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Diplomacy is not only important in politics, it is also a fundamental set of skills in the workplace.
Good diplomacy skills enable leaders to address sensitive issues, navigate difficult conflicts, and view 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 dealing tactfully with people to achieve a desired outcome or goal. Armed with these skills, leaders can approach challenges and conflicts with empathy, a sense of fairness, and solid analytical skills.
Leaders with strong diplomacy skills are aware of the power of their words and behavior and therefore deliberately communicate with empathy and transparency. They then listen carefully and consider multiple sides of a situation before making a decision, promoting transparency, creativity, and collaboration among team members.
Related: Lessons from a diplomat about building business relationships
What are the most critical diplomacy skills?
Diplomatic skills encompass a range of skills that can have an extremely positive impact on leadership success. A significant benefit of these skills is that they help improve workplace culture, increasing employee engagement and productivity.
Effective communication, empathy, and creative problem solving are just three of the important skills a leader can focus on if he wants 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 regard for the communication style of our colleagues. This is often the cause of many misunderstandings. To make employees work better together, it is useful to actively listen carefully to what is being said, appreciate where the other is coming from and ask clarifying questions. In a Harvard Business Review Study69% of leaders said they don’t like communicating with their employees, demonstrating the need for ongoing training and coaching.
Related: What’s Your Listening Style? When you know it will make you a better leader.
2. Understanding the perspectives of others through empathy
Having empathy for another person’s situation can play an important role in navigating complex situations. A diplomatic leader considers multiple points of view, understands how emotions play a role in the equation, and can use these insights to help diffuse tense situations. A survey of nearly 1,000 employees by Catalyst found that leaders who show empathy benefit the workplace through increased innovation, employee engagement, and employee retention.
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3. Take a creative, problem-solving approach
Finding fair results for complex problems isn’t always easy, but this is exactly what a diplomatic leader does: focus on discovering results that work for everyone. To do this, they will focus on collecting information from multiple sources and involving their team. Therefore, team members benefit from providing their perspectives and contributions to solving the problem and have some influence on the outcome.
How do you improve these skills?
1. Focus on listening to understand
When we listen to understand, rather than listen to respond, we stay more present with what is being said in the moment. Listen to the speaker without interrupting with your own point of view. While listening, focus on both verbal and non-verbal communication. What is really being said? The purpose of your listening is to correctly understand the meaning and intent of the speaker as this will give you a good foundation for your diplomacy skills.
Another idea to improve listening skills is to meet the staff individually so you can listen with less distraction and better understand what makes them tick. Be curious about who they are and ask open exploratory questions. For example: how do they find work? How is their workload? What do they hope to do more or less? With this knowledge you are better able to support them and manage expectations.
Related: Do People Really Listen To And Understand What You’re Saying? Here are 5 signs to watch.
2. Support Creative Solutions
If you find yourself in a challenging meeting at work, think about how you can be open to innovative ideas and solutions from employees. Focus more on the different options to solve the problems. Keep in mind ideas that may be off the beaten track. By doing this, you build the knowledge that there are multiple ways of looking at a situation. Your team’s insights can expand your point of view into something you’ve never thought of and having diverse inputs makes for a stronger team.
3. Practice effective communication
A big part of diplomacy is clear and effective communication. Build an environment of trust where your team feels they can talk to leaders without fear of retaliation. Implement an “open door” policy, as this will spread the word that people can come to you with new ideas or to share their concerns. Be as transparent as possible with your team with information about how things are going. Share the highs and lows of the week/month/quarter. Give shout-outs to celebrate achievements. If something goes wrong that you can share with them, let your team know. If there is a big project coming up that could affect your availability. Make sure they are aware. An email to your team can go a long way.
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Ultimately, being a leader is about empowering your employees to do their best work and encouraging people to work well together to increase engagement and productivity. And this is really what diplomacy is all about. It can sometimes be a fine line between balancing the needs of a company and the needs of the team. However, having a happy, engaged and productive workforce will always lead to lasting success.