Whether you’re struggling to get a creative team to keep to a hard deadline, trying to resolve a conflict, or just want to optimise your client relationships, fine tuning your communication and collaboration skills can make all the difference. We spoke to Susie Galbraith, partner at communications consultancy BLUEdOOR and course leader of D&AD’s ‘Managing Creative and Client Relationships’ Masterclass about how best to motivate and inspire people.
Galbraith says most problems that can arise in working relationships can be divided into one of three areas: confidence, communication, and company culture. From difficult hierarchy situations to lack of ability to be assertive when pitching, we tend to run into trouble when something – or someone – is at odds. The work to transform these kinds of issues begins with you.
“Knowing more about your impact on people is really important,” says Galbraith. “You have to start with yourself, because that's the thing that you can take responsibility for. What is my impact on this situation? Why am I getting the reaction I'm getting?... If I dared to be more authentic, maybe I'd get a different result?.”
The different styles of influence
Although these questions can seem overwhelming in the abstract, Galbraith recommends a simple place to start: learning your influencing style. According to the model she teaches, there are four key ways we tend to influence other people, falling under two main types – push and pull. Understanding your own style will teach you about your interpersonal strengths and weaknesses. “For example, with people who are ‘pull’, sometimes you have to dial up the knob to be more ‘push’. It might feel really uncomfortable, but sometimes you just have to do it.” Here’s a breakdown of those four main styles:
Reward & Punishment
In ‘push’ you have ‘reward and punishment’. “Margaret Thatcher was the epitome of that,” Galbraith says of the former British Prime Minister, whose leadership style has often been described as autocratic. “The good side of reward and punishment is they're very clear about what the goals and the objectives are,” she explains. “Everybody knows exactly where they're going, and that we're doing this in six months and if we don't, we're in trouble... But they can be quite tough if you don't make those objectives. They don't take any prisoners. And they can be very forthright with their own ideas.” At its worst, it can allow you to dominate the situation and miss things because you’re not hearing what other people are saying.
The second arm of ‘push’ is ‘assertive persuasion’, which, Galbraith says, often makes her think of lawyers. “They're the advocates, and they're very good at putting words together. They love debate, they love public speaking.” This style is defined by an ability to reason through an argument right to the very end, marshalling the full power of facts and logic. “The downside of that is they can use other people's arguments against them. They're very clever and look for chinks in other people's arguments.”
On the other side of the spectrum, we have ‘pull’. The first half of this is ‘common vision’. “That's a Barack Obama. They're always saying ‘we can do this together’. It's all about the ‘we’ in the team, but also they're very good at painting pictures of a vision.” It’s a style defined by rhetoric and motivation, Galbraith says. However, this can lead to small things becoming Herculean. “They can often make even boring tasks seem like the Holy Grail… So everyone's all galvanised up and then they think ‘all I'm doing is a brand review here’.”
Participation & Trust
Finally, there is ‘participation and trust’. “That’s all about declaring what your weaknesses are so that people feel that they can really collaborate, because you're being honest about why you need them, and why you are crap at this... and need their help,” Galbraith explains. “[They] often have strong teams, because people feel as if they're valued.” But this can require ceding control, and being upfront about one’s vulnerabilities.
Applying your style for impact
As with all models of personality, this one isn’t a one size fits all metric. Most people possess a combination of styles, and might disagree about where exactly they fit. But as a framework, it’s a useful exercise to better understand how you behave and why. “All of us are really complex,” Galbraith explains. “So we're automatically going to trigger other people in some way.” Models like these offer a space to evaluate your actions and habits. “It's just thinking about what you can own, what you can know about yourself, what you can still be curious about.”
Ultimately it all comes back to how you then apply this knowledge. “How do I impact other people? And how can I get the best out of people?” Galbraith asks. It’s useful in crisis situations too. “When things are going really wrong you can just pause and go ‘right, okay, I need to step back from this and think: why the hell is it going on, what's happening here?’” Of course, all of this takes work. It’s not a magic bullet as much as a practical toolkit to help along the way, shedding light on tricky interactions or encouraging you to do the things you find hardest. “In essence, it’s about being more authentic. Because people respond to authenticity.”
Susie Galbraith’s D&AD Masterclass on ‘Managing Creative and Client Relationships’ aims to give you the ability to diffuse difficult situations and strengthen your working relationships. Using role play, discussions, and case studies underpinned by researched best-practices and relationship management, her two-day workshop explores the nuts and bolts of teamwork, management, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Sign up for it here.
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