Bob was clearly frustrated. “I keep telling them, but nobody listens,” he fumed. As we looked at his 360 feedback on his communication practices, it was clear why nobody was listening to him. Bob’s communication skills were awful.
Bob scored quite high on technical expertise and analytical skills. A big part of his communications problem was that Bob believed logical arguments were all he needed. But his analytical approach often created an emotional tone that felt cold and uncaring. His feedback showed Bob often didn’t try to learn from others or understand their point of view.
Many leaders like Bob over-inform and under-communicate. They’re drowning people in information who are thirsting for communication.
Communion and communication share the same roots. Oxford dictionary defines communion as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level.” This deeper connection is what people are craving today in workplaces with a higher purpose.
Here are some ways you can increase communion through improved communication at work:
- Strong communication balance listening and learning with persuading and influencing. Find common ground that will produce a win/win outcome.
- Communication is an ongoing, two-way process, not just a few interactions. That involves seeking to understand and learning from each other.
- Everyone’s tuned into radio station WIFM (What’s in it for me). Try to understand their interests and how they will win.
- Balance logic and emotion. Powerful persuasion is “logic on fire.” Strong communicators use well-constructed arguments that connect emotionally through examples, stories, metaphors, or analogies.
- E-mail is great for the head part; informing and managing. The heart part — communicating and leading — takes personal contact.
- Build alliances, networks, and coalitions for long-term change. This often means waiting for the right time or the right people to move change-agendas forward.
- Be politically savvy. Understand the dynamics of your team/organization culture. Listen, learn, and leverage key influencers.
- Communion won’t happen without trust. Trust is the currency of communication. You can only write checks on what’s in your trust account. Your account balance depends on keeping your commitments, your performance track record, consistency with declared values, your authenticity, and demonstrated respectfulness.
- Lighten up. Use humor to build rapport and connect with people. Studies show the most effective leaders use humor two to three times more often than their less effective (and jest-lagged) counterparts.
In a study of over 2,400 leaders, Zenger Folkman looked at their skills in asking good questions, listening well, and telling or sharing information. Their direct reports rated how well they felt their leader communicated with them. Those leaders who didn’t practice any of these three skills were rated below average in communications. If the leader practiced one skill, their direct reports rated them as slightly better than average in communications. If the leader was skilled in all three, they were rated near the top quartile in communications. Zenger Folkman concluded, “Effective communication is about more than simply giving a good speech. Great communication that both informs and persuades is a two-way conversation where leaders ask good questions and take the time to listen carefully.”
How’s your communication working? Are you informing or communicating? How do you know?