There is no doubt that one of the greatest skills to develop in business and in life is that of being able to communicate clearly. That means not only being able to articulate your thoughts, ideas and needs clearly, but also being able to listen to others and being able to absorb their thoughts, ideas and needs.
It sounds simple but there are often significant hurdles to overcome and blocks to clear communication. Part of becoming a better manager is becoming aware of those blocks, recognising what is causing them and them generating a strategy for overcoming them.
As with most management behaviours, it requires a combination of knowledge, skill and attitude to create a positive outcome. Think of the blocks to communication as a wall between 2 people that want to share information. Each gap in knowledge and skill becomes a brick in that wall.
Presence in the Moment: You have to be fully engaged in the conversation, listening actively and asking questions for understanding and clarification. Often people use the time when others are speaking to think up their response. This is called the monologue of the deaf where 2 people talk ‘at’ each other rather than ‘with’ each other.
Qualities and Attitudes: Do you show respect and empathy to each other? Is there any indifference and hostility on either side that reflects a deeper problem than just the issue you are discussing?
Beliefs and Assumptions: What assumptions are you making about the other person and what assumptions are they making about you. These issues are often the heart of cultural problems experienced in organisations so question your assumptions routinely to see if they are still valid.
Hidden Agendas: Often people are less open and honest because they are pursuing a hidden agenda. Perhaps they are being silent because they are unprepared or feel vulnerable. Perhaps they are being defensive because they perceive the conversation may result in an unpalatable outcome? Perhaps they are trying to control and manipulate you into acting a certain way. Hidden agendas often block communications because they stop people talking in an open and honest way.
Goals for the Outcome: You need to know what you both want so that the communication moves towards an acceptable outcome. Deception, hidden agendas, and ambiguity can lead to misleading information being passed and a subsequent loss of trust. Ensure you both understand the outcome and agree to move towards it.
Skills in Communication: Sometimes people struggle with their articulation or perhaps do not have the economy of words to ensure accurate, brief and clear communication. Perhaps struggle in getting their idea across. Perhaps they repeat themselves or the same point in the same way because they lack the verbal flexibility to change their approach. This requires some understanding on both sides so that both can work together to share the idea or information.
As well as knowledge and attitude based blocks to communications, people often display behaviours that can inhibit clear communication. You are probably aware of some of these behavioural style already. Each has very definite characteristics and different effects on the communication.
The Mumbler: Despite knowing how to communicate, the mumbler lacks confidence and their input is loss or misinterpreted because it is poorly articulated.
The Know It All: The know it all seem to have the answer for everything and provide that answer even if it isn’t correct. Often compensating for feelings of inadequacy they see information as a means to compete with the others in the conversation.
The Interrupter: The Interrupter uses the time when they are not talking to plan what they are next going to say and then when they have formulated their statement, say it without any respect for others or who is still talking.
The Sentence Finisher: The sentence finisher is often galloping ahead in the conversation and make assumptions about where your thoughts are going. Impatient with the pace they will often complete your sentence (frequently incorrectly) and move on to their next point without really listening to you.
The Gabler: The gabler talks to retain attention often to avoid the illusion that they have nothing of value to add. Their statements are often vague and full of extra redundant words.
The Speech Giver: The speech giver uses every opportunity to speak, non stop, on their subject, evangelising their ideas and using the conversation as an opportunity to get out their soap box and push their own agenda.
The Egotist: The egotist uses the word ‘I’ more than ‘We’. They use the conversation as an opportunity to evoke admiration of those around but trying to force admiration only creates alienation.
Once you recognise that you and your team are not communicating well, you can begin to identify the reasons and begin to address that shortfall. Remember that often, as a manager you will have limited time to communicate the idea. Limited time, however, does not relieve you of the responsibility for communicating well. It takes time, effort and a degree of flexibility but the outcomes are increased understanding, trust and output, and are clearly worth the effort.
Dare to Aspire