Every day, people operating businesses are going through multiple moments of interaction. Between technicians and clients, comments on social media, from leadership to team members, each moment of interaction offers an opportunity for excellent communication. Typically, there’s a lot of emphasis put on effective communication between client and business. However, what gets glossed over is the interaction going on behind the scenes, between the people making the service happen for the customer. One of the best ways to ensure successful business is making sure interactions between leadership and those they’re leading are clear, concise, and respectful. Whether that’s in targeted project teams, an entire department, or a devoted team of one, interacting with the people you’re leading can be the defining factor in your team’s success.
A truly essential tool in every people leader’s pocket is the ability to communicate well. Effective communicators are able to discuss projects and goals with clarity, establish expectations, resolve disputes, and provide constructive feedback, all with respect for those they lead. These moments of interaction are indicators of success in the larger scale of the business; if leaders can interact with their people effectively, goals will be met effectively. If not, productivity may take a negative hit, morale could be reduced, project deadlines are missed, and more adverse effects could be felt. By developing their communication skills, leaders can break down barriers to progress, build their team up to new heights, and make achieving goals possible.
There are several areas within the skills of interaction and communication that leaders can develop:
Making requirements clear and specific helps reduce confusion around priorities and deliverables. Define the desired outcome, be clear about what you’d like to see at checkpoints along the way, and use as many specifics as you can. When everyone in your team knows what they’re working toward, both as individuals and as a team, that’s when the magic happens.
There’s a reason empathy continues to pop up in every post on communication; it’s incredibly important! When you lead with empathy, you’re leading with the understanding that your people want to do the best they can, but they’re still people. Mistakes happen, life happens, situations change, and as leaders, we have to understand and adapt to these conditions. Leading with empathy fosters a sense of trust and respect with your employees, creating a more loyal team over time. The more leaders value and understand the emotions and experiences of their team members, the more heard and valued each person will feel.
- Asking Open Ended Questions
Sometimes leaders need to ask for more information from our people. And, asking the right question is important! Instead of opting for questions answered with yes or no, to get an understanding of your team member’s thoughts, motivations, and previous understandings, try using open-ended questions. Asking a team member to explain the thought process behind their decision allows you to understand where they’re coming from, giving an opportunity to celebrate initiative or clarify areas where their understanding is lacking. Asking closed questions (answered with yes or no, or other single words) shuts the process down, and can quickly feel negatively charged. With open-ended questions, leaders are seeking to understand, getting more thoughtful and thorough responses in the process, and identifying changes to be made going forward.
- Active Listening
While asking the right questions is important, equally so is the ability to properly listen and take in the information being given during responses. Effective leaders know when to talk, but even more so when to listen. Engaging in active listening shows your people that you value their input and ideas and want to hear what they have to say. Ask questions, ask for elaboration, and reduce distractions (like cell phone use during conversations) to show you value this moment.
- Adapting Communication Styles
Not everyone communicates in the same way, and this goes for both leadership and those they lead. Clashes in communication style can lead to misunderstandings around goals, requirements for individuals within the team, and overall increase the stress of everyone involved. Identifying your leadership communication style can be very helpful in how you communicate, and why it might not be working for all the people you’re interacting with. Being able to adjust your own leadership style and how you interact with the people you’re leading can be a game changer in reaching the goals of your organization.
- Receiving Feedback and Using It
Being open to feedback, both positive and negative, is essential to growing as a leader. Implementing the information you gain via feedback is essential to developing trust with your team. Without acting on feedback, you’re showing an inability to follow through, which can have an immediate negative impact on your team’s trust in you. But taking the feedback and developing yourself with it will not only improve your skills as a leader but improve your standing with the team you’re leading. Plus, knowing the areas you’re already strong in is a great confidence boost!
Interactions on every level happen so many times a day, it can be easy to take the skills required to make them happen for granted. Making interaction essentials a priority when communicating with the people you’re leading can improve their understanding of their responsibilities, project deadlines, and overall reduce confusion on many levels. These skills for communication will help teams understand their leaders, and leaders understand their teams! By creating bridges for understanding, efficiency, productivity, and performance as a whole, can flourish.
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