Just this week I read a brilliant post from one of my friends, Phil Yanov. Phil is based in Greenville, SC, and is known for his masterful connections between people, ideas, and potential, particularly in the technology community.
Since he communicates for a living and receives much correspondence from others, his piece was focused on what communicators must do to clearly convey their message. However, as I read his article I found that many of the points apply to leaders as well. Here’s what I think, from a business perspective, will add value to your work as a leader and help you communicate effectively with others.
Those of you who have been reading my posts for some time may recall how I describe the role of the leader (as distinguished from a manager) to encompass several responsibilities such as:
- Creating the vision and ensuring the team has clarity around the vision
- Understanding the current reality
- Ensuring the team is focused so the right things get done
- Developing people to achieve their highest potential
- Achieving results
- Providing resources and removing obstacles
When you combine these responsibilities with two of the most popular quotes from my mentor, John Maxwell – “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less” and “Everything rises and falls on leadership” – you can see just how important clear and concise communication really is.
The profound insights my friend Phil’s post adds to this conversation are the two pivotal questions that must proceed any communication, or in this case, any communication by the leader.
- Who am I talking to?If I really know who I am talking to, then I will craft my leadership message for them, taking into account their temperament, background, current knowledge of the topic, and their point of view. A leader must connect with an audience (the team) before the message can have a chance of being heard or understood.
If you present your perspective only and ignore theirs, you will not succeed in landing your message, no matter how compelling it sounds to you. If you really know the audience, you can anticipate how they will respond.
Keep in mind, you are seeking their agreement and commitment, not just their compliance. This happens first by placing yourself in their shoes and knowing how they will likely experience and react to the message you are delivering.
How are you doing with this as you seek to influence your team?
- How am I trying to help them?As I shared earlier, a key part of a leader’s role is to provide focus, resources, remove obstacles, and develop the talent on the team. These all involve helping your people, which ultimately leads to achieving your desired outcomes. It is important to identify how you are trying to help before you craft your message.
There is a significant difference between how leaders and managers endeavor to help people: leaders empower their team while managers give them more to do and place more of a burden on them. With greater empowerment comes greater accountability to accomplish the objective.
But if a team is struggling to accomplish an agreed upon objective, it may be because the leader is not clearing the path for them. Sometimes there are things which only the leader can do to remove obstacles or provide necessary resources. If this is happening to one of your teams, consider looking in the mirror to see if you can alter your behavior to provide more leadership assistance. Don’t confuse this last point with picking up an assignment for someone and doing it yourself – this doesn’t help them grow and hinders where you can best invest your time.
How are you doing with these two questions? What can you do to be the effective communicator and leader your team needs you to be?