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Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Communication Isn’t What We Say – It’s What the Other Person Understands

Communication is a complex process. Speaking well or forming good arguments is not sufficient to be a good communicator. In order to explain the complexity of communication, I often use the example of the "phone game" (formerly the Arabic phone game). The idea of the game is simple: participants take turns whispering a sentence from one to the next. The objective of the game is to get the message across without distorting it along the way, but part of the fun is that it usually ends up becoming distorted. Errors accumulate as each person transmits the message along, so that the sentence spoken aloud by the last player differs significantly from that of the first player, usually with a fun or humorous effect. This game is exceptionally effective to demonstrate how communication in action can deteriorate.

Communication is by its nature a source of unintended ambiguities and distortions. Although this is amusing when you play this game, it is less amusing when this distortion occurs during more serious exchanges, or even during professional communications. How many times have we been certain of what we have said, yet so surprised when we realize how the receiver has understood or interpreted our words? Your own experiences have probably taught you that even though you have transmitted a message, it is not always correctly interpreted.

Communicating is not just an exchange of information; it is conveying a message to another person (or group) in order to be understood. Communicare in Latin means to share, to exchange, to consult one another, to confer, to participate means to get into contact with another person.

This cannot be done alone, as an interaction is necessary. Any interaction implies that our own frame of reference is related to that of the receiver, since their own frame of reference contributes to the communicated message’s meaning. As stated by Timm (1980), in order to create ideal conditions for communication, it is important to remember that "We must expect to be misunderstood by at least some of our receivers and we must expect to misunderstand others; we can try to reduce misunderstanding, but we can never eliminate it altogether. When we anticipate that we will not be properly understood, we are more attentive to clarifying and listening. When we recognize the impossibility of eliminating all misunderstanding and anticipating all the reactions, we recognize the reality ".

Interferences hinder the communication process and is a source of distortions, misunderstandings and misinterpretations, which are barriers to effective communication. Several kinds of interference can occur at the various stages of the communication process. For example:

  • Differences in the frame of reference (language, age, culture, education, experience, social environment, habits, etc.)
  • When the message is too long or too dense, the information is difficult to retain
  • Physical interference (noisy environments, distractions, interruptions, etc.)
  • The receiver’s internal state (emotions, attitudes, values, etc.) or the presence of observers who can interfere. They produce "snags" or intellectual paralysis linked to stress
  • Mental distractions such as preoccupations with other topics or preparing an answer instead of listening

But recognizing that communication has its limits does not preclude trying to achieve the best communication possible. Efforts should be made to reduce interference that hinders the transmission of the message. An effective communicator anticipates possible failures in the communication method and the many ways in which the message can be understood.

Communication is based on a series of actions and reactions. Both the receiver and the transmitter are affected by the message’s effects. There may be a significant difference between the message sent and the message received. It is important when communicating to remember that we are not alone in the interaction and that the receiver is an essential component of communication - what we have communicated is not what we have said, but what the other has understood!

  46 lectures
46 lectures

Demonstrating Courtesy and Respect in the Workplace

Do good manners at work really matter? Should you really be expected to be polite all the time, or can you bend the rules in the name of efficiency and productiveness? The answers are yes, yes, and no!

Most people don’t intend to be rude or discourteous. In an attempt to be efficient and productive we sometimes forget to consider the impact of our behaviours on our colleagues. Courtesy and respect towards others should be standard behavior in every workplace, regardless of role, rank, stress or circumstances.

The following actions help ensure a respectful, civil, considerate, professional workplace. These might all be evident behaviours for you, but for those that have forgotten …here is a work etiquette 101 crash course:

  • Be cordial – Greet people when you arrive, when you leave, when you pass in the hall or when you encounter them in the elevator. A simple "Good morning", "Hello", "Goodbye" or "Goodnight” will do. Look them in the eye. Make an effort to exchange polite conversation and shake hands when you're introduced to someone. You don’t have to get into a long conversation, but simply acknowledge that a person exists.
  • Be polite – Hold doors (even the elevator) for people. If you're asking for something, or asking someone to do something, say "please." If someone does something for you, or gives you something, say "thank you." Say "Excuse me." if you want someone to get out of your way, if you bump into someone, if you walk between two people having a conversation, or if you need to interrupt a conversation.
  • Be tactful – Avoid being blunt. Say "I'm sorry" if you intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone. Sometimes we are rude or grumpy when we are tired, rushed or having a bad day, and then when we realize we have made a mistake, we are too embarrassed to apologize and we just continue on as though nothing has happened. Don't do that. Take a moment to own up and make verbal amends. Don’t mock or belittle colleagues, not tell offensive jokes that sting.
  • Be considerate – Respect personal space and belongings, don't help yourself to things that aren't yours. Don't barge into someone’s workspace without knocking or announcing yourself, and don't interrupt when other people are having a private conversation. Clean up after yourself. Wipe crumbs from the counter and splatters from the microwave. Replace the ink cartridge, clear the paper jam or fill the paper tray if you are the last one using the printer. Make a fresh pot of coffee if you poured the last cup. Leave the conference room clean when you leave.
  • Be thoughtful – Acknowledge remembrances and celebrations (Birthdays, anniversaries) and be attentive to a colleague’s state of mind and health (Sickness, condolences, personal challenges).
  • Be inclusive – Avoid forming cliques that might exclude people, giving colleagues the silent treatment or speaking to people in a condescending way. Those are forms of bullying. Encourage healthy relationships in the office.
  • Be attentive – Don't check your phone in meetings or when someone is talking to you, not even a peek from time to time. Look at the person who is talking to you, stop texting or typing on the keyboard and turn away from your computer screen. Pay full attention to the person in front of you.
  • Be punctual – Demonstrate professional courtesy by showing up on time and respecting deadlines. Being late sends the message that you don’t have respect for other people's time or schedules.
  • Be neat – Your work, workspace and your appearance should always be orderly. Being untidy, cluttered and unkept sends a message that you don't really care how you look or whether it brings down the professional image of the office.
  • Be discreet – Keep your voice down and your personal phone calls private and wear headphones if you're playing music at work. If you have an open-space set-up don’t have calls on speaker phone. Be a good neighbor!
  • Be gracious – Listen more than you speak. Pay attention when co-workers are talking to you. Don't interrupt people when they're speaking. Let them finish. If you must interrupt, say "excuse me," or if you catch yourself after the fact, say "Sorry for interrupting you." Don’t make personal remarks about someone’s appearance or clothing. Keep judgmental or nasty comments to yourself and avoid gossiping and talking behind someone's back. Sharing credit, humbling asking questions, acknowledging others and smiling all have positive impacts and demonstrate civility.
  • Be decent – Leave the personal grooming for home. Don’t floss, clean your ears, give yourself a manicure, put on make-up or clip your nails at the office. Personal grooming should be done at home or at least in the bathroom.

Demonstrating workplace courtesies, it’s not about simply being nice, it’s about the effect you have on your colleagues and your workplace. Incivility makes people less motivated and decreases work performance whether you are the one experiencing the incivility or witnessing it. Being unaware or uncaring of your behaviour will eventually create an unproductive, toxic and hostile environment. There's no excuse for discourtesy in the workplace. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “there is always enough time to be courteous.” Take the time. Be mindful of it. The results — a productive, pleasant, creative, helpful, happy and healthy workplace for everyone.

  65 lectures
Mots-clés :
65 lectures

Open Office Environment: How to Make it Work

There is an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of open offices. Some research indicates they are a playground for collaboration, innovation, creativity and camaraderie where ideas flow and problems get solved quickly. On the other hand, newer studies suggest that open offices are a distracting environment, detrimental to productivity and a source of stress, conflict, and turnover. More than ever people in open office environments seem to avoid one another, isolating themselves and using instant messaging or email to interact.

The open office environment began with good intentions, but it is full of distractions and can become a daytime nightmare. People talking while you are on the phone, noisy background when you need to focus, co-workers having loud conversations, people laughing, coughing, screaming, cell phones constantly chirping … Staying focused in a noisy open office is a real challenge.

As companies increasingly adopt an open layout, it is important to develop survival strategies in order to stay productive while avoiding tensions. Here are some suggestions:

Have a team talk

Have a conversation with your manager and your team about how you can all work optimally in an open office. Define together some “agreed-upon” rules and norms.  For example:

  • When one colleague is on the phone, the rest will speak with a low voice.
  • When the phone rings, the conversation stops.
  • Speakerphone conversations should be done in conference rooms.
  • Moving to a different environment when sharing and collaborating.
  • Establish a “earbud code” to signify the level of focus.
  • Use "Library Rules".

Have dedicated "Quiet" Space

Once in a while it’s good to get away to a quiet place within your workspace. Quiet rooms have grown so popular, some companies incorporate dedicated "Private work rooms" within their office layout. While empty conference rooms make for a great quiet space, they are not always available.  Investigate and identify private spaces in your office where you can isolate yourself, to be alone and silent, somewhere you can think and focus free of distraction.

Have a dedicated "Collaboration" Space

When it’s time to collaborate or brainstorm, moving to a different environment can help shift gears. Delegate a larger central “community” table where conversation and ideas can flow freely. And encourage co-workers to go there when chatter amongst neighboring desks begins.

Create a “Virtual Wall”

Use signs and signals —If you frequently require uninterrupted periods of time with which to complete your work, consider making some kind of sign or signal that serve as a visual cue to your colleagues that you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Purchase a set of noise-canceling headphones – for those times when you are working on something that requires concentration. You can listen to white noise or classical music or whatever it is that helps you feel and perform at your best. The best sounds for concentration are natural and unpredictable. Ambient electronic music tends to work well at blocking out noise yet it doesn’t create a distraction.

Use a common code for headphones – Earphones serve as a visual cue to your colleagues so they do not bother you unless absolutely necessary. Have a common "code" that symbolizes the unavailability.


  • Two earpieces mean "Leave me alone. I'm focusing. "
  • Only one earpiece means "Ask before interrupting me. "
  • Without earphones means "You can interrupt me"

 Reserve a “Do Not Disturb” block of time

Trying to get things done and simultaneously be available for others imposes a heavy “cognitive load”. To counteract this, set aside a block of time every day when you’re not to be disturbed so you can concentrate on your work without distraction and focus on your top priorities. You can go to the "Quiet" space or put on your headphones. You can collaborate with and help colleagues during the rest of the day.

Be green

Well-placed plants have proven effective in reducing noise levels in an open office setting. The larger the plant, the bigger the impact - not to mention the appeasing benefits and overall impact on air quality.

Raise the issue with tact

When the “agreed-upon” rules and norms are not followed don’t suffer in silence, but don’t snap by screaming “Can you just shut up” either, try a gentle:

  • “Can you take it down a notch please? "
  • "Please keep it down. I know you probably don't realize it, but it's really distracting."
  • "I’m having trouble concentrating while you are talking. I’d be so grateful if you could take the conversation down the hall."

.. most of the time, people don’t realize how loud they’re being, and they'll probably appreciate a gentle reminder. Do it with a smile, and in just about every occasion, no one will get offended. Be direct and diplomatic, but never attack someone personally.

Encourage a compromise

This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If you have tried these suggestions but haven’t gotten the results you were hoping for, you don’t need to hand over your resignation letter. It might be time to start a conversation with your manager about finding a happy medium.  A solution that can improve your productivity while still being part of the team. Maybe doing some of the work remotely, having flexible hours to come in earlier or staying later, or simply moving desks. Finding an alternative might be a challenge, but it’s not impossible.

  106 lectures
106 lectures

Working in a Multicultural Environment

Working in a multicultural environment can be a satisfying and rewarding professional experience. You can broaden your horizons by learning various skills and communicational approaches when you interact with people from other parts of the world. However, working with people from different cultural backgrounds requires a degree of tact and a willingness to learn and to adapt.

There is a wide multitude of cultural differences, ranging from beliefs to cultural norms. People from diverse cultural backgrounds bring personal and professional practices into the work environment that may differ in terms of being socially acceptable. These are neither right nor wrong…only different. Whether you agree with them or not, it is important to understand these differences.

Customers and co-workers come from a variety of backgrounds, and their habits, customs, reasoning, behaviours, values, and communication styles vary according to their background. Our cultural understandings, as well as our prejudices, are challenged by demographic changes that bring us face-to-face with new people and unfamiliar notions.


Cultural awareness is the understanding of the differences between oneself and people from other countries or backgrounds, especially differences in behaviour and values.

Cultural awareness is the very foundation of communication, involving the ability to step back and become aware of our cultural values, beliefs and perceptions. Why do we act this way? How do we see the world? Why do we react in such a way, specifically? Cultural awareness becomes key when we have to interact with people from different cultures.

People see, interpret and evaluate things differently. What is considered appropriate behaviour for one culture is often inappropriate for another. Misunderstandings occur when a person uses their own frame of reference when trying to understand another person’s reality.


Cultural skills refer to the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures and to successfully manage intercultural situations. It is the on-going process of seeking cultural awareness, knowledge and skills that will enable you to respond to people from different cultures in a respectful and effective way, so that their value is recognized, affirmed and valued.

Lack of multicultural knowledge can lead to misinterpretation, misunderstanding or even involuntary insult. Skills such as cultural awareness, flexibility and effective communication are essential to manage the expectations of people from different cultures. The more you understand culture, the more successful you will be in a wide variety of interpersonal interactions.

Our modern workspace is very multicultural, multilingual, intergenerational, etc. It requires the ability to see different perspectives, in order to make the best decisions and to create an inclusive system that enables everyone to be successful in the workplace.

Communicating with different cultures can sometimes be challenging. When we are dealing with people from unfamiliar cultures, it is easy to misinterpret meanings and intentions. This can lead to confusion, discontent and frustration. For communication to be effective, one person must understand the other person’s meaning and intent. The skills associated with effective and successful intercultural communication may seem vague to anyone lacking experience in this form of interaction.

The more you understand the influence of culture, the more effective communication will be.

  230 lectures
230 lectures


To continue where the article entitled THE ABILITY TO ACT… AT THE HEART OF PERFORMANCE AND EXCELLENCE left off, let’s begin by defining the term “competence” in a professional context:  the notion of competence means to demonstrate having the ability – that is the knowledge, skills and attitudes – to mobilize and leverage the different kinds of knowledge required to carry out a professional activity, enabling an individual to successfully perform their role and responsibilities. These competencies are the tools that enable you to be effective and to achieve your desired goals.

Just like two sides of a coin, these competencies fall into two broad categories: operational competencies and relational competence.

Operational Competencies

This is the “technical” component. These are task-related competencies, therefore specific to a particular profession, and they include:

  • Knowledge is the set of theoretical, technical or tactical professional knowledge, including procedures, data, rules, standards, requirements, methods and tools. These are the intellectual skills learned through study and acquiring information, which are required to exercise a profession.
  • Know-how is the set of practices related to having strong operational vision, technical skills, knowledge of the methods, and mastery of the practical skills (experience, practicality, efficiency) required to perform a task depending on the situation and the environment.

These skills help us do our jobs efficiently.

Relational Competencies

This is the “human” component. These are the competencies relating to people, which are useful in all professions, in principle. They are sometimes called “soft skills”, and are the set of professional qualities such as attitudes, aptitudes and behaviours that a person demonstrates when performing a task, and they include:

  • Know-how-to-be, which is the set of emotional skills involving attitudes like assuredness, autonomy, enthusiasm, integrity, and self-control, which enable a person to enter into a relationship with themself.
  • Know-how-to-interact is the set of social skills such as respect, courtesy, diplomacy and empathy, enabling you to enter into relationships with others, including co-workers, customers and suppliers.

These competencies enable us do our work in an enjoyable way.

They are called personal competencies, or intra-personal and interpersonal skills, or even “soft skills”. They are indeed competencies, but they are not soft!

Relational competence is a professional competence in its own right and it is desirable to develop it on equal footing with the intellectual and technical competencies.   

But it is not only the operational skills (which make you efficient) or the relational skills (which make you pleasant) that guarantee professional effectiveness.


We agree that operational competencies are essential, that hiring coders who do not know how to code, doctors who do not know how to treat or chefs who do not know how to cook, is a quick path to failure. These skills are the backbone of the HR process. But how do you explain why organizations that hire people with similar operational skills end up with very different results?

By distorting the term “professional competencies” and by focussing on seemingly “essential” skills, we have diminished the value of competencies that really matter. Most of the textbooks that students consult, and the tests and exams that they do, relate to these operational competencies – it’s simply copy and paste!

When we call other skills “soft” and imply that they are optional, we give them little respect and importance.

It turns out that the difference between successful organizations and struggling organizations are the attitudes, aptitudes and skills of the people doing the work, which are sometimes difficult to measure.


When we consider which competencies are useful to an individual to maximize their professional effectiveness (Knowledge, Know-how, Know-how-to-be and Know-how-to-interact), there is much less opportunity to learn them.

We learn Knowledge and Know-how in the school classrooms, in an institutional way and through experience, but we are not taught to affirm ourselves, to inspire confidence, to influence, to communicate and to collaborate with others. These behaviours are therefore acquired in varying degrees, often quite informally, by imitation or by learning on the job.

Traditional schools focus on acquiring knowledge and intellectual development, but neglect coursework on relational competencies. Training individuals to understand and apply interpersonal skills can help them improve their professional and social lives.

Current employers and customers demand more than just operational competencies, hence the importance of investing in this kind of learning for better professional effectiveness, or to realize a person’s full potential.


We have all, at one time, worked with someone who was extremely efficient because they relied on their knowledge and know-how. These people can be brilliant, hardworking, meticulous and confident. Despite these competencies, working with these people can sometimes be unpleasant. They can be perceived as being arrogant, impatient, contemptuous, cold or closed-minded. Working with them can sometimes leave an after-taste.

Similarly, we have all had the opportunity to work with extremely pleasant people, who rely on their emotional and social skills. They are receptive, sociable, caring, pleasant and attentive… But it can a struggle to get something from them promptly, to make them respect deadlines, to follow their logic while they speak and to find yourself pulled into their disorganized worlds.

When we consider the duality of these two dimensions, we realize that when our strengths are overexploited or misused, they can become weaknesses as they can limit opportunities for agreement and professional effectiveness.

  192 lectures
192 lectures

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Xavier Aymé, Chef des opérations | Mercator Canada Inc.

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