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Home > Business > Special


7 top skills for great relationships

Leslie D'Souza | January 16, 2006

The author is President, Grid Organisation Development, Mumbai, India.


Regardless of size, industry or nationality, the future of an organisation is determined by its culture.

The Grid theory empowers people to create relationships built on candour, confidence, mutual trust and respect. How can that happen in just four-and-a-half days? Leslie D'Souza explains.


For some people, achieving results is all-important. For some, other people matter most: what they feel, think and say. Life events detach some people from reality: they are neither interested in people nor results.

And for others, results and concern for people go hand in hand, one complementing the other. People express their concern for results in different ways. A production manager focuses on volume and quality of production, a sales person on sales results.

A high level of concern for people means the ability to understand and anticipate how others feel, and to consider the impact of certain actions. A low level of concern for other people means avoidance of meaningful interactions and limited direct communication.

There is also a third dimension: motivation, which addresses the basic question, "How is a person motivated for life?" and reflects fundamental values and attitudes that people hold. Motivations that are hard to identify and articulate, clearly reveal themselves through Grid.

Grid styles

In practice, seven distinct styles stand out. These distinct styles emerge when the two concerns (concern for results and concern for people) meet. Studying how the two concerns relate mutually is the key to understanding the styles.

For example, a person has a high (degree of 9) concern for results. She expresses that concern in strikingly different ways if the interacting concern for people is low or high. If it's low, then she comes across as domineering and unilateral, with little concern for the other person's feelings. If it's high, she works in collaboration with the other person to strive for high results.

Reality and self deception

The Grid theory of leadership styles helps define how people relate to one another: how they see themselves, and how others perceive them . Most people carry a clear self-image of their personal effectiveness.

This personal image is however, seldom objective. People evaluate their own actions based on what they intend to achieve and rationalisation protects that self-image. But, when they look at others, they only see the other person's actions, not the underlying intentions.

This protective reaction is a subtle form of self-deception that everyone experiences to some degree. The higher up a person is, the more others say what they think she wants to hear, and the less they confront problems. Lack of candour perpetuates self-deception and blocks improvement.

Can I change my style?

If the manner in which we relate to results and people is based on assumptions and if we can change our assumptions to fit reality; it is possible for us to change our Grid style and progress towards sounder ways to relate with people. It's a journey worth pursuing. There are four basic conditions that need to occur for personal change to take place:

  • Theory, insight, knowledge, experience: A sound and clearly defined Grid style allows individuals a new way of doing things, of looking at situations, and of responding to people on a day-to-day basis.
  • Removal of self-deception: Personal growth centers around being able to see own behaviour objectively. The key learning comes from understanding how your behaviour is perceived and practicing ways of improvement.
  • Realising the motivational gap: Realising the gap between where you want to be and where you are now creates a tension that motivates people to challenge their own self-image and seek out ways to change.
  • Team support: Change efforts remain on track by involving people who work with you everyday to help you change.

How does the grid transform behaviour?

Through a two-step process:

  • Defining sound and unsound behaviors in tangible terms of seven relationship skills.
  • Learning structured critique skills to assess behavior objectively to make constructive suggestions for improvement without offending or creating defensiveness.

The Grid framework brings the theory into practical use by defining seven relationship skills in simple and specific terms of which behaviors do and do not work effectively:

  • Critique: How do people learn from experience by anticipating and examining how behaviour and actions affect results?
  • Initiative: How do people exercise effort, drive, and support for specific activities?
  • Inquiry: How do people question, seek information, and test for understanding?
  • Advocacy: How do people express attitudes, opinions, ideas, and convictions?
  • Conflict resolution: How do people confront and work through disagreement with others toward a resolution?
  • Decision making: How do people evaluate resources, criteria, and consequences to reach a decision?
  • Resilience: How do people react to problems, setbacks, and failure, and understand how these factors influence the ability to move forward?

Each Grid style presents in detail the behavioural approaches to these relationship skills, and explores the positive and negative impact on others.

Is there one best style of leading?

Most management gurus and successful managers would say, "No!" Yet, I'm certain that most would not dispute the principles of 9,9 leadership listed below.

What the Grid organisation development process seeks to do is to lay the foundation for sound organisation behavior on a set of core values and principles that individuals embrace and cherish in action. The 9,9 principles are:

  • Human activity and productivity gets its character from fulfillment through contribution.
  • Being responsible for one's own actions is the highest level of maturity and is only possible through widespread delegation of power and authority.
  • Open communication in the form of advocacy, inquiry and active listening is essential for the exercise of self-responsibility.
  • Conflict is resolved by confronting the causes and building understanding and agreement.
  • Shared participation in problem-solving and decision-making stimulates active involvement and commitment to productivity and creative thinking.
  • Merit is the basis of reward.
  • Learning from work experience happens through critique.
  • Norms and standards that regulate behaviour and performance, support personal and organisational excellence.

The principles listed above do pose a challenge to business leaders and HR professionals. Should they teach managers to change their behavior to fit situations, or should they teach them to influence situations through sound principles of leadership? We only have to read the stories that unfold about WorldCom, Enron and the likes to get an honest answer.

Does the grid put people in pigeonholes?

No it does not. In fact, the purpose of Grid is not to typecast people. The Grid provides a framework to understand the differences between one person and another, and to clarify a motivational gap between ideal and actual behaviors.

Having a theoretical model helps us understand our motivation and basic orientation toward sound and unsound behaviors especially in dealing with conflicts that result from faulty coping with problems.

It offers an opportunity to under-stand how different values and beliefs influence behaviour and determine results. The purpose of Grid is to help individuals and organisations strip self-deception and migrate to the ideal.

An organisation's culture conditions the way members think, feel and act. For change to impact the bottom line, organisations must implement sound management practices and create a culture to support them. Grid advocates the 'The Change by Design' process that is often initiated through an 'organisation diagnosis.'

Emergence from a downward spiral or a stagnant pattern depends on the ability of an organisation to tap its powerful human resources and to establish a climate that promotes satisfaction and stimulates involvement and commitment to the goal of excellence.

Following diagnosis and discussions with top management, a usual first step is for the top management to participate in a Leadership Grid Seminar. Here, we focus on change by providing a basic framework for developing individual excellence and also create a readiness to move forward.

Next, we aid the organisation members to gain a comprehensive understanding of teamwork to strengthen their operating effectiveness.

Once sound leadership and team effectiveness are in use at all levels, members can employ them in shaping the future of the organisation. We then help members of the executive team design a strategic model for achieving organisation excellence.

The cycle of development is complete when an organisation has acquired the skills to plan and implement future changes.

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Published with the kind permission of The Smart Manager, India's first world class management magazine, available bi-monthly.


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Number of User Comments: 4




Sub: 7 skills for great relationship

I think it is a very good article. The author is very clear in his evaluation of relationships and their effects on productivity within an ...


Posted by abhi





Sub: CRAP!!!!

It's a total crap and I wasted my valuable 7 minutes for this peice of shit.


Posted by ankit





Sub: 7 skills for great leadership

nice article, keep posting such article it explores lot.


Posted by dayanand





Sub: topic review

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Posted by Deepak




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