This week while researching background on the challenges leaders face in effectively communicating with team members, I discovered an online article from the Washington Post that resonates with what we have learned from coaching with numerous leaders on this subject.
Although the article is two years old, it incorporates some great tips that are timeless for addressing what leaders are faced with daily in making sure their messages are interpreted as they intend them to be by others.
People can interpret messages from their leaders differently for a number of reasons; varied backgrounds, individual experiences, and perceptions, being just some. Communication can, on the positive side, inspire people to take initiative, accept challenging tasks and deliver outstanding outcomes. On the downside, it can lead to frustration, a breakdown in trust, inaction, poor decisions, confusion and conflict.
Consider these five tips drawn from the article and from our own experience working with leaders to move your results further to the positive side:
Be straight: Building trust requires being honest and straightforward. No beating around the bush. Why? Humans 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 – so beating around the bush only amplifies the anticipation of the negative. It’s also critical to deal with any fears by asking questions, getting things out in the open enabling 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 want to build positive, collegial relationships that will ensure team members 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 leaders ask open questions; confirm understanding before sharing their own views.
Build relationships: Conversations do not always have to centre on work. Get to know your team and what matters to them. Be authentic by selectively disclosing some of yourself as well. In Australia, particularly, team members like to know their leaders beyond a work context.
It takes adroit and artful leadership to manage change: If it is true that people resist change, then we’d still be living in caves. As human beings we are wired to avoid threat and loss. We spot loss or gain instantly at a personal and an emotional level and when people perceive loss, they defend or fight to avoid that loss. Whereas people are confident and curious when we feel secure, or when we see the benefits of change will be greater than the loss. Skilful change leaders manage at an individual and team level, understanding perceived gains and losses and monitoring for loss aversion.
Manage any interpersonal conflicts: We often think of conflict as something to be avoided as it can be uncomfortable, however conflict can be a catalyst to open new ways (if we open our minds) to see situations and potential solutions in a new light. Leaders who understand conflict identify the needs and concerns of each person or group caught up in the conflict by looking for common needs and objectives (although the needs may be expressed differently) and they then invest time to explore options as they work towards a resolution.
Take a moment to consider how much and how effectively you apply these five areas in your communication with people at work and around you every day. Conversations based on trust and respect not only improve people’s engagement, it aids productivity and that has to be good for performance.
Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.