How often do you hear “You must communicate more”? And how often do people take that to mean talk? Effective communication must work both ways. Is it fair to expect others to listen to you if you are not willing to listen to them? I have started a Business Coaching qualification with the Institute of Leadership & Management and a crucial part of this is listening. But in any walk of life listening is important.
It is also vital for leaders. Elizabeth Doty has written an interesting article Why Leaders Who Listen Achieve Breakthroughs (http://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Why-Leaders-Who-Listen-Achieve-Breakthroughs?gko=7282c&utm_source=itw&utm_medium=20170321&utm_campaign=resp ). The “post office” style of communication is interesting, and obviously outdated. Instead effective communication is best achieved through a genuine two-way conversation.
Here, communication is approached as a puzzle or a collage, with each person holding a critical piece. The purpose is not to deliver the perfect message or to win people over, but to explore an issue or opportunity together — pooling observations and data, raising and testing assumptions, and creating new ideas out of the mix.
In practice it may not be quite so easy. However leaders must set the tone. They can instil this type of effective communication into their business and culture. Doty lists 6 strategies that can help. For a fuller explanation read the article (link above):
1. Slow Down
If you are conversing then stay in that moment. Giving the impression of being stressed or distracted will lead to those around you avoiding initiating discussions.
2. Create a Safe Space
Honestly share some of your own questions or doubts. Adopt an attitude of curiosity.
3. Ask Inviting Questions
Pose questions you don’t have the answer for.
4. Listen with a Willingness to be Influenced
Really listen to what is being said. Furthermore do so with an open mind.
5. Use Reflection to Deepen the Learning
6. Summarise and ask for Commitment
Recap what has been discussed. This is also important to ensure you are both on the same wavelength, and can assist in setting an agenda for the next time.
When conversing with members of your team you want to get the most from it. Adopting a collaborative approach to communication improves buy-in. Those who are committed are more willing to invest themselves. And that, undoubtedly assists performance.
In the end, the real magic of two-way conversations is that they break the cycle of predictable, ineffective communication, replacing it with fresh thinking and actionable solutions.