In recent posts, I have written about the importance of building trust in leadership through transparency, integrity and authenticity. The vehicle that makes all of these components of trusting relationships possible is communication.
Communication starts with a genuine desire by leaders to share information openly, honestly and consistently. Here are seven essential components for strong communication in leadership:
- Understand your style (and that of those around you) – Knowing your communication strengths and weaknesses and those of the team around you will help you understand the most effective manner in which to communicate. Are you patient, inpatient, direct, indirect, compassionate? How about the folks around you? I require my coaching clients to take a DiSC assessment to help them know their style and techniques they can practice to adjust that style to improve relationships. Myers Briggs is another excellent tool. Consider investing in such an assessment for all your team members, and set aside a half-day for a workshop to take a deeper dive into the results. You will find communication and trust improve as a result.
Mission, vision and values and not simply platitudes written in a strategic plan.
Communicate your mission, vision and values – Your team needs to understand and engage in the direction in which the organization is headed and the strategies to get there. Mission, vision and values and not simply platitudes written in a strategic plan. To truly have an effective team, they must be communicated and lived out every day. That starts with leadership.
- Two-way feedback – In many organizations, feedback is relegated to an annual performance appraisal where the supervisor grades the employee and an occasional conversation to update progress. That is a faulty system that actually discourages communication-because employees and most supervisors dread the process. Great feedback occurs, not in an annual appraisal, but in frequent, informal conversations. Make it a two-way process. As a leader, you should encourage honest feedback from your team. If you create an environment where team members feel comfortable providing genuine feedback—you’ll get it. Solve problems with direct communication. Schedule regular meetings for input and feedback.Understand body language and the meaning in what is not being said.
Understand body language and the meaning in what is not being said.
Listen – All too often, leaders are guilty of not listening at all or only listening on a superficial level. Listening takes time. It is a whole lot easier to tell somebody what to do, get them out of your office and get on with your work. Listen on a deeper level. Understand body language and the meaning in what is not being said. Team members will respect and trust you if you show genuine concern by taking time to listen to their point of view.
Do what’s right even when it hurts.
Ask questions – Again, it is easy to simply respond to questions by giving directions on how you want the team member to proceed. Instead, respond to questions by turning questions back around to the employees. What do you think we should do? How do you asses our options? What is the downside to that alternative? Research has shown that by taking that approach, you will help develop better problem solving skills among your team members (truth be told, they probably have a better idea than you anyway).
- Honesty – Always. Every day in every way. No half-truths or omissions. Be consistent. Do what’s right even when it hurts. Deliver difficult news with compassion.
Open, honest communication inspires loyalty and trust among your team members. It is also infectious. If you as a leader practice good communication techniques, you will find harmony among an engaged workforce committed to the mission, vision and values of your organization.