What you say is what you get

You may know what you are thinking and feeling, but do your colleagues? The chances are, they don't. And that, according to the psychologist and management writer, Peter Honey, is why you don't always get your way. "You are your behaviour," he explains in his book Improve Your People Skills. "It determines the impression they form of you and the way they react to you. Your behaviour is the key ingredient that helps or hinders your relationship with other people."

Fortunately, though, it is possible to do something about this. By learning how to monitor and modify your behaviour, you can find ways to make meetings more productive, transform relationships with colleagues, and get far more of what you want at work.

Mr Honey's book, published by the Institute of Personnel and Development, has long been regarded as a useful source of practical guidance on everything from appraisals, brainstorming and customer satisfaction to leadership and team working. But perhaps most usefully, it also shatters many common myths about behaviour, showing how people can learn to prevent unwanted feelings of anger, boredom, depression, hurt, jealousy and worry.

As the book points out, badly handled negotiations can break down, criticism can cause resentment and even praise can breed complacency. But the right techniques can help people assert themselves, disagree, delegate, state difficulties or give feedback without alienating other people.

The second edition of the book, just out, includes eight new sections covering such topics as bullying, diversity, mentoring, values and empowerment. The last has become particularly widely used in recent years, and Mr Honey has trenchant views on the subject. Empowerment can never work, he says, for "people with control-freak tendencies [who] harbour major reservations about the wisdom of letting go and and thus relinquishing the illusion that they are in control (it is always an illusion!)".

The secret is "to define the constraints so that empowered people are clear about the limits to their freedom. Then, stand back and let them get on with it, providing support and guidance when it is requested and monitoring the whole process at agreed intervals".

But to do this, managers have to ask themselves some tough questions. For instance, what are the things over which they absolutely must maintain control? Who is best placed to make certain decisions? Are they truly prepared to listen and appreciate the viewpoints of others, even if they differ from their own? Are they prepared to promote other people's successes as much as their own? What benefits will they get from increased empowerment?

But, with everybody looking to enhance their effectiveness at all levels of organisations, there is a need to be well-versed in many other areas. Improve Your People Skills aims to bring together the essential principles of such areas as coaching, chairing meetings, interviewing and influencing.

But in case anybody thinks that he is a great champion of the humble employee, Mr Honey acknowledges that organisations contain many people with "annoying attitudes, from gossiping and whingeing to the downright dogmatic and temperamental". And he has written another book on the subject, Problem People - And How To Manage Them.