Article: Consistently Inconsistent
By: Natalie R. Manor
After 25+ years of working in the human behavior and growing leaders arena, it is my experience that communicating effectively and with ease is still an issue.
Google has 542,000,000 (and growing) references regarding leadership and communication. Considering all the information we have access to you would think we would have it mastered by now.
From the C-suite to the entry level leader, there are certain key skills that need to be learned and honed. These are interpersonal skills and they need to be developed and fostered throughout our careers.
- Setting Context
- Communication clearly
- Creating high value relationships
- Building teams
- Recruiting and retaining our people
- Engaging in rapport to build trust and respect
- Providing feedback to maximize performance and increase productivity
- Setting performance goals
- Delivering difficult information in a timely way
- Developing a cultural that supports both the people and the output
The evidence of inconsistent application of highly effective interpersonal skills is getting worse. “We are not communicating effectively to our people; clients; stakeholders” is the workplace definition of communication issues and yet they continue to increase. The senior leader is often times the least effective communicator in
My experience with coaching, facilitating and training executive teams is that time and resources have bitten into our timeliness in developing our communication skills and then continuing to communicate in a highly effective way. Here is a brief example of what I mean:
Setting context: Joe walks into a meeting, tells the group that they will be replicating the same proposal they used in November to those people in Europe and expects the report to be on his desk by 3:00 pm.
Joe assumes that each person in the meeting is completely clear what he means when he says:
b) group in Europe
c) which November he is reffering to
By not setting context, Joe creates a wave of activity not productivity. People will be scrambling to find the report; asking others if they know which report he was referring to; finding November reports and comparing them and then moving on to groups in Europe that might be the right group.
Joe could have avoided creating a wave of unproductive activity by setting good context and being clear in his instructions/comments to the people at the meeting. Here is a way that Joe can change his instructions/comments to set context and create clarity:
“Our next steps in producing a proposal will be to use the November 13, 2011 document we presented to the group from Europe – the XYZ Company – as a shell. We will use this shell to detail our 4 key ideas about their marketing issues so that they can make a decision by the close of business next Friday. Any questions on which proposal I am talking about? Can we get this to me by 3:00 pm today?”
The difference between the first and second communication from Joe is where the communication consistency lives. He set context and provided clarity. Joe gave his team an opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions.
Often after a training session with an executive team the comments will be that of “of course, I know how to communicate effectively.” Yes, but are you doing it?
When we measure whether communication is effective and clear from the C-suite to the rest of the organization, we find that 70% of the information is not clear, not understood, not acted on correctly.
All communication can be effective. However, we continue to produce organizations that are short o time and resources and long on stress.
As leaders we need to enforce the first rules of communication: to be clear, set the context, be timely and for feedback to make sure our instructions/comments are understood. The results of setting a good context for communication is that people feel that they are in rapport with the communicator, they trust and respect the origination of the information and will act on it with enthusiasm.
Being consistently inconsistent in delivering clear and accurate information creates a culture of stress. People who are consistently stressed and not communicated with well create waves of activity without a lot of productivity. They spend too much time wondering what is next.
My 20 years of experience in working with leaders is that they need to be completely committed to the classic leadership skills that continually make organizations great. Communicating clearly is the most basic of these classic leadership skills and it has yet to gain the importance, emphasis and urgency that companies many times pay to the bottom line, business strategy and client needs.
The cycle is actually very clear. If you begin with a precise and highly effective communication strategy internally and externally, your business strategies will be elegant and profoundly effective.
Garbage in garbage out. I have been known to be too direct, but in this case I think the communication and leadership crisis in organization speaks for itself. You can produce outstanding performance and sustainable results by communicating in a clear, concise, and context setting way.
Superb communication is a daily practice. It develops through an awareness that nothing is done without communication. Our methods of communicating have changed drastically through the use of email and reduction of face to face or telephone communication.
What is lost in the use of email is the being able to read and hear the other person. 55% of our communication is done through our body. 38% of our communication is accomplished through our actual tone when speaking and/or the pace of our speaking. 7% of our communication effectiveness is through the use of words. These statistics are not just in the USA; they are global and apply to all humans.
We are all using email in a way to communicate almost all information and yet we are not even doing it well. 1% of the companies we work with have an email policy of how a good email should be written; conveyed; constructed; used and yet 93% of most organizations are relying on email to communicate most of their information.
The demands for speed in our workplace are creating an even greater need to communicate elegantly and effectively. The idea that creating a communication plan is a back burner strategy is not optional anymore. The organizations that we have worked with that have “gotten” this have provided a tipping point for their success. Communicating well is an act of significant strategy.
Leaders need to communicate well, consistently, with clarity while setting context. You need only to think of those leaders and organizations that inspire you to know that communicating effectively is a key strategy and the first skill that all leaders need to learn and continually hone.
Copyright © by Natalie Manor. All Rights Reserved.
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