Working from the Middle to Bridge the Gap

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

I just finished a call with a client who has hired us to do a Shapes Certification Course for 40 members of his team. The purpose of the call was for me to better understand his team; their purpose, mission, objectives, opportunities, and challenges. Once we better understand our participants, we then collaborate as a Shapes Team and customize our Shapes Certification Course to specifically meet their needs.


The biggest ah-hah for me during the call is that their team is the "middle man (or woman)." They are advisors with influence but with no official authority. They are also the ones who have their "finger on the pulse" and their "ear on the ground." In case you aren't tracking with my terminology, I just googled both of these sayings, and here's what I mean:


"Finger on the pulse" - to be aware of the latest things that are happening in a certain industry, area, with people, etc. first-hand.


"Ear to the ground" - to pay attention to everything that is happening around you and to what people are saying. For example, the person that has their "ear to the ground" knows a whole lot more than the engagement survey will tell you.


The challenge for these people is communicating what they know in a way that relates, interests, and influences the leader to listen, understand, consider, and/or potentially take action.


For example, the "plan for success" looks amazing on paper, but as the person who is privy to both the logical leadership plan and the emotional state of the people who will be asked to help implement the plan, the "middle man" recognizes the gap. How do you communicate and influence leadership to consider the current state, morale, and engagement of the people before launching the "bullet-proof" plan? In other words, how do you "bridge the gap" between what people think and how people feel and what the leaders think and what the leaders do?


The gap is the gray area, and in our world of PsychoGeometrics, we call it the Rectangle. The Rectangle is neither a primary or secondary Shape, but rather it is a transitional Shape that one experiences when going through change. It can also be used as a Shape skill that is incredibly helpful to the person who is trying to manage, bridge, or close the gap.


As a result of what we just learned today about this group of 40 people, who will be our participants in our upcoming Shapes Certification Course, and what we know about PsychoGeometrics, we will focus a significant part of our training on how Shapes can help them communicate effectively from the middle and "bridge the gap."


For example, how does the person with no authority influence the leader who does?


1. Identify the Shape(s) of the Leader(s). How do they take in information? How do they make decisions? What do they "care" about, or what's important to them?


2. Take the information, straight from the people, and translate it in the Shape language that will motivate the leader to, at least, listen.


As we underscore in our new book, Communicating Beyond Our Differences, what you want to communicate may be important, but if you don't know how to say it in a way that motivates others to listen, then your communication is not effective.

Our client, who has already read our new book, also told us today that while his team was not in sales, as one might traditionally define as "selling to a customer," he especially loved Section Three: A Deeper Dive into The Five Shapes where we talk about "Identifying the Shape of a customer and how to sell to that customer." We all have a customer and we all have something to sell, whether it's ourselves, an idea, a suggestion, a change, or a plan.


For example, you have learned that trust and morale is low among the people, and you want to influence the leader to approve a team building exercise on next month's agenda. How do you effectively communicate what you know to the leader who already has their agenda planned, including a budget review and goal-setting exercise?  How do you "sell" to your boss?


Enter the gray area of the Rectangle, putting yourself in the shoes of others. Identify the Shape of the Leader. What motivates their Shape? Let's assume the leader is logical, focused, and driven to achieve measured and tangible results. In our Shapes world, we would describe this leader as a "Box-Triangle." It is hard to quantify behavior, such as low morale or a lack of trust, to a "Box-Triangle," who needs a spreadsheet to substantiate a "feeling." Therefore, the person who is trying to bridge the gap between what the people want and what the leader needs to do, must approach the leader in a way that links behavior to results.


The approach could look like this, as described below.


"Middle-Man" to the Leader: In the last three months, I have personally spoken with 90% of our workforce in manufacturing. Out of this 90%, 8-of-10 people tell me that trust and morale are low among their team, and at least 2-of-10, are actively searching for jobs elsewhere. When I checked with HR, they confirmed that during this same time period, there has been an increase in absences from work in this unit by more than 15%, and that on-site accidents have also increased by more than 10%. Given that safety is one of our five measurable goals, I suggest we modify next month's agenda to address this issue of safety by doing "XYZ."


Notice that the approach is factual, not emotional. Also notice that the recommendation to modify the agenda is about addressing safety, not about addressing how people feel. If you can influence this to happen, then you have successfully bridged the gap between what's important to the people and what's important to the leader.


I will underscore:


"What you say is important. It's just that if you don't know how to say it in a way that makes others want to listen, your communication is not effective; therefore you have little to no influence."


If you want to learn more about PsychoGeometrics, including our online DIY modules, upcoming certification online classes, our new book, or how we can customize a team-building workshop for your group, feel free to reach out to me directly. Our team truly loves helping people leverage their Shapes for effective and influential communication!





Susan Hite, CEO, PsychoGeometrics, The Science of Behavior - The Art of Communication