CULTURE

Hot tips for better interaction

Ever met a manager who knew how to do the job but didn’t have a clue how to deal with staff? Most of us have, and it’s not surprising. Management positions don’t necessarily go to those with training in people skills, as corporate and coaching psychologist Katina Cremona found when she worked on role play with otherwise capable senior managers. That and subsequent experience led her to write «The Thin Book of Smart People Skills: 8 Tools for the Savvy Leader,» just out from Thin Book Publishing. Cremona brings more than two decades as a psychologist to the task. Her emphasis is on practical tools for tackling the eight most common areas that affect a manager’s ability to influence and work with others. Challenging beliefs First up is understanding how you think, identifying feelings, and challenging your thinking. Drawing on real-life examples, the author demonstrates how to look beneath the surface for thinking that drives behavior, and how to question often unconscious beliefs that may be limiting or unrealistic. Take the example of a manager who gets grouchy when interrupted because, he says, he feels he never seems to have time to get through his own work. Exploring what is behind that feeling uncovers a whole series of assumptions – about needing to be available, the expectations of staff. Cremona shows how those assumptions can be challenged, leading to more realistic behavior. Other sections focus on building relationships, preparing for conversations, and fostering a performance feedback culture, with «say it like this» tips to ease communication, even in tough situations like giving feedback to superiors. Cremona and her husband Nick Papadopoulos, an executive coach, are managing partners of People Savvy Consulting. They grew up in Australia but are now based in Athens. Kathimerini English Edition asked Cremona about her work, her book and the decision to come to Greece. She «accidentally fell into consulting work 13 years ago,» she explained, when she felt like a change from working in psychotherapy in the mental health field. That job doing role play with senior managers was an eye-opener. The managers were assessed against a range of behaviors. «I was impressed by many of them – they were smart, business-savvy and full of great ideas to ‘fix’ the problems I presented in each of these roles,» she recalled. «However, their ability to listen, to ask questions and to gain my commitment or engagement was often very poor. Communication and the subtle dynamics in relationships have always interested me and I had trained people in that area already. I could see that I could contribute to the business world through helping managers and leaders with the psychological and human side of business.» The book took shape from her perception that managers fell into common patterns of communication: «For example, trying to solve problems and issues on their own rather than asking the person sitting opposite them for their ideas. Or not taking the time to get to know the people who work with them and what motivates them or interests them in their jobs.» The reason, Cremona believes, is that in many cases «managers are promoted because of their technical expertise and competence and then suddenly find themselves leading a team of people with little or no training or preparation for what is a different kind of role to just being a technical expert. Most of us have to learn people skills and this book is partly trying to do that in a simple and direct way for busy people who don’t want to spend time reading a thick book on leadership.» Leaving the comfort zone What brought Cremona and Papadopoulos to Athens? They had always talked about how much they enjoyed Europe and visiting Greece in particular. They might have moved sooner «but we were caught up in our learning and developing our psychotherapy practices and then our consulting business in Sydney and were happy there. That’s what made it harder to leave as we weren’t escaping from anything in particular,» said Cremona. Not having jobs to come to made it harder to leave. «But we wanted a change and we like challenging ourselves so that we continue to grow and not stay too much in our comfort zones.» It took several years for them to make the move. Eventually they decided to act before it was too late. «We wanted to explore our Greek heritage, have an adventure, and get out of a life that revolved around work to a large extent. I’m not sure that’s changed so much but there is something about living in Greece that feels different and we knew we’d made the right decision right from the beginning. We both knew, more or less, what to expect and didn’t have too many romantic notions of what it would be like.» Now they are busy building up networks in Greece and Europe. «The Thin Book of Smart People Skills: 8 Tools for the Savvy Leader» will be launched January 16 at Eleftheroudakis bookstore (17 Panepistimiou Street) at 6.15 p. m.