Communication is a fundamental problem in many organzations that I visit, consult with, and help coach. Or, better said, the lack of effective communication is the real barrier between leaders and followers and amongst team members. I know people understand the technique of talking, but they don't always master the art of communicating effectively. Here are 5 things that a leader can do to connect and inspire his or her team:
- "Seek to understand, then be understood" - This is one of Stephen Covey's habits of highly successful people. A leader must strive to understand where a person is coming from - the context for this person's thoughts, feelings, and ideas - in order to communicate his or her own opinions. In so doing, the leader will be able to communicate a message that is heard, received, understood, and incorporated into the other person's life. A true connection must be made. If I feel heard and understood, I am more likely to receive your feedback.
- Communicate feedback in terms of at least a 3:1 ratio of positive/constructive feedback - The more research we do across the domains of sports, business, and life, the more convinced we are that this ratio is critical to the success of people. It has been my experience in working with everyone from high performing students to seniors that people don't always need your help in spotting the specks in their eyes. What people need is someone who can highlight their strengths and talents and help them maximixe their potential.
- Communicate feedback in terms of the other person's "potential to be" - I first heard this term from leadership guru Warren Bennis. As a leader, you must frame your feedback in terms of what they can become, not what they are not. This doesn't rule out giving constructive feedback; it just means tailoring it toward a mutually shared vision. Again, if I feel like you are trying to help me and "on my side," I will receive any kind of feedback from you, even if it is hard to digest in the moment.
- Ask questions and create a culture of being able to share without judgment and pride of ownership - Leaders can learn a lot through the power of questions. Also, innovation happens when people suspend their assumptions about what was done in the past, especially if they were the one to create it, and open their minds to what could be.
- Always take time to encourage and connect what the other person does to the company's core values - The more a person connects their daily tasks to the mission and vision of the company, the more they will truly live out the core values of the organization.
What have you found to be effective in connecting with the people you lead? What is your leadership voice?