Probably the biggest part of any Leader’s job is communication. It also tends to be the weakest skill, even if you aren’t an Introvert.
If you ever look at a group of people that are in conflict or having serious problems delivering, you don’t have to look hard to find communications issues are to blame. It would be nice to think it’s something else but really, what else would be causing dysfunction between 2 or more people?
Here are some signs that there is a communication problem:
– Unresolved, ongoing conflict usually with the same people
– Blaming, not taking responsibility
– Confusion over big details like deadlines, methods & process
– Heated gossiping; escalated issues
– Reluctance to share information
– Open hostile comments
– Lack of team cohesion
Here are the communication troublemakers:
– Not enough – This one is at the top for a reason. Usually all that’s missing is any communication. When communication is missing, people will “fill in the blanks” on what they need to know. That is leaving a lot to the imagination which often leads to misunderstanding.
– Not clear – Communication is only noise if there isn’t a point. Sometimes when a person talks, it’s not always clear what they are trying to convey. There can even be a bunch that’s said but it’s not communicating if there isn’t clarity.
– Too much – Sometimes communication can come in doses that are too much for people to grasp. The listening that is key to communication shuts down if there is too much to take in at one time.
– Making assumptions- A deadly error is assuming the other person “just knows”. You can never rely on what someone might know or remember without asking.
– Not timely or after the fact – You see this all the time in the news. Companies that know they have issues with their product, but fail to tell the public until a long time has passed. The same thing happens inside companies with people. Oops! Maybe I should communicate this…
– Unable to speak up – If you have opposing information, disagree with something or know of a problem, you fail yourself and everyone you work with (and for) when you don’t speak up.
– Unable to communicate issues directly – The ultimate in dysfunction. If you can’t go directly to the person you have an issue with, even the boss, nothing good will happen. Sure, you can vent to someone else, but that person won’t be the one to solve the problem – only the one you have an issue with.
– Listening “filters” based on what you think about the other person – It’s interesting how our beliefs about another person contaminate communication. When you think the other person has bad intentions, how you listen to them will be tilted and inaccurate.
We all have to take responsibility for communication but as a leader, you need to role model how it’s done. Here’s some things you can do this week that will instantly help:
– Hold regular meetings to communicate; solicit others for inputs
– Use email to update and supplement meeting communications
– Find ways to communicate casually like hallways
– Solicit disagreement and discussion, reinforcement without penalties or negative reaction
– When personality issues are escalated, bring the two people together to demonstrate conflict resolution – don’t ignore the issues
– When issues arise, discuss communications as part of the resolution
Poor communication can start the biggest problems and is easy to do right, if you simply take the time and thought to do it.
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