The art of communication is the language of leadership. Excelling in communication is one of the top consistently rated traits of distinguished leaders. On a daily basis leaders work with people whose opinions, values, beliefs and needs may be very different from our own. The ability to exchange ideas with others, understand their perspectives, solve problems and successfully utilize the steps and processes depends significantly on how effectively one is able to communicate with others.
Communication is one of the most misused words in our vocabulary and the mechanism used to establish and modify relationships. Communicating more effectively is not one dimensional and there doesn’t appear to be a formula that can be followed and applied to every situation.
The All-Important “C’s” of Effective Communication
It is said there are 7 – C’s that are fundamental to effective communication. I count 10 – C’s that all should aim for to create the potential for consistent, successful interactions.
If one is able to be mindful (conscious) of the important “C’s”, the ability to communicate effectively is monumental to their success. Remember – one may have brilliant ideas, but if they are not conveyed (another C!) in such a way that the idea is not put forward in an appropriate way, ideas won’t get anyone anywhere.
The true master of convoluted or contrived (two more C’s!) form of communication is Steven Wright, Academy Award winning American comedian, actor and writer. Among many of his quotable sayings, this one really hits the nail on the head.
“I have an answering machine in my car. It says, ‘I’m home now. But leave a message and I’ll call when I’m out.” ~ Steven Wright
Communication Concepts and Techniques
Over the years it has become understood that there are Ten Key Methods that may help unravel any misuse and provide more distinction when conveying communication information to others.
1. Creating vs. Achieving
Our modern world is full of high achieving individuals. Achieving requires lots of energy, time and focus at all costs to one’s health, relationships and longer term happiness. Achieving is driven by one’s mind.
Creating, on the other hand, is from the heart and is a completely different concept. Creating changes the way in which one communicates their dreams, visions and outcomes to oneself and the members of their team. Creating is energy building rather than energy draining. Having a focus on creating may still mean putting in long hours, however creating will definitely produce a profound difference in one’s communication.
2. Intention vs. Hidden Agenda
Getting clear on the intention or outcome of what one wants and being upfront with expressing it minimize the possibility of going off on another tangent. When there are hidden agendas ambiguity is felt in communication and that becomes more destructive than constructive.
Understanding the bigger picture or why one is being asked to do something in a particular way, gives the content meaning and puts the task in perspective. Context gives the Why. Content is the What.
4. Group vs. Team
A group of people that come together for a specific reason or are related to each other in some way do not necessarily feel a natural sense of comradeship or purpose. When communication is used to build and create a team of people who feel connected to a bigger picture and share a sense of ownership, the result becomes happier, more motivated individuals who initiate and follow through.
5. Guidelines vs. Procedures
Being clear about this distinction saves confusion and wondering why something isn’t being done the way it was asked to be done – even when it’s written down. In general guidelines are loose and similar to advice – “take it or leave it.” When a procedure is a must and requires a consistent result, things need to be done the same way each time. Communicating clearly what is a guideline and what is a procedure ensures the success of everyone involved.
6. Silence vs. Active Listening
To really hear what’s being said, one must master the practice of being silent. This means allowing someone to be heard and only speaking once one understands or has grasped what the person is saying. Active listening requires full attention followed by feeding back to the person what was heard. It also means listening for what is not being said. Silence and active listening are key ingredients to all effective communication.
7. Complete work vs. Task Focused
Women are especially good at seeing all the tasks that need to be done and going about zapping them one after another. For some this may mean sometimes not thinking about the outcome of the task before finishing it. Doing complete work means approaching each task with an understanding of what the end result will be and following through to its final outcome. When using task focused communication one doesn’t always get the end result that is really wanted.
8. Starting Afresh vs. Previous Experience
One very common mistake made by many individuals is to bring a negative past experiences to the current situation. If a person has acted a certain way previously, one may form an opinion of that person before a word has even been said. Unfortunately this can result in one being unable to really hear what is being said because it is anticipated that the individual will react or respond in a certain way. To start afresh requires leaving past negative experiences at the door, setting a clear intention for the current conversation and being completely open to hearing things differently.
9. Understanding vs. Agreement
When asked if someone understands what has been just said is it too easy to accept a nod or a yes only to find out later that the exact opposite was done. It is important to check for understanding and ask the person to repeat back their interpretation of what was said or to explain (in their own words) the process they’re about to go through. Why do we think it’s childlike or takes up too much time to ask for understanding? Think about the 10 C’s. Using a few extra minutes to avoiding making this mistake ensures full understanding about what’s required. Guaranteed this will save enormous amounts of time and frustration in the end.
10. Generosity vs. Just Enough
Communicating from a place of generosity means placing more importance on people than on their ability to achieve a certain task. Generosity builds connection and trust. People who trust each other give more of themselves than is ever expected. By being generous and empathetic to someone’s situation, lets them know one is human. It also communicates dreams and concerns about what is appreciated or not wanted. Generosity in leaders allows everyone to win.
It is not only leaders that benefit from effective communication because this is what develops relationships in life, work and play. By deepening the connection to others there are resounding results. It improves teamwork, supports sound decision-making and promotes exceptional problem solving. Leaders with effective communication skills are able to delivers even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.
All of us communicate every day. The better we communicate, the more we are able to build credibility with clients, management, colleagues and loved ones.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
~George Bernard Shaw