Every organization struggles with it. Employees want more of it. Managers are unsure how to best do it.
Communications. One word with many meanings that is the source of endless misunderstandings.
If there is one thing you as a leader can do to become an outstanding communicator, it’s this: communicate with people, not at people. Far too many leaders default to, “What do I need to tell them?” instead of, “How do I best engage them?” They think of communications as one-way, not two-way.
Sure, you need to convey purpose, goals and expectations. Your employees need and want that clarity. Yet if things were so simple you could just give them their job descriptions along with the link to the “About Us” page on your company website and be done with it, right?
To truly understand, remember and embody what is being communicated, people need to be steeped in the message and given the opportunity to discuss, ask about, and react to it.
In a safe setting. Don’t communicate your crucial message to a group, ask if there are any questions, and then be surprised when no one raises their hand. Yet I’ve watched managers do this and then later say, “They had their chance. I asked them but no one wanted to speak up.” Of course no one wanted to speak up! Why would they expose themselves in front of a group?
If you’re serious about getting their input then make it safe for them. After delivering your message ask them to pair up and discuss one thing. Maybe it’s what they liked about the message. Maybe it’s what concerned them. Or maybe it’s the number 1 question they’d like answered. Give them 2-3 minutes. Then ask random individuals to report back. Thank them for their openness. Don’t get defensive, don’t judge them, and don’t use their comments as a springboard to deliver a lecture. Role-model that you value their opinions.
Two-way communications means genuinely being curious about what they have to say. Asking is just the first step. You then have to listen attentively. Listen to understand, not to prepare your rebuttal! Effective two-way communications means acknowledging them and demonstrating respect even if you have a different perspective.
Communicate with people, not at people.
Now, go grab a colleague and have them read this blog. Then take three minutes and discuss the one thing each of you will do to become a more effective communicator.
Make it happen.
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