Over the last year, I have written a series on Leadership. This series includes the following:
- Qualities of Leadership Series #1: Being Inspirational
- Qualities of Leadership Series #2: Resilience
- Qualities of Leadership Series #3: Integrity
- Qualities of Leadership Series #4: Transparency
Today, the series continues with a post on communication. Ah, yes! Communication! It is built on the cornerstone qualities of inspiration, resilience, integrity and transparency. Effectiveness and efficiency are affected by this dimension of leadership in that a crossroad between success and failure is created depending upon the quality of communication.
Look, I know sometimes it is difficult to communicate. As adults, we have probably all experienced this difficulty numerous times. Our entire lives are spent communicating at work, at home, with children, with our spouse, with extended family, with strangers, and with friends. Every facet of our existence is affected by the quality of our communication. But, as difficult as it can be, communication is a skill that can be honed.
My primary problems with communicating as a leader stem from my passion. I am intense and verbose. This gets in the way of participating in meetings that are structured to be efficient and emails that are meant to be brief. I also like information. I like to possess it and I like to disseminate it. This is another barrier to efficiently communicating, especially in a work setting. To me, however, communications need to be accurate and thorough. Usually, that does not coexist well with brevity.
When communicating verbally there are certain components that need to be adhered to in order to make communications effective. These include:
- giving your full attention to the person or persons you are communicating with
- make eye contact
- resist checking your cell phone
- resist checking the time
- lean in – listen attentively – show signs of acknowledging the communicator’s position (Note that acknowledging does not equate with agreeing.)
- hear what the person is telling you
- check to make sure you are being understood
- allow for questions
There are also certain things that should not be present when communicating with others:
- Do not roll your eyes or look like you want to escape from the person talking
- this can be exhibited by fidgeting, checking your phone, or checking the time
- Do not interrupt the person talking!
I cannot tell you how important this is! When you cut someone off, you are showing that you are not a good listener, that you value your opinion more than what they have to say, and are anxious to just move on to another subject. There are a few more tips I can offer on this:
- Do not offer your opinion without being asked. Suggestions are fine but if you are offering them before you determine what the person has already done, or what they want from you, they are in vain. Truly, I know that most people will try to solve their own problems before asking for help. Wait to be asked. Do not jump in with solutions. A solution might not be what the person communicating is looking for from you. Perhaps, they just need to run an idea, or several ideas, past you. Your job is exhibiting willingness to listen. There are two parts to communications and one is what you do as the receiver of any verbal or written information.
- Be approachable. Again, this is very important. I’ve known some leaders in the past who were not. There is no point in having an open door policy if people (students, coworkers, employees) don’t walk through it.
- Be trustworthy. There are times communications need to be confidential. If you are in the position of holding a confidence for someone – please, be very serious about doing so – (of course, unless you feel they might harm themselves or others).
- Be cogniscent of where the speaker is coming from. Do you know and understand their frame of reference? Are they an expert? If so, are you treating them as such? Are they inexperienced? Yes? Then, find out if they want a helping hand. In essence, I am asking you to not assume things about the people you are communicating with. If you do not know enough about them, find out or ASK!
Communication can be difficult. However, it is probably one of the most important qualities of leadership. If you do not communicate clearly, things get misinterpreted or misunderstood, and mistakes get made. Communications do not have to be lengthy to be effective. This is a realization that I am working towards as a personal goal. I know I can be an effective leader and communicator without being long – winded. However, I also need to be able to express my ideas without the pressure of interruptions or, worse, dismissals.
Communication is an essential piece of expecting excellence, for without clear communication things can easily fall apart. Strong leaders are exceptional communicators.
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