This week I found myself with the luxury of having time invest in exploring the World Wide Web where I stumbled across what I think is a valuable, really useful and practical article on leadership in the Washington Post that focused on the challenges business leaders face in communicating effectively with people in their respective teams. While the article is a couple years old it provided five insights for addressing communication challenges; I wanted to share theses with you supplemented with our learning drawn from our executive leadership coaching with numerous business leaders on this topic.
For a number of reasons; varied backgrounds, experiences and perceptions, people can interpret messages from their business leaders differently. Depending on how messages are received and interpreted communication can inspire people to take initiative, accept challenging tasks and deliver quality outcomes. On the downside it can lead to frustration, a breakdown in trust between people and their business leader, inaction, poor quality and acceptance of decisions, confusion and conflict.
Take a moment to consider these five insights.
Be straight: Building trust requires being honest and straightforward. No beating around the bush. Why? People are hardwired to trust their emotional instincts above all else and use emotions over reason as a first screen for all information received. Accordingly we hear negative news first and loudest – not being direct (with compassion) and beating around the bush only amplifies people’s anticipation of the negative. It’s also critical to deal with any concerns by asking questions and providing opportunities for others to ask questions; getting things out in the open enables you and others to clarify matters.
Be respectful and open to others’ points of view: Even though you lead and manage a group of people, you still need to build positive, collaborative relationships that will ensure people are engaged, motivated and satisfied with their work. It’s important to understand the perspectives and concerns they may be holding as you may not have all the information. Skilled business leaders ask open questions;, and confirm understanding before sharing their own views.
Value relationships: Conversations do not always have to centre on the task. Invest time to get to know your team and what matters to them. Be authentic by selectively disclosing something of yourself as well. Particularly in Australia people like to know their business leaders beyond a work context.
It takes adroit and artful leadership to lead change: If it is true that all people resist change, then we’d still be living in caves. We are wired to avoid threat and loss. We spot loss or gain instantly at a rational and an emotional level. In fact people’s first concern is with the potential for loss, be the loss real or perceived. When people perceive loss, they defend or fight to avoid that loss so it is important for business leaders to deal with people’s concerns about potential loss before people are willing to consider what will be gained. Only when people feel secure are they open to consider the benefits that will accrue from change. While understanding perceived gains business leaders are careful to monitor for and address people’s concerns with likely losses.
Manage any conflicts: We often think of conflict as something to be avoided as it can be uncomfortable; however while conflict is sometimes between personalities, it is more often than not a conflict of ideas, views and opinions all of which, if explored, can be a catalyst to open new ways (if we open our minds) to see situations and potential solutions in a new light. Business leaders who understand conflict identify needs and concerns of people or group caught up in the conflict investing time looking for common needs and objectives (although the needs may be expressed differently) and then exploring the best options to arrive at a final resolution.
Take a moment to consider how well and how effectively we apply these five areas in our daily communication with our people at work as conversations based on trust and respect not only improve people’s engagement, they aid productivity both of which are strong contributors to sustained profitable performance.
Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.