Communicating Effectively

Posted in management by Christopher R. Wirz on Wed Mar 02 2016

Note: For this post, assume you are a leader.

Successful communication means several things: proactive communication, civility and candor.

Proactive communication refers to ways your audience hears you and how you hear them. What is said and how it is said matters. Many teammates have deadlines and a never-ending list of tasks to be completed which makes people communicate too little with others.

To determine if enough communication is taking place, the common slogan is "When in doubt, reach out." Do not be a micro-manager, but keep people in the loop. A proven proactive method is to ask questions. This works both in small-group and 1-on-1 settings.

You should not assume that everybody clearly understands you to the same degree. If possible, ask the person a question to help them articulate what they actually heard. This will build enough comfort in the interaction to encourage people to speak up on their own.

A leader should try to predict communication challenges before they arise. There are a small number of conversations you have every day. These are important and you should prepare. Before entering a 1-on-1 conversation, or a meeting, identify the hot-button issues others will want to debate. Try not to let issues surprise you.

It is also important to achieve a balance between the use of candor versus civility. Civility means to be nice, positive, and congenial. Candor refers to straight-forward, candid and sometimes blunt conversation. Candor is more proactive, so it is more effective to communicate issues in a timely manner. Civility without will make everyone feel good, but not much will be discussed. Communication channels can help partition civility-based and candor-based communications.

There are many communication channels - and some are more appropriate than others. It has been proven that the more important the message, the more you need a high-quality communication channel. High quality communications include a telephone call, a video call, or a personal visit. While there is not a slogan to remember, many effective leaders believe "When in doubt, choose the highest quality option."

The very best option for quality is always live, face-to-face. Try not to rely on low quality channels like instant messaging or texts. This is because great communication is not just about saying something - it is also about listening.

A leader should listen more than he or she talks. Listening gives employees a voice. They can speak up and have their opinions heard. That means they feel like collaborators - which they are! They feel ownership.

Listening allows you to learn things you need to understand about your employees. The more you listen, the more you understand their preferences, thinking process and emotions. These aspects help you make informed decisions.

When you are proactive with delivering messages, mindful of challenges and debates, using the right channels, and embracing candor more than civility, you will be successful as a communicator.

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