Communication is the key to the hearts and minds of others. If we struggle with it, we struggle with others. If we succeed with it, we succeed with others.
Communication is the one skill that impacts all areas of leadership. From training to teaching, setting expectations to priorities, or creating accountability to culture, communication touches it all. It impacts everything and everything impacts it. If you see a performance gap, at the root lays a communication problem.
Even when we are saying nothing, communication is happening. It exists at all levels, all the time. Either we create it with intention or the randomness of the world will create it for us. We must be great at delivering and receiving messages from our team in order to connect with them at any level. This is crucial in building a strong, collaborative and open culture. We must hear what they have to say and they must hear us and believe in us to win.
How is this possible though? In an age of shrinking face to face encounters, how can we ensure that we are effectively getting through to the people around us and that we are receiving the information that we need from them?
We need to have “adjustability”.
Just like an adjustable wrench from our toolbox has the ability to fit a bolt or a nut with a few turns of the screw, we must fit our communication style to the need of others. If we don’t adjust the wrench, it is worthless and if we don’t adjust our style, our message will have no worth either. There needs to be an intentional and conscious decision to adapt our preferred communication style. We have to be adjustable. Quickly, smoothly, and accurately, we need to tap into their desired style in order to learn what we need to learn.
We need to remember that “it’s not about us”, what matters is the message and ensuring that it’s understood. If our team member needs information delivered a certain way, we must deliver it that way. For example, if we have a fast paced style and we prefer to move quickly through the information so that we can get to work, but our team member wants to explain everything step by step by step in detail, we must be patient and hear him or her out. He or she needs the details in their style. Some people just have to be heard more frequently or over a longer period of time in order to feel that they are contributing at a high level. This is how we reinforce an open communication culture, we have to keep pushing those doors open at every turn. Conversely, if we like to explain every detail ourselves, but the person we are speaking to is very fast paced thinker, we must adjust our style to fit their needs. We need to know what we are going to say ahead of time and then say it. We need to get to the point and move on.
Working remotely is the most difficult scenario for communication. We can’t see the others, we can’t read their body language to look for cues to comprehension, so we must rely on other techniques to ensure that effective two way communication is happening consistently. We must continually validate understanding through asking questions and asking for summaries of the key points of conversations. A simple, “Now, walk me through what you just heard.” request goes a long way in verifying comprehension. Then a, “Now what steps are you going to take first?” question creates an awareness of the importance level of the process. Creating a culture on our team of this type of validation will generate one of comprehension and action. Exactly what we want and need, especially when we work independently and remotely so often in today’s world.
We cannot control others. We can certainly influence them, but we cannot control them. The only thing we can truly control in this world is ourselves and how we relate to others. If our desires include being a strong Winning Leader, we need to tap into the communication needs of our team and leverage our “adjustability” in order to deliver what we need…in the way that they need it.