Aren’t we all desperate for honest communication in the workplace? None of us want to operate in a silo. Agility, speed, handling change, adapting, innovating all require us to have a clear picture of what’s really going on and not just what we’d like to think is going on. To make it harder as we become more and more senior in our leadership (and I’m not meaning old here) there are times when people filter what they say for a whole heap of reasons, including not wanting to disappoint us.
It’s always easier to listen to those who are telling you what you expect to hear, when we hear something we don’t anticipate or don’t like then we sometimes shut down and our ‘tone’ becomes one of telling the other person they’ve messed up or disappointed us.
Here I’ll share my thoughts on how we can productively stay in the conversation and encourage more honesty and information sharing.
Responses that shut conversations down
Have you ever heard comments like:-
- We’ve already looked at that
- No that won’t work because
- No that’s wrong because
- Who put this together
- The numbers/information must be wrong [I don’t believe this]
- Fred’s on his hobby horse again
- Fred never listens
Some of these even seem innocent enough and depending on your relationship with that particular person may even be OK. However, when other people are part of the conversation things may not always be taken the way we meant.
How do you invite honesty and information sharing, or put another way how do we stay in the conversation when we’ve heard something we don’t like/expect?
Replies that encourage information sharing
- So you think (summarise what you heard), tell me more
- I didn’t think that was the case, what’s changed
- I have a different experience/opinion/view point – let’s explore how we’ve arrived at our conclusions
- That’s interesting how did you come up with that data / arrive at this conclusion
- Fred this is clearly important to you, what is it that you think I’m missing
- Fred, I’m not sure if I’ve explained myself as clearly as I would like, can you tell me what you think I’ve said
Communication let me down
And I’m left here… to use the words of Spandau Ballet. Communication is most definitely an art form, one I’m still practicing. What helps me review how well it went or where I think it might have got lost in receipt is remembering what exactly makes up communication.
- Words 7%
- Tone 38%
- Body Posture 55%
Words are important clearly when it comes to honest communication. Take a sentence like “you did a great job” and if the tone you say it in (or surround it with in an email) doesn’t match, it’s dismissed, possibly even interpreted as sarcasm or insincerity. If they can see you whilst you’re saying it, then any mismatch between body language and either tone or words is even greater in impact.
Here’s an even scarier fact; most people in a conversation are in one of two modes, speaking or waiting to speak. Very few are listening and even fewer are actively listening – a powerful leadership skill which I encourage you to practice and develop.
Let me see, I have all the answers, now what’s the question…
As a leader, we must remember we don’t have all the answers, and if we do then it’s a sign we:-
- Are not delegating enough
- Are working at the wrong level
- Are short changing the organisation
- Think we’re God. Yes, our ego is now running the show and invariably setting us up for a fall.
“It is good to express a matter in two ways simultaneously, so as to give it both a right foot and a left. Truth can stand on one leg to be sure; but with two it can walk and get about.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Virtually all the leaders I work with mention being a role model. As you practice opening up conversations when you hear something unexpected you’ll notice over time others begin to do the same thing. You’ll also notice that what people share with you and the speed with which they share it shifts. You can implement all the lean and agile practices you like but without the above it’s only going to take you so far.
About blue pea POD
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