand more from their job than stability and salary, they want to be engaged and inspired, and they want to feel they contribute to a vision they believe in. Creating a culture and environment that fits this description is largely down to the skill of your leaders, but if achieved, it will have a direct correlation on the company’s overall performance; engaged employees are 38% more productive than those who are not.

Good leaders can transform your company. 80% of the problems faced in any organisation are people-related and are best dealt with by proficient and skilled leaders. The right leadership will improve employee retention, promote innovation, broaden staff skills, increase productivity, secure further investment and generate greater brand loyalty from consumers, stakeholders, employees and partners. In October 2004 Jørgen Vig Knudstorp took over LEGO in the face of, what was then, a decidedly bleak looking future. As CEO he completely reorganized the firm and changed its culture. Within a few years their sales began to increase by 24% each year and their annual profits soared by 40%.

Traditionally, many managers are appointed simply due to seniority or longevity of service, with little regard for actual skill set. Even when a role is awarded due to specific functional or technical expertise, other essential skills vital to good leadership can be overlooked. Good leaders must be able to motivate, influence, mentor, support and engage their employees, whether direct reports or not, in order to achieve the best results.   They must develop a culture of clear accountability and build relationships that create trust, open dialogue and full transparency.

With the ever-increasing diversity in our workplaces, finding leaders with the right skills is even more challenging. They must be able to accommodate the range of cultures, backgrounds, experience, goals and even languages of their staff in order to produce high quality results. They must have the confidence to effectively communicate with employees, as individuals and as teams, in a variety of difficult situations that include hiring and firing, appraisals, conflict resolution, complaints and the implementation of managerial strategies that might be unpopular or misunderstood.

Leaders who lack the essential skills training to do this will never generate the same level of success and can in fact cause lasting damage, both on a personnel and financial front. Poor leadership is most likely to result in a high employee turnover rate (particularly of your most talented individuals), non-coherent teamwork, extremely low customer satisfaction and ultimately reduced revenue for the company.

HardTalk for Leadership works with individuals on recognising and understanding the challenges they face in everyday situations and the key avenues they can use to engage their staff. The programme covers the essential communication skills needed to produce positive staff interactions that will improve teamwork and performance overall.

 

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HardTalk™ for Negotiation and Sales

“In business, as in life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” Negotiation is a vital function of any successful business and a vital skill for any business person.

Whether used to manage supplier arrangements, secure employee contracts or obtain better deals for your consumers, most individuals use negotiation techniques on an almost daily basis.   Good negotiation skills are invaluable but even seasoned professionals can find themselves stumped in negotiations, particularly across cultures.  It is therefore understandable why there are so many books and courses on ‘negotiation skills’ but few that actually address how to navigate the difficult conversations required in successful negotiation.

In reality, great negotiating is more about listening than talking, in fact, negotiators can earn 42% more value in a deal if they focus on the relationship not strategies. The most successful negotiators focus more on understanding the needs of the other side than they do on themselves; instead of telling other people what to think, they ask questions and really listen.

The value of fruitful negotiation isn’t just measured in bottom line results, it also contributes to public perception, employee motivation, consumer satisfaction and external relationship management. ‘Winning’ negotiations in the wrong way can be just as detrimental to your company’s performance as ‘losing’ would have been, and this can easily occur without the right training.

Evidently, in negotiation conversations, how you speak is just as important as what you say. This is exactly the ethos of the HardTalk for Negotiation application.   Understanding the cultural, personal and professional motivations of the other party and communicating more effectively with that knowledge will significantly improve the chance of success.

The UAE is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world, but since all business now operates ‘globally’, cultural nuances have implications for every negotiation.   For instance, in some cultures the final contract is the goal of the negotiation, for others it is the relationship development; in one survey the Japanese were found to prefer collaborative negotiation (win-win) whilst nearly 70% of executives from Latin America would choose confrontational negotiation (win-lose). In fact, the infamous Enron once lost a major contract in India during the 1990s because they were considered to be pushing the negotiations too fast, in stark contrast to the Indian cultural preference.

HardTalk will teach individuals the key elements of negotiation communication including how to deal with ethical and cultural ambiguity, create a bespoke backward map and manage cognitive bias. So you are ready to take on the next deal………..

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Relationships
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Women

HardTalk™ for Diversity

Diversity has been a workplace ‘buzz word’ for several decades now and is widely considered to be a necessary ingredient in developing innovation and creativity, which in turn increases company profitability.   In the Middle East the positive impacts of diversity can appear to be more elusive, but why?

Companies in the UAE are more diverse than ever before, across a range of filters including gender, ethnicity, religious, age, education and race.  According to a 2015 report, of the 3.3 million people living in the UAE roughly 80% of them are expats.  but this amount of diversity isn’t actually translating into the positive results we would expect.

Diversity should be a good thing.  A diverse workforce is more adaptable and can increase creativity, drive innovation, attract more consumers and improve performance.   It might seem obvious that the more diverse the staff, the more diverse the skills and experience your team has, and a McKinsey study actually proved that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their national industry medians.

So why isn’t the UAE outperforming everyone?   With this many different nationalities, ages, cultures, ethnicities etc. there are infinite differences in opinion, experience and methods, all of which can create a stressful working environment.   In these types of situations, offices can become rife with miscommunication and a lack of accountability as individuals fail to grasp salient details, infer bias or actually avoid speaking up out of fear of offending.  Worryingly:

  • 62% of minorities experience diversity issues and bias on a monthly basis within their workplace
  • In over half of all these cases, no resolving discussion was had and performance was effected or projects delayed
  • In the UAE, according to the Ministry of Labour, the majority of employees are fearful of speaking up in case they lose their jobs

What impact does this all have on your bottom line?  A failure to manage multi-cultural teams effectively, or provide the right communication training, can be devastating.   Left unchecked this can severely damage relationships within the organisation that are detrimental to the success of:

  • Profit and performance
  • Project Delivery
  • Employee retention
  • Company culture

Any fully functioning corporate culture is one in which people speak up, in a way that is respectful and conducive to relationship building.  Companies must learn to manage diversity by providing the training for staff on when and how to speak up; and making sure ‘a fear of offending’ never stands in the way of an essential conversation.  This is just the kind of tightrope HardTalk knows how to navigate and the program will ensure that all of your employees learn how to speak up, about any topic, in the right way, at the right time.

 

Board Members
Collaborative Teamwork
Compliance
Decision Making
Diversity
Engagement
Feedback & Performance
Healthcare
Influence
Innovation
Integrity & Accountability
Lawyers
Leadership
Motivation
Negotiation
Relationships
Safety
Women