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Success In Organizations
krishna Picture
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Posted 01-04-2009Reply

The Responsiveness Paradigm

Why are some people respected in the workplace, and others not? Is there something that distinguishes people who are thought of highly from those that are not? What about managers and leaders; are successful respected leaders different from those that are less successful?

The answers to these questions are not so simple. But perhaps they aren't so complex either. And the answers may also extend to regular employees, who gets promoted, and who is seen as an effective employee.

Our work in interpersonal communication has brought us to pay attention to these questions. And we have a tentative hypothesis; something that people can build on to become better leaders, managers and employees. We call this approach The Responsiveness Paradigm.

The Responsiveness Paradigm is a way of looking at how people influence and get along with each other. Based on our work in defusing hostility, it suggests that a primary characteristic of successful and respected people, be they leaders, managers or line employees, is that they have an ability to respond to others in a way that takes into account the needs of both people.

What Is Responsiveness?

We characterize responsiveness in the following ways:

An individual (or organization) can be considered responsive if:

s/he identifies both the explicit (clearly stated), and implicit (unstated or below the surface) needs of another person or people s/he interacts with.

s/he uses the understanding of those needs to fulfil those needs when possible. she/he acknowledges and works in partnership with other parties to find some means of fulfilling needs that IS possible, even if only partial fulfilment results. she/he uses a family of communication techniques and skills (cooperative communication techniques) that serves the following functions:

indicates interest and concern for others

indicates willingness to work together and not in opposition

indicates acceptance of responsibility for communication and follow-up behaviour

The Responsiveness Skill Set

In terms of learning how to be responsive, we need to translate the above into a set of skills that people can learn. After all, it isn't helpful to know about successes if we have no means of making more successes. The Responsiveness skill set is a collection of elements, that when learned and applied, make people more able to meet the needs of others, and to be perceived as helpful, supportive, accomplished, etc.

First, the responsiveness skill set is composed primarily of thinking and emotional type skills. Second responsiveness requires a set of language/communication skills. We are going to state both types in terms of competencies we believe can be developed in most people.


Active/reflective listening (communication skill)

Empathetic and acknowledging communication (communication skill)

Use of cooperative language (communication skill set)

eg. use of non-confrontational questions to build understanding

use of qualifiers as opposed to absolute statements

focus on problem solving vs. blame

consistency between talk and behaviour (walking the talk) (thinking/emotional skill)

ability to extract other person's needs from the interactions (communication skill)

problem-solving skills (thinking skill)

These competencies give us a good starting point to look at some case situations that will illustrate the difference between responsiveness and unresponsiveness. This month we are going to look at responsive and non-responsive managers.

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