Christchurch Branch Report: Getting Along – Advice for Working with People, with Ross Denton

Ross Denton is a management coach who designs and facilitates bespoke leadership development programmes. He also delivers Conversation Intelligence Advantage™ programmes for leaders and organizations who want to enhance the quality of their connections and conversations.

He has worked closely with Richard Hamilton, Business Development Manager at Canterbury District Health Board’s Design Lab since 2009. The programmes they have been working on (Xcelr8 and Particip8) won the Supreme Award for Leadership in Government in 2015.

This event is available to view on YouTube:

Ross Denton got straight to the point with his first question to the TechCommNZ crowd: Why do people drive you mad at work?

The (deceptively simple) answer – there are a lot of people who don’t see the world the way you do.

So, if the workplace is filled with people who don’t share your perspective, how can you get along with your colleagues and get the best out of your working relationships?

Focus on behaviour and communication, says Ross, and don’t forget to take into account the new business environment we are operating in. The working world has changed dramatically since the 1980s, when the key leadership skills were command and control, and people were coerced, corrected, and expected to comply. Today, there are more small, dynamic businesses and industries, constant and accelerating changes, and shifting expectations. Collaborating, co-creating, coaching, and connecting are now key leadership skills.

Understand yourself, understand the person you’re dealing with

Ross’s first piece of practical advice is understand yourself and the way that you project yourself to others. And consider whether the person you are dealing with might have a very different personality make-up to you. Using the DiSC personality profile model, he showed us the range and diversity of personality traits that exist, and how they might interact with one another.

His second nugget of wisdom was: Mirror the behaviour you see – it may help matters, for example, if your colleague is quietly spoken and you are a very passionate and energetic speaker.

Conversations not meetings

If you want to improve the quality of communication between you and the people you work with, Ross recommends having conversations instead of meetings. Conversations are a good way to transact information, get a shared understanding, innovate, brainstorm, confirm agreements, explore new ideas, and create relationships.

In the “rewarding conversations” exercise, we focused on the nitty-gritty of what makes an effective conversation. We all thought of a time when we had felt good about something at work, then had a conversation about it in pairs, asking questions and reflecting. The exercise showed how effective conversations can be when there’s empathetic listening, eye contact, genuine willingness to participate, and mutual respect. It also highlighted how body language, tone, pace, pitch, words, and content contribute to a positive exchange.

Conversations that create change – the See, Stretch, and Support Model

Creating change helps us to move from the current reality to a desired future. Such change could be as simple as building rapport. For conversations that create change (as opposed to purely transactional conversations), Ross proposes the “See, Stretch, and Support” model. There are three mindsets or stances that you can take into conversations about change:

  • See
 someone as their best self. Who or what is the whole person? Don’t make the call on the one-dimensional person – think about their struggles and their strengths.
  • Stretch
 (This is the change part.) How do we stretch, where do we want to go? Draw upon your colleague’s motivation and resourcefulness, and highlight the destination.
  • Support 
How will you support the person to make this change? Provide resources, encouragement, tracking. Learn from failure, together.

Take home messages

  • Know yourself and your communication style. Then ignore the old adage: “Treat others as you want to be treated” – it is too focused on you. Consider the other person, and appreciate that they may have a very different perspective.
  • See the other person in context – what pressures are they operating under? What is their personal style of communication?
  • Have conversations, not meetings. Go into each conversation with a positive, learner’s mindset. See the other person, stretch, and support them to help create the change that you’re aiming for.


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