Tag Archives: Communication

Leadership is: Understanding

Is a lack of communication and understanding acceptable to us?

A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding. – Marshall McLuhan

As leaders it is easy to get caught up in our tasks. We desire for our team members to know and understand what it is we need and want from them, and if we aren’t careful we won’t give them a second thought unless something involving them is hindering our own process.

Once, I asked for a consistent weekly meeting with my leader to give direct reports and to stay on the same page (have understanding). They responded with, “I didn’t think you were that immature that you need me to hold your hand.” To be honest, my relationship with that leader lost some of its luster that day. From that point on, it felt like a lack of understanding and communication between us was acceptable.

So you don’t lose your shine, here are 3 steps to winning over your employees by Inc. Magazine: http://www.inc.com/3-steps-to-winning-over-your-employees.html

When we don’t communicate for mutual understanding with our team members it is a recipe for disaster! In reality, lack of communication and understanding will drive away your high performers. I’ve written about some habits of effective communication here and here.

Carl Robinson, from Advanced Leadership Consulting, has a great list on more of what drives away great performers here: http://leadershipconsulting.com/why-great-employees-quit.htm

In order to be effective, understanding leaders, we must practice these 2 habits:

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Leadership is: Listening

Hearing words is not the same as understanding them.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols (interesting interview w/ Ralph Nichols)

Beneficial communication consist of two parts: sharing & receiving. It seems for most, that sharing, or talking, is far easier for the average person than receiving, or listening, is.  Also, since we’ve already discussed some healthy sharing habits in an earlier post, lets look at some healthy listening habits.

1. Forming a response, while another person is sharing, is not listening. Conversations move quickly, and they move even faster when more people are involved. It is possible that if we don’t form our response quickly we will miss our opportunity to share our insight. The problem with this perception is that our listening is still about us. Listening must be about the other person. If the conversation passes us by, and we believe our thought/response is beneficial, we can revisit it in the conversation, or say it later to the person one on one.

This leads us to our next habit:

2. Processing, or contextualizing, what another person is saying is crucial for communication. When we combine prior and current information we’ve received from the person with whom we are communicating, it allows us to understand better what it is they are saying. Also, we must listen to HOW they are saying it. It has been said that two-thirds of all communication is non-verbal. If this is true, we must listen to their tone and watch their body language. Paul Ekman discusses this practice in his book: Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life


3. Forming our response should not be based on who we are, but rather who the speaker is. We share with the hope that people will respond to what we’ve shared, others are no different. We must format our responses based on who they are so that one, they know they’ve been heard and two, so we can give a proper response. While this doesn’t seem to be an outright listening habit, the reality is we must listen to find out what type of person they are. This way our response can be a proper one.

This 2007 Bloomberg Business Week article has some more great leadership listening suggestions!

What listening habits help you listen better

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Leadership is: Honesty

“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” – Marcus Aurelius

Honesty in leadership is tight rope that must be walked.

Unfortunately honesty isn’t as straight forward as it sounds, here are my observations on some methods of honesty:

For some, honesty is the best only policy — If they have the information they feel it must be shared regardless of  method, timing, or even outcome. I have a student that believes in this policy. They tend to speak their mind in the moment. Usually this honesty (which is supposed to be helping people) isn’t well received, however true it may be! The problem with this policy is that it violates the healthy habits of communication (I talk about the healthy habits of communication here), as well as John Maxwell’s law of timing.

For others, honesty is circumstantial — If they have information but don’t know if it will be beneficial to the person or situation at the moment, or ever, then they don’t have to be honest with them. Unofficially, this seems to be the favored view of honesty. I don’t have to tell my wife she looks “big” in those jeans, because that’s going to ruin my night and her night. The problem with this view is that it makes us the sole decider of what is beneficial and what isn’t. Usually when dealing with honesty it is for the benefit of another person. When we decide what is and isn’t beneficial for them we rob them of a chance to grow.

For leaders, honesty is all about other people — If you’re goal is other people, your honesty will include the healthy habits of communication, the law of timing and a desire to see them grow. Honesty must be used to build people up, give them hope, and cast a vision for the future. A leader won’t be honest because it makes them feel better, they will give it in a way that connects with the person, and they will said what needs to be said, no more no less.

What are your observations of honesty?

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Leadership is: Communication

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey

At the risk of sounding cliche’, communication is key really important! This seemingly simple aspect of leadership has ruined more relationships and lost more influence than any other action — I don’t know that for a fact, but it makes communication seem really important doesn’t it?

The truth is communication makes or breaks leadership. All too often we know what we want to say, in fact, we’ve thought long and hard about whatever it is we KNOW we NEED to communicate. So we say it. If we were a good communicator we would have developed some healthy communicating habits before we just “said it.”

The first thing we would have done is…

1. Questioned if it really needed to be said: In our world of say anything to anyone quickly, our filters have yet to catch up. Not everything needs to be said. Sometimes, the loudest thing you can communicate is your silence.

the next thing we would have done if we were good communicators is…

2. Considered who we were talking to: If what you have to say is important enough to say, then it is important enough to say it in a way they will hear it. Always consider your audience. Depending on the course or the dorm, I’m not going to talk to a middle school group the same way I’m going to talk to a college group.

and finally we would have…

3. Figured out what we really wanted to say:  The reason we figure out what we really want to say is because that single thing is what we’re going to say. Don’t add more than is needed to get what you need to say said, end of story.

Saying is just one part of communication but for the sake of my 350 word limit let me just say this: LISTEN. Part 2 of communication is listening, not staying quite — it’s listening. Hear what the other person is saying, and not saying!

What is your biggest struggle with communication: Saying or Listening?

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