Communication is a constant in your work as a manager. Are you aware of the style you use to communicate to your team and others? Do you even have time to be aware of your communication style? Perhaps not. However, it is a worthwhile endeavor, as communication is the lifeblood of organizations and deserves your attention.
There are many styles of communication: precise and to the point, well reasoned and thought out, emotionally intelligent or forceful, to name a few. There are also various methods of communication – speaking, writing, electronic, body language.
You want to find the style that is a fit and most effective for you. Start by giving thought to what outcomes you want from your communications. Are they to keep a project going, create clarity about goals or promote collaboration, for example? In a previous blog post I focused on how your communication is heard. Being aware of this will help in determining your communication style. Then, fit this all in with the culture of your organization, the realities of your work and the nature of your team and co workers. You may use varying styles in different situations. That’s fine. The key here is developing your self-awareness of how you communicate with others.
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1) Put yourself in the other person’s place and consider what it would be like to hear what you plan to say.
2) Identify your goals for the conversation, its purpose and what you want to achieve by having it.
3) Think about the person you will be talking with and craft an approach that fits their personality, without comprising what you want to communicate.
4) Identify where you are most vulnerable in the conversation (e.g. you have fear of having it; you do not have a strong justification for your position).
5) Anticipate the person’s possible reactions to what you have to say and what you will do about them.
6) Visualize yourself having the conversation with a positive outcome or practice having it.
7) Craft the conversation to assure that what you say and what you are asking are clear.
8) During the conversation, ask the person if what you are saying is clear to them and listen to their responses.
9) Develop an effective exit strategy, in case the conversation gets out of hand.
10) Release attachment to a specific outcome and keep yourself in the present moment.
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When I was in college, a professor said to me “You are mature to the extent to which you realize how your actions affect others.” That advice has stayed with me. How you communicate falls into this. Effective communication has to be heard the way you want it to be by the person you are communicating with. It is not just how you say it, but how they hear it.
How a person hears you is influenced by a myriad of factors – how they feel at that moment, their perspective on your subject, their personality and temperament and how what you are saying could impact them. So what do you do? Conduct a labyrinthian analysis of the emotions and perspective of the person you plan to communicate with? I don’t think so.
It really is about your ability to observe and understand. If you develop your emotional intelligence and keenly observe the reactions of others to what you communicate, you will develop the ability to communicate effectively with them.
We are not a uniform human race. Our diversity is our strength. The challenge lies in realizing this, getting out of our own box and relating effectively to the perspectives and experiences of those to whom we communicate.
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One of the best things you can offer to people you manage is being very clear in what you are asking of them. This involves not only clear communication, but also clear thinking. Not easy to do, when things are moving quickly around you and work volume is high. However, efficiency and effectiveness require it.
Your team needs to know what your expectations are and they need your guidance. Making an assumption that you do not need to be clear because your team knows what you are thinking, is dangerous. Doing so, may force your team to create their own assumptions on how to proceed, that may not align with yours. Paramount to clear communication is spending the time to think things out, finding effective means for your team to meet their goals and knowing what direction you are going in.
Getting clear takes time, but it is an investment worth making. How can you lead without it?
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To move forward, open communication is a necessity. In reality, however, open communication is rare. By open communication, I mean conditions where each person has the opportunity to speak their truth in a calm, considered way, without retribution.
Many things inhibit open communication – hidden agendas, strong emotions or lack of emotional intelligence, fear, organizational dysfunction or a desire to control, for example. You could decide that you will communicate openly, but there are risks. Until a safe space for open communication exists, you can employ some elements of open communication by allowing others to speak to you in an open manner, developing your own emotional intelligence and not reacting to poor communicators, unless one of your boundaries are crossed. You also can become more knowledgeable on open communication and, when you can, foster its development.
Without open communication, progress is slowed. With open communication, progress gets on a fast track along with innovation, harmony and collaboration.
“Entitled”, “Inexperienced”, “Innovative”, “Misunderstood”, “Social Activists”. These descriptions of the millennial generation (roughly 18-30 year olds) were given by the audience at a New York University alumni event I attended this week. The event featured David Burstein, author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World.
There is a promise for all of us who dialogue and take time to understand this generation, that is now moving out in the world. Blending their perspectives with those of other generations can advance us as a society and global community. They bring to the table a strong entrepreneurial drive, a sense of their own agency, a new brand of social activism rooted in pragmatic idealism, a high level of technological competency, a natural inclination towards collaboration and a healthy skepticism (and sometimes rejection) of our traditional institutions.
The millennial generation embodies the major shifts our societies are now encountering. How powerful it will be if all generations can come together to create a better world.
As a manager, communicating is a mainstay of your work. Frequently, communications can go awry. But what do you do when communications totally break down?
I was coaching a client who worked in a political campaign. Pressure was high and internal competition was fierce. The campaign environment did not have space for discord or drama. He was working with another person, his peer, who insisted on berating him and criticizing what he did in e mails and copying them widely to other members of the campaign. It was a game and very irritating. At one point, he thought these communications could do him significant harm.
It was time to deal with it. First, he set some boundaries, calling the person on their inaccuracies and tactics. It didn’t work. So, he went to his manager and instead of complaining, he calmly told his manager that he was not going to work this way and set his boundaries. His manager responded, told the other person to lay off on the e mails and it was done. Sometimes things can be worked out and sometimes they can’t. In this case, the action taken by the manager allowed my client to get back to work and get the job done.
This year I did a presentation for an organization that was undergoing major change in both their culture and their operations. My focus in the presentation was on three steps to successfully navigating change: embracing change, teamwork and communications and staff empowerment. As part of the presentation I included the video below, titled Navigating Change, which I would like to share with you (the organization works with children, thus some of the smaller figures). As a manager, what are your best practices for successfully navigating change?
The first time I was in the position of firing an employee, I let my emotions take over. The task was so unpleasant for me. Although the firing was justified, I knew it would be very hard for the employee. My boss warned me to be considered and careful. However, I did not heed his advice. In the end, I paid for it. I gave the employee two weeks notice (allowing her to stay at work). All went well. Until the day after she left, we discovered that she had wiped out very important drives on our computers in retaliation. Lesson learned – I didn’t let my emotions reign the next time.
For many managers, firing someone, is not a welcome task. One way to prepare for it is to balance your mind and emotions as you proceed. The balance lies first, in your mind – in acknowledging that firing is often a tough and unpleasant task with very negative impacts for the employee – and in taking responsibility for your decision. Then secondly, in your emotions – in being as compassionate as possible in delivering the news. Firing is tough, no getting around it. Balancing your mind and emotions helps you conduct yourself in a clear, forthright manner with integrity.
Nothing new here: managing involves handling some difficult relationships. Communicating effectively and balancing between reaching the other person and staying in your power is key. Often, difficult relationships have less to do with the content of a situation and more to do with personalities and emotions. Your communication strategy then, must reflect this.
Identify now a difficult relationship you have at work. What is your communication strategy with this person? It would behoove you to look beyond the work related aspects of the relationship (their position in the organization relative to yours, their responsibilities in your organization) to personal and emotional aspects of the relationship (the emotions they show at work that make the relationship difficult, the emotions you have about them, how you react to your interactions with them, the differences and similarities of your personalities). Get a fuller picture of what you are dealing with.
Once you have that picture, let your communication strategy reflect it, at the same time maintaining your own integrity and power in the relationship.