Most of the time we spend “communicating” can really be best defined as “talking” or “waiting my turn to talk again.” Even the best listeners in the world fall into this trap. We get busy, feel rushed or stressed, and instead of tuning in and paying attention to another human being we get stuck in our heads – paying attention only to ourselves. Where we need to be… what we need to accomplish… what will we be putting on the table for dinner… Is it any wonder that every single business owner and leader out there wants better communication in their business?
Well listen up leaders. Fabulous, robust communication is possible. In fact, by regularly practicing our top five communication behaviors, fantastic communication is actually probable.
Top Five Behaviors of Amazing Communicators:
1. Be Curious
Most of us communicate to get a message to another person. Throw that approach out the window and give this a shot. Be curious. Ask questions. Instead of focusing on your agenda spend the first two minutes of a conversation discovering the why. You get a far better understanding if you approach a challenge, or downright problem, with a question instead of an accusation or a demand.
2. See Things From The Other Person’s Point of View
Slow down a second and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. From this position can you understand why your employee, colleague, friend, spouse, child, etc. heard what they heard? Can you see how their worldview informs everything around them? What if you have asked an employee to do something, yet it conflicts with something their direct manager has asked of them? By seeing things from the other person’s point of view you overcome objections intuitively. You know what may be holding them back and, most importantly, you gain huge insight on how to motivate and inspire.
3. Work to Understand
You’ve heard this before. Summarize, ask clarifying questions, be certain you have the information you need. The reason why most of us usually skip this step? We have a fear of looking dumb in front of someone else. We want people to see us as quick and clever. We do not want to be thought of as a time suck. Yet how clever is it to do the wrong thing because you did not bother get a full understanding up front? How much more time do you waste by not getting all of the information? Be bold. Ask a question if you want or need to. Summarize the information in your own words to make sure you have the correct understanding.
4. Understand Your Strengths As Well As The Other Person’s Strengths
This is a huge reason for many communication challenges in a business. Your strengths enable you to process information the best when you get a big picture/ bottom line overview – yet your employee’s strengths are in details (which is probably why you hired them). If you never give details to this employee they will always feel like they are missing something. On the other hand, you may feel like they have to go on and on and on about minor details when you just need the executive summary. Take charge of this process. When you explain something to someone else speak to their strengths, and be courageous enough to ask for others to communicate to you in a way you best understand. For example, it’s pretty easy to ask for “just the executive summary please.” Next time, just tack on the detail of why, “I really understand things best when I get a summary. I know you appreciate details and that’s why we work well together. Please feel free to let me know when I am not providing enough detail to you.”
5. Make Feedback a Habit
It’s mind-blowing how little we can actually talk to our employees. It’s actually normal to not hear anything about work that gets turned in – unless of course there is a mistake. Get out and talk to other people. Let them know you are noticing what is going on. Be honest. This builds the critical trust required to create great communication all of the time. And forget about using this time to just blow sunshine at people. Teams that hear a ratio of five positive comments for every one comment about how they can improve performed much better than teams that hear an average of two positive comments for every feedback for improvement. You can simply say “Nice work” or “Thanks, that really helps me out” and it will count as a positive comment. As a rule, the more specific the praise, the more authentic it feels. Feedback for improvement gives others a chance to grow and get better. Without it teams get stagnant. A practice of regular, consistent, appropriate feedback keeps you, your team, and your business on the same page.