The Advisor’s Corner – How Should I, as a Leader, Communicate?

How Should I, as a Leader, Communicate?Question:

Everyone talks about communication being a problem in our company. As a leader, what am I supposed to do about it?

StrategyDriven Response: (by Roxi Hewertson, StrategyDriven Principal Contributor)

A recent Development Dimensions International study, Driving Workplace Performance through High-Quality Conversations: What leaders must do every day to be effective, reminds us in no uncertain terms, that leaders, peers and direct reports need to hold more effective conversations at work to receive more effective business performance.

Technology gets a lot of the blame for the continued degradation of communication skills among leaders over the past two decades. But technology, like any tool, can be used in positive or negative ways. What really matters is how we choose to communicate and how we choose to use our tools. Technology works well for:

  • Sharing information,
  • Setting up meetings,
  • Keeping records

But it does not work well when:

  • We need to have a dialogue and a conversation,
  • We copy the world to cover our bases or boost our egos,
  • There is emotion involved

Since communication norms are deeply woven into the fabric of every organization’s culture, this challenge starts with the CEO and involves all his or her leaders. The DDI study validates how important emotional intelligence competencies, particularly self-awareness and social skills are in human interactions.

Everything we do happens through our relationships – at work and outside of work. When communication is poor or stops, the relationship is poor or stops. In the DDI study, the authors point out that senior leaders have not mastered these communication skills any better than less senior leaders, even though they have been at it longer. To me this strongly indicates we think we are communicating well when we simply… are not.

Take a few moments over the next several days to see if you notice any of these poor interaction habits in yourself and/or leaders you know:

  • Jumping to task before understanding the full picture.
    One solution: Take the time to gather information and listen carefully.
  • Unskilled at, or choosing not to have, effective conversations.
    One solution: Learn this skill or get out of leadership.
  • Failing to engage others in decisions that impact them.
    One solution: Ask yourself, “Who is impacted by this decisions?” Then, engage those people in the process.
  • Failing to demonstrate authentic empathy.
    One solution: Slow down and truly put yourself in another person’s shoes. What might it be like to be him or her right now? Don’t know? Ask.
  • Ego and personal agenda driven.
    One solution: Ask yourself, “Do I really need to be or prove I am right? Or do I want my team to succeed no matter whose idea it is?”
  • Unable to facilitate a productive meeting or discussion.
    One solution: Learn these skills and/or engage skilled facilitators to help you.

The systemic, long-term solution to improving interaction and communication skills in your organization is to make it MATTER. It’s quite simple to do…

What you reward is what you will get. What you don’t reward, you will get much less often.

Leaders generally know what a good conversation looks like. Knowing is the easy part. Doing is the hard part. The leader’s number ONE responsibility is to create and nurture a culture that will bring out the best in their people. Those choices and priorities will roll downhill. This is particularly true for the behaviors we model for our direct reports – all the way from the C-Suite to the front line.

At the end of the day, when we are not truly listening, we are not leading. Period.

About the Author

Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through, Roxi — “the Dear Abby of Leadership” — imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success.

The StrategyDriven website was created to provide members of our community with insights to the actions that help create the shared vision, focus, and commitment needed to improve organizational alignment and accountability for the achievement of superior results. We look forward to answering your strategic planning and tactical business execution questions. Please email your questions to [email protected].

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