Tag Archive: working relationships




    As a leader, how do you balance asserting your own needs and wants with helping your team achieve their objectives?

    The paradox of POWER – what it can look like when the balance between ASSERTIVENESS and HELPFULNESS is off-kilter, and what it can look like when balance is achieved.

    Leaders need to be able to balance these two seemingly opposite traits – one dynamic and one gentle – to achieve optimal behavioural performance and balanced versatility.

    Harrison Paradox Technology is embraced by organizations world-wide as the best means to determine leadership capability and job performance by providing a reliable map of the paradoxical balances that make or break leaders.

    Find out more or contact us at [email protected] or on 07768 922244

  2. What does effective communication look like?


    Communication is one of the most important skills a successful leader can develop. Effective communication is the tool to inspire, align a team around common goals, build trust and negotiate delicate situations.  How our communication is received will depend on the perception and viewpoint of the person receiving it and is open to interpretation.  The intention and the interpretation can often be miles apart and it is important to remember that it is the interpretation not the intention that triggers action.  If we want that action to be positive and progressive, we must take the utmost care with our communication.

    Ineffective communication can leave teams feeling out of the loop, lacking in confidence and motivation, or even result in a complete breakdown in trust between leader and employee/team. This in turn has a huge impact on productivity and can result in absenteeism, raised levels of sickness and staff churn.  If you happen to work for a visionary company who recognize the importance of effective communication you will have been on the receiving end as well as seen the benefits of training in such skills. A good place to start is by considering the foundations of effective communication.

    The Paradox of Communication

    Harrison Assessments Paradox Theory suggests the idea that every behavioural trait can be a strength or a derailer depending on the circumstances.  Unfortunately, behavioural traits are often unconscious behaviours or habits and we can often fail to notice the consequences of ineffective behaviour.  Balancing seemingly opposite (paradoxical) traits can give us the maximum flexibility and, therefore, effectiveness within each paradox.

    The two paradoxical traits of the Communication paradox are FRANK and DIPLOMATIC and this is just one of 12 sets of paradoxical traits that give us an overview of our approach to work.

    • FRANK: the tendency to be straightforward, direct, to the point and forthright
    • DIPLOMATIC: the tendency to state things in a tactful manner

    Communication imbalances can cause limitations in communication style

    Flexibility is the name of the game and a high score in both diplomacy and frankness will give us such flexibility. So let’s take a look at the imbalances and the consequences of each.


    What this can look like: The manager who disappears down the corridor at the first hint of a confrontation or spends the day hiding behind a closed office door. Often prefers to communicate by email rather than in person or even on the phone.

    A leader who avoids communication may be unable to communicate with a team effectively on a day to day basis, manage conflicts or to provide clear strategic direction, often leaving the team feeling ‘rudderless’. The team may feel this manager is too busy, or doesn’t care about their input.


    What this can look like: The manager who never gets to the point because they’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings or allows bad behaviour from team members to go unchecked for risk of upsetting them. Avoids being the bearer of bad news and passes the buck onto others: “Head Office said we need to work extra hours to make this deadline”.

    A leader who is evasive tends to be tactful without being sufficiently direct. This can leave the team feeling they are not being given the whole story, or even not being told the truth which isn’t necessarily the case.  There may be gaps in the communication which could be filled with inappropriate actions.


    What this can look like: The manager who steps on others without even realising it. Often prides themself on being ‘honest’, thinks there is nothing wrong with their own style, and does not know when they hurt others’ feelings. Has a tendency to say the wrong thing at wrong time.

    A leader who is blunt may tend to be frank or direct and often use the phrase ‘telling it as it is’ without sufficient tact, often making themself appear rude. Those around may hold back from sharing ideas for fear of being shot down.

    Any and all of the above can lead to problems with performance, disengagement and a poor culture.

    Of course, there will be instances where these extremes are useful – frankness is probably preferable if the building is on fire.  Equally two people with the same frank trait will demonstrate excellent rapport – I have seen whole organizational cultures built on one style of communication as people who feel uncomfortable leave the organization. The question here is ‘what is the organization missing in terms of creativity and ideas?’

    Likewise there will be situations where extreme diplomacy and tact are required –negotiation of any sort or delivering unpleasant news for example.

    Balance brings versatility

    Effective communication encourages innovation, helps with the early identification of problems, creates individual and team engagement with business goals and objectives and creates a culture of openness and trust in the team and the wider organisation. Operating within the fourth pattern encourages and allows for greater versatility for the needs of the situation.


    What this can look like: The manager who maintains a good balance of being to the point while being sensitive to the way in which they communicate with their audience.

    A leader who displays forthright diplomacy tends to be both forthright and diplomatic at the same time, communicating clearly and respectfully with the team to create an open and engaged team culture.

    As previously stated, flexibility is the name of the game – being able to switch styles according to the person on the receiving end and the requirements of the situation.  The first step in developing such versatility is awareness – The Harrison Assessment Paradox report will give you this and the opportunity to practice exercises to develop potentially deficient traits.


    5 tips to help improve communication

    • Keep communicating! Information, thoughts, feedback, ideas should be communicated frequently – ‘nature abhors a vacuum’… don’t leave a gap which can be filled with inaccurate information from other sources. Keep communication open and transparent, remove any barriers and take the time to talk and listen to people.
    • Keep it simple and direct – Make sure communications are clear without hiding behind extraneous information. Take into account how your message will be received by others. Use that diplomacy… Direct does not mean blunt!
    • Listen and encourage contributions – Encourage ideas and solutions from others. Do 80% of the listening and 20% of the talking. Showing interest and respecting colleagues will help make the emotional connection that’s so important for effective leadership.
    • Show empathy and create trust – Walk in the other person’s shoes, see things from other perspectives to avoid being judgmental and biased. Employees want to feel heard and valued.
    • Walk the talk – Integrity is key and judgement is invariably based upon behaviour. Credibility and engagement will emanate from consistent communication and behaviour.


    Paradoxical Leadership Technology

    You can find out more about balancing Paradoxical traits, like FRANK and DIPLOMATIChere,  or you can get in touch at [email protected] or on 07768 922244





    The paradox of COMMUNICATION – what it can look like when the balance between FRANKNESS and DIPLOMACY is off-kilter, and what it can look like when balance is achieved.

    Leaders need to be able to balance these two seemingly opposite traits – one dynamic and one gentle – to achieve optimal behavioural performance and balanced versatility and effective communication.

    What examples of leadership communication spring to your mind?

    Harrison Paradox Technology is embraced by organizations world-wide as the best means to determine leadership capability and job performance by providing a reliable map of the paradoxical balances that make or break leaders.

    Find out more or contact us at [email protected] or on 07768 922244

  4. Are you being too harsh or too permissive?


    Managers often fall into the trap of being either too harsh or too permissive.  Both of these traits are due to an imbalance in management style.  The secret of effective management is to understand a number of  paradoxes and the ability to balance two opposing behaviours.Driving

    A number of my clients have been complaining that their managers are not keeping their eye on the ball, and letting performance slip through a lack of following up on the goals and objectives agreed with staff.  I have also encountered a couple of organisations where there is a very strong culture of ‘compassion’ or ‘caring’ for service users, this means that many managers value ‘caring’ and want to ensure that they are ‘kind’ to their people.  Addressing underperformance can feel harsh and uncaring which creates a values conflict, especially when the managers believe that the only tool they have at their disposal is the disciplinary process.  They are reluctant to use it because it feels far too harsh to address the issue at hand, and in many cases they are right.  The Disciplinary process is only to be used after you have had a number of informal but important conversations that firmly address the underperformance.  However, it seems that many managers are reluctant to even give a reprimand or informal warning.  They end up being permissive and this serves no one because standards drop, targets are not met and management will be seen to be ineffective.  This can extend to the very top of an organisation.

    I have also come across organisational cultures where there is a very firm line taken and any mistake or underperformance is dealt with very harshly.  These businesses tend to suffer from a blame culture.  It can also create high management and staff turnover because people want to feel that their line manager understands them and values them as a person.  Harshness comes from a lack of warmth and empathy and if the manager is too harsh people often feel that they are being treated unfairly.  It is interesting to note that neuroscientists have discovered that even a perceived lack of fairness triggers deep feelings of disgust in the brain and this can rapidly undermine working relationships and overall performance.

    The paradoxes of good management

    One of the paradoxes of good management is how to balance ‘Enforcing’ and ‘Warmth and Empathy’.  Enforcing is all about being able to ensure rules and standards are followed even when people don’t like it and may get defensive.  Warmth and Empathy is all about having an open heart and recognising the feelings of others.

    Driving Paradox

    These two traits may seem like oil and vinegar – they can’t mix and will always separate – but as any good cook knows if you get them in the right balance they can create a great flavour and if you add a little emulsifier like egg yolk you get deliciously smooth French Dressing.

    I’ve recently started working with a very interesting assessment tool developed by Dr. Dan Harrison.

    His background in Mathematics, Personality Theory, Counselling and Organizational Psychology has enabled him to make a unique and exceptional contribution to assessment methodology.

    One of the reports available illustrates a number of paradoxes.  The ‘Driving’ Paradox is illustrated in the graph below.  It shows that if you are high on Enforcing and low on Warmth and Empathy your behaviour will be Harsh; highlighted in red.  If you are low on Enforcing and high on Warmth and Empathy you can become Permissive; highlighted in blue.  The ideal balance is ‘Compassionate Enforcing’ which reminds me of the proverb; “Only a person with a kind heart can administer discipline that is beneficial to others”.

    However, any imbalance can also cause a ‘Flip’ when a manager is under stress.  So the Permissive Manager can suddenly become Harsh (“I’ve given you lots of chances and now you are going to see what happens when you take advantage of me . . .”).  The Harsh Manager can fall into avoiding the final difficult conversation and lead people to think that their “Bark is worse than their bite” so they get used to the harshness and continue to underperform, because there is no ultimate consequence.

    Gain respect

    There is now plenty of scientific evidence from recent psychological studies that show how Compassionate Enforcing is highly respected by people because it is perceived as fair and just.  This means that it avoids triggering defensive mechanisms that can be generated deep in our reptilian brain.  Once defensiveness is triggered, rational behaviour goes out the window, and people start thinking negatively and taking things very personally.  This is always far more difficult to manage.

    It is interesting to note that being low on both of these traits leads to ‘Cool Permissiveness’ which is very ineffective.  The studies show that it leads to people having a lack of respect for their manager and treating them with a sense of pity and disgust.

    Making a shift

    When I drew this graph on a flip chart on a recent Management Development course with the caring Managers it became clear to many of them that they needed to keep the same levels of Warmth and Empathy while increasing the level of Enforcing.  This meant making a shift in their perception and recognising that being Permissive was not serving the organisation, its end users or the staff.

    The concept behind these Paradoxes is the need to understand the principles of the opposing traits and exercise more of both.  It is not about doing less of what you naturally prefer; it is about looking at any imbalances and learning ways to improve the balance between them.  This can be achieved by greater self-awareness, being open to feedback and a willingness to improve.

    If you are interested in exploring where you and your managers stand on this Paradox and the eleven other Paradoxes in the assessment just contact Amanda at [email protected].

    Remember . . . Stay Curious!

    With best regards

    David Klaasen