When I’m coaching or consulting with busy senior executives within large companies, I consistently observe the same mistake being made. Today’s leaders have the most advanced communication tools in history. But they still do not take the time needed to communicate more strategically and effectively. I’ve always believed that a lack of communication and not saying what needs to be said hurts a work force in ways that impact the whole organization. Performance is inhibited. Innovation is stifled. Employee engagement suffers, and so do sales and profits.
In fact, a study conducted by the Project Management Institute revealed that 80% of all work-related problems can be traced to poor communication. That’s a profound statistic, and there’s really no excuse for that kind of wasted potential. Communication is not rocket science. Anyone can learn to be a more effective communicator, and I’ll give you four tips to help you and those on your team do that.
1) What Goes Unsaid Can Surface as a Problem
There are times when you need to deliver candid feedback or honestly address a team challenge. Maybe you need to disclose something to a valued customer, or ask difficult questions of a longtime partner or vendor. If you avoid clarity and transparency because you are not comfortable as a communicator, what you do not say now can later come back to haunt you.
Trust me, it will eventually percolate to the surface and you’ll have to address it anyway. But the longer you wait, the harder that will be. Getting the unsaid out in the open is critical to long-term organizational success. After all, you can’t fix a problem you don’t know about and you can’t implement an idea that no one shares.
2) Humility Enhances Hearing
When ego gets in the way, you may listen to someone speak, but still not actually hear what they are trying to tell you. We all have a tendency to interpret information about ourselves or our work in a way that protects us from criticism. Or we feel threatened, throw up our guard, become defensive, and attack back. Maybe they are giving you valuable candid feedback, but the medicine is hard for you to swallow. Perhaps they have a great idea, and you’re afraid it will be better than your own idea so you resist.
Remember, you’re the leader. That means you need to be the most effective listener in the room. Otherwise you’ll be blindsided or will miss out on the next great suggestion. Improve your hearing by practicing humility with an open mind. It will do your communication skills wonders, and make you a more respected leader.
3) Invite Opposing Points of View
We all know the story of the king who walked around with no clothes on, but everyone was afraid to tell him. If you surround yourself with people who always agree with you, you’re going to create an information silo. That’s going to put an end to innovation, which is the opposite of what you need to do as a leader.
That’s why the most successful organizations ensure that they have diverse, inclusive, 360-vision leaders on their teams. You want to hear and take advantage of different perspectives. That will broaden your outlook and your knowledge, as well as your critical thinking. Actively solicit ideas that may be drastically different from your own. You’ll be amazed what you’ll learn and how it will help you make more informed and productive decisions.
4) Participate in Trusted Peer Groups
In order to cultivate that kind of broader mindset, it helps to design and participate in collaborative peer groups with trusted colleagues. In that environment you will have the freedom to express ideas and the ability to receive honest feedback. You can use the group as a sounding board, or as your own personal think tank.
Let’s face it. It’s extremely hard to come up with an innovative idea all by yourself. Even if you do, you may have no idea how to implement it. There is great power in collective thinking. Once you start leveraging the intelligence of a trusted peer group, you’ll exponentially multiply your brain’s creative bandwidth.
Imagine if you discovered a magic formula that would enable you to fix approximately 80 percent of the problems your organization faces. You’d be a superstar. Now consider that communication is at the heart of 80 percent of organizational problems. You instantly realize that implementing these ideas is a no-brainer and it can transform your leadership and dramatically increase the value that you bring to your company.
Sarah’s Acceleration Insights
To give yourself a head start, answer these questions.
- Do your team members spontaneously engage in lively debate regarding ways to achieve greater productivity?
- Or are they reluctant to voice their opinions in a more actively collaborative way?
- Can each member of your team – including you – keep an open mind when their ideas are challenged?
- How often do you lead successful brainstorm sessions that result in new and helpful perspectives?
Healthy teamwork relies on honest, respectful, dynamic communication. Examine the communication skills of yourself and your team, and then raise them to the next level. Your performance will automatically soar, as that communication capability rises.