The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw
My assessment about communication is this – Do it. Always. It is that simple. And, by communicating always, I mean to all stakeholders.
Many years ago, whilst in a job interview, I remember being asked how I would handle a specific situation. I gave an example and described how I had handled it. The interviewer responded with “That’s great! Ultimately, it’s all about communication! Without communication, there is no leadership”.
I have thought about this comment many times since that day and one observation that I will make is that, in workplaces where I have felt that leadership was poor, there appeared to be no effective communication. I haven’t quite worked out whether the converse is completely true. However, my assessment is that this interviewer was on to something – as a leader, communication is paramount.
There are methodologies and techniques available for communicating in various situations – be it a difficult conversation, a performance management discussion, regular daily communication, etc. However, my feeling is that the following are can be applied generally to most communication:
- Have the missing conversation. What do I mean by this? Well, it is simple. Don’t just assume something without making the effort to find out the real story, from multiple sides if appropriate. Don’t allow people to get away with poor behaviour through fear of saying “the wrong thing” to them. Provide feedback to people, whether positive or otherwise. Make it constructive, but don’t be afraid to say it. Ensure that all stakeholders know about the change in direction. If there is a conversation to be had, the best way to demonstrate leadership is to have it. So many issues could be avoided in the workplace if people committed to having necessary conversations.
- Make clear requests to individuals and/or teams, and ensure that their commitment to deliver (according to agreed standards, timeframe, outcome, etc) has been received. Confirm this, don’t assume it.
- Leave all parties feeling respected and valued. It doesn’t matter what the conversation is about, leaving people feeling respected and valued is important.
- Communicate direction, requirements and issues promptly.
- Tailor communication to the appropriate audience.
- If unsure as to how to present a message, try to picture yourself in the shoes of the recipient. How could the message be delivered to you in a way that would serve you?
- Remember that remote team members may require additional effort in communication. They don’t always get to receive the “water cooler” conversations that people who work in the same office do, so it is even more important to ensure that they feel included, valued, respected and supported.
Communication in everything is key but, in leadership, it is essential. Be sure to have the missing conversations, and be sure to try and understand the perspective of all parties.
How is your current communication style serving you?