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4 Signs You're a Terrible Communicator

Sure, you're a visionary leader. But do your day-to-day discussions actually move your company forward, or just cause confusion? Here's how to tell.

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As an entrepreneur, you are probably a big picture thinker--the visionary leader driving your company and team forward. 

So, it's also natural that as the founder or CEO, you probably like to communicate. Whether glued to your cell phone, chatting via email or just grabbing someone at random for a rapid-fire brainstorm, you are rarely at a lost for words.

But just because you talk a lot doesn't mean you're necessarily good at communicating.

In fact, many leaders confuse eloquence with clarity, and as a result, often leave the people who work with them bedazzled by their verbal dexterity, and entirely confused about what to do next.

Here are the four cardinal sins of eloquent miscommunication:

1. You talk and think at the same time.  If you're a visionary leader (as in, you think strategically about the big picture), you may be guilty of using your verbal communications as a tool to think. 

As  result, having a 'discussion' with you often means little, in terms of tactical strategy or execution. You're basically externalizing your thought processes. And while a seasoned employee or colleague who is used to such monologues learns simply to smile and nod at the appropriate moments, others will find the process entirely bewildering.

And it's not just that. 'Talking to think' is also highly demotivating. It can make your colleagues feel ignored and puzzled by the pointlessness (from their perspective) of the exchange. The recipient is often left feeling like a stooge who has been used, rather than a colleague with valued opinions.

2. You muse, but never follow through. If you're a visionary leader, you are likely comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. You may rarely feel the need to grab for an answer as soon as an issue or problem comes along. As a result, you may set up one or two Aunt Sallies--notions, ideas or proposals that are merely hypotheses or a starting point for rich discussion.

The problem? The Aunt Sally comes wrapped in the usual eloquence and passion, which leave your colleagues unsure whether or not this is indeed just a jumping off point, or a genuine proposal that they are intended to act upon. 

3. You encourage high-level debates. With everyone. So you enjoy a robust debate. You like to engage in verbal conflict; it's how you think things through.

Unfortunately, what to you looks like a healthy, profitable exchange of views often appears to others to be little more than a fruitless argument, with all the associated interpersonal fallout: personal attacks, bruised feelings and ruptured (or at least somewhat strained) relationships.

4. You give solutions for problems that don't exist. Ever listened to a friend or spouse sharing a problem then find yourself prating back at them with your brilliant solution? News flash: They didn't want your solition; all they wanted was your ear.

Because your leadership identity is tied up in being creative and thinking strategically, you may find it well nigh impossible to talk about something without providing at least one, often several, 'brilliant' solutions.

Encouraging others to think through issues for themselves, or simply being there as a supportive colleague is not your strong suit. 

Here's an easy solution: Thankfully, the answer to these four pitfalls is straightforward. In my experience, simple awareness is the key. If you recognize in yourself any of these traits, grab a notepad or journal and for one week monitor your interactions with others.

After each meaningful conversation, simply jot down the name of the person and the topic, and tick off which trap you fell into. You'll soon find yourself recognizing these traits in advance and correcting accordingly.

 

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: May 29, 2012

LES MCKEOWN is the president and CEO of Predictable Success, a leading adviser on accelerated business growth. He has started more than 40 companies and was the founding partner of an incubation consulting company. McKeown is the author of the bestseller Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track--and Keeping It There. His latest book is The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success.
@lesmckeown




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