Leading by Using Psychology

Steinbeis experts recommend dovetailing psychology with business and applying it to the everyday situations faced by managers

Specialists and managers face a number of big challenges in day-to-day business. They often have to cope with difficult conversations and are forced to deal with difficult people. One challenge they face is knowing how to decipher confusing conflicts and feel confident enough to suggest solutions. Teams need help in solving the tasks they have to work on. In addition, managers should (and would often like to) bring people on board when it comes to moving the organization forward and making decisions that everyone feels they can subscribe to. It is therefore good to know that tools and methods exist for them to manage challenges properly. One such tool is a seminar on leadership psychology offered by Leadership Psychology, HR and Organizational Development, the Steinbeis Transfer Institute based in Gosheim. The seminar places emphasis on merging theory with practice. 

To fulfill your role as a leader, you need to be conscious of the psychological understanding that such a position entails. One thing you will certainly need is a solid understanding of the fundamentals of communication and personal psychology, because this helps in analyzing difficult situations and working out suitable ways to deal with them. As far as possible, it is important to remain confident about your ability to take action, without feeling that you have to give in – so you have to know what sort of a person you are yourself and how others tick. Of course sometimes this can potentially lead to more conflict, but it is also an opportunity. The Steinbeis experts in Gosheim outside Rottweil base their seminar on the Riemann-Thomann model, which helps people understand needs and limitations, as well as the upside and downside of their own character and that of others. A key aspect of the model is exploring how much closeness or distance people need (or can put up with), how long they want things to last, how much change they look for, or how much they can cope with. Based on these insights, managers can work out if people are working in areas where they can play to their abilities or personality, or whether in the worst case scenario, they’ll have burnout.

As everybody knows, communication can be difficult – but why? The first issue is how we perceive messages when we receive them. The second is how we can prevent misunderstandings or solve them. The four-sides communication model of Friedemann Schulz von Thun provides a useful tool for understanding interactions in business. By combining this model with a discussion guide to prepare carefully for complex meetings, managers can find ways to manage situations professionally.

The Inner Team – understanding yourself and others

Another model shared in seminars by Steinbeis Entrepreneur Ute Villing and Stephan Bußkamp of the Schulz von Thun Institute in Hamburg is called the Inner Team. This helps managers spot ambivalences in themselves and others. It also explains why people sometimes behave differently than they intended. As with other influences, it’s important to understand yourself and others in this respect in order to get along with one another. One seminar delegate, a manager at a major company in the manual trades, summarized his experience: “You get to know yourself better; you’re also challenged to think more about yourself. If you understand yourself and accept the way you are, you can start trying to understand others, their interests, their expectations, and their reactions. It’s a good basis for developing your own character. I now understand better what makes me and other people tick.”

Practice, practice, practice

According to Ute Villing, the only way to truly understand some things is to practice. She therefore offers the participants on her courses the opportunity to join practice and training sessions after each training module. The feedback from delegates shows that this is the right approach. As one young manager from a financial company concluded, “By discussing cases, reflecting on things and using the ideas in the day-to-day situations I face as a manager, I’ve coped with lots of situations that I previously thought were impossible.” And that’s precisely what the courses are about: In addition to learning how communication works in theory, the course participants are also introduced to the tools and techniques that will help them deal properly and constructively with problematic situations in practice, as well as dealing with difficult people.

A variety of examples are discussed during the evening practice sessions: people you have a tough time with such as colleagues, bosses, clients, or even people outside of work; teams that don’t seem to get on with one another and perform way below their abilities; decisions that don’t actually result in action being taken because project members throw a spanner in the works; targets that were set a long time ago, but for some reason or other never seem to be achieved.

People benefit from the seminars on a number of fronts. Not only can they build on their skills as a manager, they also forge networks. “The only thing I regret now is that I didn’t do the course earlier. The new things I learned help me every day, not just at work,” says one course delegate, who runs a family business and is already experienced as a manager.

Leadership Psychology seminar

Module 1: Communication and leadership – fundamentals
This module looks at fundamental models that help in developing a detailed understanding of human and interpersonal processes.

Module 2: Constructive meeting management – a foundation
Course delegates learn how to give appreciative feedback, listen proactively, understand non-verbal communication and underlying motivations, prepare systematically for meetings, how to lead, and how to cope with conflict during conversations.

Module 3: Dealing with conflict – with confidence and competence
The third module is an opportunity for course delegates to learn how to apply the situation model and models for dealing with conflicts to actual situations, how to spot conflict coming, how to identify viable solutions, and how to create a culture of disagreement that is fair.

Module 4: Managing teams – with each other, in one direction
In this module, the emphasis lies not only in formulating, discussing, and developing team goals, but also in spotting, highlighting, and defusing conflict early, in systematically learning from experiences involving success or failure, in improving performance, work satisfaction, and the team atmosphere, and also in challenging your own leadership style.

Module 5: Moderating decision-making processes
Finally, the course participants learn how to structure meetings at work in a meaningful way, how to make decision-making transparent and understandable, how to capture binding results, how to recognize the root causes of conflict, and how to deal with difficult team conversations in such a way that people can talk about things openly and come to a clear conclusion, rather than feel awkward and go quiet.

Duration: 10 daytime seminars and 15 evening practice sessions

The next course starts in January 2021. For further information, go to www.führungspsychologie.info


Ute Villing (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Transfer Institute Leadership Psychology, HR and Organizational Development (Gosheim/Rottweil)