Improve workplace communication with the power of imagery

By Joanna Grover, executive coach and fellow of the Harvard Institute of Coaching
Sought-after coach Joanna Grover has worked with KPMG and C-Suite executives for Citi and IBM.
A fellow of the Harvard Institute of Coaching, executive coach Joanna Grover reveals a scientifically proven method to enhance empathy and communication

Poor communication in the workplace has far-reaching consequences, impacting individuals emotionally, physically, and economically.

As executive coaches, my co-author, Jon Rhodes, PhD, and I have witnessed the struggles and missed opportunities that stem from communication failures.

The cost to organisations is staggering, with Dr. Kevin Allen, Professor at Florida Atlantic University and CEO of EI Games, stating that “the cost of poor communications is nearly a trillion dollars per annum. It is sad that all the great intentions of an organisation are dashed through the lack of the simplest, yet most vital of skills: empathy and effective communication."

While empathy and effective communication workshops may temporarily improve skills, it is human nature to revert to old, unproductive habits.

To truly enhance communication and achieve goals in the long term, Functional Imagery Training (FIT), a person-centered method of motivational communication plus imagination training, is highly effective.

FIT is a science-based approach that combines empathic conversations with multi-sensory imagery. This method allows individuals to rehearse for the future and maintain focus in challenging moments, enabling them to make decisions that align with their goals. Decades of research have been dedicated to designing FIT, ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness.

It goes something like this — instead of simply trying to talk yourself into a run on a cold, rainy morning when you’d rather hit snooze, imagine hearing the patter of the rain (but it’s okay, you’re wearing a coat), feeling the cool breeze on your face, the sound of your footsteps hitting the pavement, your muscles working as you run, the taste of sweat on your lips, and how good it feels to have finished a morning run. Your warm shower. That feeling of accomplishment makes it harder to hit snooze.

Charlie Alvarez, the CEO of Stratus, is a prime example of FIT's effectiveness.

Initially, Charlie used FIT to enhance his performance on the golf course, but he later found that it applied to his leadership role as well. Starting with the narrow goal of winning a golf tournament, Charlie faced the challenge of controlling his emotions, particularly when confronted with a bad swing.

Through FIT, we assessed his imagery ability in various aspects such as sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, emotion, and motion. Charlie then diligently practiced imagery, vividly imagining the challenges and his desired responses. Incorporating FIT into his daily routine, he dedicated a few minutes each day to imagery exercises, including visualising the golf course and engaging multi-sensory imagery.

Charlie's success in winning the tournament propelled him to utilise FIT in other areas of his life, including board presentations and conversations.

When working with teams to enhance communication and leadership through FIT, we emphasise four foundational elements: setting expectations, building deep connections, defining values and beliefs, and cultivating a winning attitude.

  1. Setting clear expectations and boundaries for oneself and the team is crucial, especially concerning work-life balance. Through FIT, empathetic leaders can vividly imagine and communicate their desired outcomes with clarity and conviction, striking a harmonious integration of work and personal priorities. This fosters a culture that values boundaries, respects personal time, and nurtures employee well-being, creating an environment where individuals feel supported and motivated to thrive in both their professional and personal lives.

  2. Building deep connections within teams can be achieved through various means, such as collaborative tasks and social events. Encouraging team members to reflect on their experiences of being part of a high-performance culture that brought out their best selves fosters motivation and a thirst for learning. This reflection unveils vulnerability, allowing team members to openly discuss their aspirations for an ideal culture and share how they thrive as individuals. The result is a deep sense of connection, where individuals feel valued, understood, and motivated to collaborate towards shared goals that transcend work-related targets. FIT provides teams with tools to authentically build relationships and create a culture that embodies these qualities.

  3. Defining values and beliefs Personal and organisational values shape a team's unique identity, particularly for smaller teams within larger companies. Imagining this distinct identity begins by building deep connections within the team. Once vulnerability has been explored, team members can openly share their personal values. For example, if someone values ecology or spirituality, it is crucial for the team to understand the reasons behind these values. Discussing personal beliefs further enhances interpersonal connectedness and enables the team to align actions with core principles through understanding.

  4. Cultivating a winning attitude When a team is united by a shared purpose, a winning attitude emerges. Imagery empowers empathetic leaders to develop a positive and resilient mindset when faced with obstacles. Through vivid mental rehearsal, team members can anticipate and overcome challenges, maintain focus during adversity, and collaborate effectively. FIT allows teams to mentally practice scenarios and develop problem-solving skills. Despite setbacks, the team's meticulous planning and predetermined solutions enable them to preserve their focus and foster a winning attitude through collaborative efforts. This nurtures a strong sense of connection, aligns values, and evolves team imagery, ultimately driving team success.

In today's workplace, the significance of empathy and effective communication cannot be overstated.

By integrating imagery into daily practices, individuals can elevate their communication skills, achieve their goals, and experience personal growth. Empathetic leaders who embody these qualities create an environment where motivational communication thrives, utilising their cultural intelligence to unlock their team's true potential.

Through FIT, these leaders achieve remarkable success in today’s dynamic and ever-changing business landscape.

Who is Joanna Grover and why FIT matters

Joanna Grover is a Board-Certified coach and member of the International Coaching Federation and the Harvard Institute of Coaching. She is the first in the US to offer Functional Imagery Training (FIT). With 15 years as a sought-after coach and cognitive therapist, Jo has worked with top leaders at the US Department of Commerce, Olympic athletes, KPMG, and C-Suite Executives for Citi and IBM.

Her new book THE CHOICE POINT reveals a scientifically proven method to pushing past mental walls and achieving your goals: imagery.

FIT is a combination of mindfulness, motivational interviewing, and cognitive behavioural therapy. It helps us lengthen our choice point: that moment when we’re deciding whether to make the choice we know is better for us in the long-term, but is difficult in the short-term. FIT trains our minds to extend that narrow window and act according to our values—not our impulses.

In addition to honing cognitive control, FIT can improve sleep, enhance communication skills, lessen stress, and create a deeper sense of purpose and belonging. In an interview, Grover can teach you how to:

●     Identify your core values and infuse them into your decision-making.

●     Replace unwanted thoughts with goal-oriented imagery.

●     Amplify your motivation into commitment.

●     Foster safety and belonging in the workplace.

●     Reset and recalibrate your goals over time.


Featured Articles

Amelia DeLuca, CSO at Delta Air Lines on Female Leadership

Driving decarbonisation at Delta Air Lines, Chief Sustainability Officer Amelia DeLuca discusses the rise of the CSO and value of more women in leadership

Liz Elting – Driving Equality & Building Billion-$ Business

Founder and CEO Liz Elting Turned Her Passion into Purpose and Created a Billion-Dollar Business While Fighting for Workplace Equality – and Winning

JPMorgan Chase: Committed to supporting the next generation

JPMorgan has unveiled a host of new and expanded philanthropic activities totalling US$3.5 million to support the development of apprenticeship programmes

How efficient digital ecosystems became business critical

Technology & AI

Mastercard: Supporting clients at a time of rapid evolution

Digital Strategy

Why Ceridian has boldly rebranded to Dayforce

Human Capital