3 Ways Leaders Can Develop Their Diplomacy Skills to Motivate Their Workforce and Drive Productivity

3 Ways Leaders Can Develop Their Diplomacy Skills to Motivate Their Workforce and Drive Productivity

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Diplomacy isn’t just important in politics – it’s also a fundamental set of skills in the workplace.

Good diplomacy skills enable leaders to handle sensitive issues, navigate tricky conflicts and look at the facts objectively, without biased interpretation.

A diplomatic leader will therefore create a healthy culture where people can work well together, even in stressful environments.

So, what is diplomacy?

Diplomacy is best described as the art of tactfully engaging with people to achieve a desired outcome or goal. Armed with this skill set, leaders can approach challenges and conflicts with empathy, a sense of fairness and solid analytical skills.

Leaders with strong diplomacy skills are conscious of the power of their words and behavior and so intentionally communicate with empathy and transparency. They then listen carefully and consider multiple sides of a situation before making a decision, which encourages transparency, creativity and collaboration between team members.

Related: Lessons From a Diplomat on How to Build Business Relationships

What are the most critical diplomacy skills?

Diplomatic skills encompass a range of abilities that can have an extremely positive impact on leadership success. These skills have a significant advantage in that they can improve the workplace culture and increase productivity.

Effective communication, empathy and creative problem-solving are just three of the important skills a leader could focus on if they want to be more diplomatic.

1. Effective communication is an essential skill in diplomacy

Often at work, we communicate with other people in our own natural communication style without consideration of the communication style of our colleagues. This is often the root cause of many misunderstandings. For employees to work together better, it is helpful to actively listen carefully to what is said, appreciate where the other person is coming from and ask clarifying questions. In a Harvard Business Review study, 69% of leaders reported that they aren’t comfortable communicating with their employees, demonstrating the necessity of ongoing training and coaching.

Related: What’s Your Listening Style? Knowing It Will Make You a Better Leader.

2. Understanding the perspectives of others through empathy

Having empathy for another person’s situation can play a significant part in navigating complex situations. A diplomatic leader can consider multiple perspectives, understand how emotions are interrelated and use these understandings to diffuse tension situations. A study of nearly 1,000 employees by Catalyst found that leaders who demonstrate empathy benefit workplaces through increased innovation, employee engagement and retention of employees.

Related: The Networking Mistake Most Entrepreneurs Make

3. Taking a creative, problem-solving approach

Finding fair outcomes to complex problems isn’t always easy, but this is precisely what a diplomatic leader does — focuses on discovering outcomes that work for all. They will focus on gathering information from multiple sources, and involve their team. This allows team members to share their views and contribute to solving the problem and hastens the end result.

How do you improve these skills?

1. Focus on listening to understand

When we listen to understand, instead of listening to respond, we stay more present to what is being said in the moment. Listen to the speaker without interrupting. Listen to both verbal and nonverbal communication as you listen. What is the real meaning of what is being said? Your listening should help you understand the meaning and intent of the speaker. This will give you a solid foundation for diplomacy skills.

Another way to improve your listening skills is to meet individually with staff to listen with less distractions and to better understand their motivations. Ask open-ended questions and be curious about their lives. For example, how do they find work? What is their work load? What do they want to do more of? This knowledge will help you to better support them and manage their expectations.

Related: Are People Actually Listening to and Understanding What You Say? Here Are 5 Signs to Watch.

2. Be supportive of creative solutions

When you’re in a challenging meeting at work, think about how you can be open to innovative ideas and solutions from staff. You should be able to see the many options available for solving the problem. You should be open to new ideas. This will allow you to see the world from multiple perspectives. Your team’s insights might expand your viewpoint to something you’d never considered and having diverse input makes for a stronger team.

3. Practice effective communication

A large part of diplomacy is clear and effective communication. Create a trust environment where people feel comfortable talking to leaders without fear of retribution. This will promote the idea that anyone can approach you with ideas or concerns. Share as much information as you can with your team about how things are going. Share your highs and lows for the week, month, or quarter. To celebrate achievements, shout-outs are a great way to do so. Let your team know if there is anything that isn’t working. You might be unable to attend a major project due to impact your availability. Make sure they are aware. A simple email to your team can make a big difference.

Related: Startup Survival 101: It’s All About Relationships That Work

Ultimately, being a leader is about empowering your staff to do their best work and encouraging people to work well together to increase engagement and productivity. This is what diplomacy is all based on. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance the needs of a company with those of the employees. But happy, productive, and engaged staff will always lead to success.

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