Many of us don’t just work, we lead. We are planning events, delegating tasks, and setting the standard. In short , we run the show…or do we? A big piece of leadership in any capacity is the ability to communicate effectively. In order for people to be comfortable following you, they must first be confident that you will be able to clearly lay out your vision and plan to them.
In its truest essence, communication takes place when messages are not only sent but also received and understood. Exuy mighe rogihe? Oh, of course you didn’t get that last part, because I wasn’t communicating with you in a way that you could understand. That brings me to the first of my two points about communication.
Are You Making Yourself Clear?
Once a friend called me up and asked if I wanted Mexican food for dinner. I said “no.” The line suddenly got quiet and finally they said “that’s kind of mean to not want to go have dinner with me.” I replied “well…you didn’t ask me to come have dinner with you. You asked me if I wanted Mexican food for dinner, those are two different questions.” My friend was confused and a little offended because they thought by asking me if I wanted Mexican for dinner, they were also asking me if I’d be willing to dine with them. However, I heard something entirely different. Basically, we were not communicating. It happens all the time.
In leadership it is imperative that those you work with are able to understand what you are asking them, or saying to them. Make it a point to be clear and thorough in your assignment of responsibilities, vision and expectations. No one likes to play the guessing game, especially when it comes to their job. When you ask “would you like to work on XYZ project?” they shouldn’t have to wonder if that’s code for something else. Always be clear, direct and offer opportunities to ask questions to clear up any possible confusion.
Listening, on the other hand, is quite a different matter. Listening is hard. Don’t think so? The next time you have a conversation with someone take note of how many times you get the urge to jump in and make a point while they are speaking, or how many times you glaze over the exciting or depressing moment they are trying to share with you so you can hurry and express your more exciting or depressing moment, or how many times your mind tunes them out as you prepare a response in the middle of an argument. It takes practice to become a good listener, but it’s exponentially important in order to be able to lead from a place of excellence within your organization.
In a nutshell, people are more receptive to listening to you when they know that you are doing the same. When those you work with come to you with issues, concerns, or even complains, take the time to pay attention to what they are saying. Resist the urge to interrupt and cut them off. Make a conscious effort to turn your mind off to anything that would impede a genuine effort to create a secure environment for expression. Then you can begin to witness progress and goals coming to pass as you and your team coast toward success while everyone is 100% sure of what’s going on and the role they play in it.
As you continue to make plans to grow your organization and maximize its reach and effectiveness, take some time to assess how a lack of communication may be hindering you in any way. It may be coming from you as a leader, your colleagues, an organization you partner with, or other entity. Identifying the root is a good start, however taking steps to improve is where you focus should lie. Be clear in your speaking, intentional in your listening and success will become inevitable.