Looking into your 2017 crystal ball, have you made plans to improve how your leaders communicate? No? Well, it should be a part of your leadership development strategy, assuming you have one in place.
Seriously, though, we've already established (if you haven't heard) that corporate leaders are seriously lacking even the most basic people skills for effective interaction that lead to results.
For this conversation, I'm going to simplify the practice of great leadership communication down to 4 basic principles. Assess whether you (as a leader), or your leadership team, possess these traits. They will go a long way in fostering the types of positive relationships you want that will drive success.
1. Communicate under control.
Who will ever forget last year's unfortunate anger-management incident involving Gary Friedman, head of Restoration Hardware Holdings Inc., who went off on his whole company with a flaming internal memo written mostly with the caps lock on.
Anger is one powerful human emotion. It is also a very normal human emotion that needs to be expressed in a healthy way. But there's a place and time for appropriate anger, and we all have to learn how to manage it, or it will manage us.
Put these habits into practice today to help control and express your anger.
- Stop and set boundaries with those who anger you.
- Think about what will happen if you lose control. "If I lose control...." [end this sentence with potential consequences].
- Ask yourself why you're really angry. Most likely, it may run deeper than what's on the surface. What's really beneath the anger? Think back to how it all started.
- Learn to cope when it happens in order to reduce your anger. Acknowledge that you're mad, walk away and take a break, go talk to someone to get better perspective and understanding, and come back when you're in better space.
- Process why this triggered anger in you. Were your or your team's values violated? Now that you know your triggers, communicate by pointing out someone's fault with specific examples, but avoid using "you" language.
2. Communicate by listening first.
Effective communication isn't just about talking; great leaders listen intuitively to the other person's story, asking questions, and searching conversations for depth, meaning and understanding with their needs in mind.
Leaders driven by hubris have a hard time detaching from their own inner-voices to consider other voices, because they think they're always right.
Great leaders are present and in the moment. They don't need to talk over others to get their point across. To quote Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen's CEO, Cheryl Bachelder,
The biggest distinction of a leader who serves others versus themselves is the ability to listen. When you listen, you hear peoples' objections, anxieties, and fears -- and you also hear the solutions.
3. Communicate by being real and emotionally honest.
Marcus Lemonis, star of the The Profit, swears by it. Best-selling author and researcher Dr. Brene Brown says it is "the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change."
I speak of the widely-held notion that vulnerability and authenticity is, indeed, a leadership strength displayed by the best entrepreneurs.
Dr. Brown's now-historic and viral Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, has already solidified the importance of being real in the workplace, and how critical it is for leaders to connect with and inspire others.
Being real and present with your feelings will show up in statements like, "I'm really not sure where to go with this, what would you do in my situation?" or "I need some help here."
Getting it out in the open creates a space for authenticity and truth. That's what we, as leaders, should model and replicate inside our organizations.
Being real and emotionally honest gives your team members permission to do the same. You will experience more connection and more honest conversations as a result.
4. Communicate by following through on promises.
Failure to be your word may lead to your people questioning your integrity and distrusting you. So follow through on your promises with a clear plan of action that can be easily articulated.
Even if you can't pull it off, explain why something cannot be enacted. The fact that you can honestly and openly communicate both good and bad news goes a long way.
How did you do? Any of these resonate with you as a leader of people? Which of the four can you honestly say, "This is an area I need to work on?"