The activity that occupies approximately 70% of our waking hours is also what we tend to struggle with on a regular basis. Most of us were never taught how to communicate in a way that produces consistent, desired results but it’s never too late for a communication upgrade.
Leader, politician, salesperson, evangelist, visionary and manager. What do these people have in common? Actually, many things and yet the one common denominator is, they all want people to believe in their ideals, goals and vision of what could be possible. They want people to follow them.
Every manager’s goal is to have a team of high performers who are bought into their goals, ideas, quotas and business objectives. The only way to create this type of culture and develop a world class team is through powerful communication (coaching). Ironically, this also happens to be the one area managers struggle with most.
- “How do I get and keep my people motivated?”
- “How do I build trust?”
- “How do I create buy in with my people around what they need to do?”
- “How do I get them comfortable with the changes that need to be made?”
- “How do we create alignment around a mutual goal?”
- “How do I actually facilitate an effective coaching conversation?”
Management’s Pyrrhic Victory
These questions all comes down to how effective and skilled you are as a communicator so that you can build trust, tap into people’s individuality and motivation, and create the alignment and culture you need so that everyone is focused on a mutually rewarding, shared goal. Your communication creates the culture, inspiration, trust and drive for people to succeed and want to change. And the good news is, it’s all in your power. So, as you can imagine, one area we discuss and coach around most during any management coach training is becoming a strategic and powerful communicator.
Are You a Communication Bully?
But being a powerful communicator doesn’t mean that you always get what you want in every conversation. Because as I’ve observed, many managers leave conversations feeling that they’ve won because they got what they wanted. In truth, it was a Pyrrhic Victory that came at a greater cost.
Especially during a difficult conversation which often escalates into a full blown argument, managers often play the boss card which basically means, “I’m your boss so just do what I told you to do.” The real cost is this. Think about how the other person felt leaving that conversation? Bullied, dis-empowered, angry, frustrated, distrusting or empowered, acknowledged, positive and felt as if they were respected, valued and treated fairly?
There Are No Such Things as ‘Basics’ – So What Are You Needing to Get Back To?
I never really connected with the phrase, getting “back to basics.” If that’s the case, then everyone must be ignoring the basics altogether! As I’ve observed, there’s not a team in the world who has mastered all of these so called basics, such as, for example, the skills of questioning, probing, assessing, presenting, scripting an email, facilitating a meeting or active listening. And if mastering the basics means mastering the art of selling or coaching and leading a team, then these basics need to be referred to more as best practices and core competencies that develop world class performers.
Powerful communication is a complex and challenging skill, as well as an art, to truly master on many levels around both skill set and mind set. It requires conscious attention, effort and an investment in the time needed to change how you come across in every conversation and ultimately, who you are when you are at your very best.
And there’s certainly nothing basic about effective communication. It’s fascinating that the activity which occupies approximately 70% of our waking hours is what we have difficulty with most. The fact is, most of us were never taught how to communicate in a way that produces desired results, so we continue to experience frustration, resistance, conflicts, or breakdowns. Take a look at some of the obstacles that may prevent you from reaching certain objectives during the communication process.
A Tension of Opposites
- We want to be heard and listened to but don’t always concentrate on the quality of our message or give the gift of our own listening.
- We want to be understood, yet often fail to check if our communication was successful.
- We want acceptance and agreement from others, so much that we often become consumed with having to be right or to prove our point, instead of co-creating a greater outcome together.
- We want some kind of action or response from another person, without letting them know what we really want, or how to achieve it.
- We want to understand the message the other person is communicating to us, yet our ability to listen is tainted by our perceptions of the person speaking or the outcome we are looking to achieve. So, we often pass judgment on the speaker, evaluating the messenger rather than fully accepting the entire message.
Become Fully Accountable for Your Communication
Evolving your communication requires taking full responsibility for the outcome of each conversation; not only for what you are saying but also for the message the other person is hearing. After all, it doesn’t matter what you say. What really matters is what they heard and how you made them feel. In every conversation, in every interaction, whether communicating over the phone or face to face, email, text, IM, SMS or whatever your communication platform is, you are either building trust and confidence or eroding it. This,is good news, for it is all in your control.
Since we all listen and process information differently, it is crucial to uncover and become sensitized to the other person’s style of communication in order to align it with your own.
Listen To Yourself
To strengthen your communication, here are ten questions to ask yourself to determine how effectively you communicate.
- Am I taking full responsibility for the message being heard by the other person? (Remember, it doesn’t matter what you say, it only matters what the other person hears.)
- Did I respect the other person’s point of view? Did I have a reaction to what they were saying that prevented me from listening to their full message?
- Did the other person feel heard and understood? (Did I acknowledge them?)
- If I was asking someone to take a specific action, did I make my request clear?
- Am I speaking in a way the other person can understand? (Am I communicating in a way the other person will listen? (I.e., Speaking in their “language”/communication style.)
- Am I checking to see if the conversation worked/was successful?
- Was I communicating openly, without prejudices, expectations and judgment? (Was I focused on having to be right, or have my point of view be accepted?)
- Did I leave the conversation with some value? (Did I allow the other person to contribute to me?)
- Did I give the person the gift of my listening?
- If the outcome of the conversation did not meet my expectations, did I learn what I could improve upon to better communicate with that particular person? (Did I open up a new and greater possibility that I didn’t notice before?)
A final thought. In every conversation, focus on delivering value. You’ll be amazed at what comes back to you.
Photo Credit: Susan NYC