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Article No.: 18-5, May 1, 2018

Article Title: Enhancing Management and Leadership Communication

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP. CEQC

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When you as a leader take the time to carefully and (you believe) succinctly craft a Linda Gravett photo communication to go out to your team and then that brilliant email or memo is either ignored or misconstrued, it’s frustrating!  You’ve also just wasted time and will have to either write another email or memo or arrange a meeting……yet another dreaded meeting.  In this article, I’d like to share some approaches to leveraging transparency and clarity and minimizing barriers to effective communication.
 
We each have a world view that we bring along to work with us every day.  This world view is influenced by our upbringing, our gender, our age, our personality and many other factors.  Every person with whom we interact also brings a world view…and filters that get in the way of understanding the message others are trying to get across.  People are busy, and therefore have short attention spans.  Whether speaking or writing, we have very little time to get – and keep – others’ attention…usually just a few seconds!
 
In order to make sure we use our “air space” with others effectively, I encourage that we engage in what I call supportive communication.  These are some elements of supportive communication – it is:

  •  Problem oriented rather than person oriented
  • Equity oriented instead of power oriented 
  • Validates rather than invalidates
  • Flexible instead of rigid 
  • Specific, not vague

Problem oriented communication is designed to address a potential or actual problem that’s getting in the way of people achieving the organization’s Mission, Vision, or Strategic Objectives.  If you’re engaged in a problem oriented discussion, you’re not focused on your position or opinion – you’re focused on what can be done to serve critical success goals.  Even if you’re the boss, you’re willing to listen to people at all levels because a good idea is a good idea, regardless of the role of the person who is sharing that idea.  Everyone is heard and each perspective is considered.
 
If your organization doesn’t have a culture of supportive communication, language that is often heard is what I call discussion buzz kills.  This is occurring if you frequently hear this type of response to a new perspective or idea:

  •  Don’t be ridiculous
  • It’ll cost too much 
  • We’ve never done that before 
  • That’s not the way we do things around here 
  • It simply can’t be done 
  • We’ve done alright without this
  • It won’t work here

Two-way communication starts with one person saying something that the other(s) must know in order to do their job, be happy doing their job, and feel good about their work.  As humans, we just don’t usually pay attention to what we believe is not important or necessary information.  If we want to get our point across, then, we’ll have to tune in to other people’s interests and needs.  That means giving some thought in advance to the other person’s role, approach, resources, and constraints.  If you want to start an excellent conversation, ask questions like the following and let people fill in the blank:

  1. I’ve always wondered why we_____. 
  2. I don’t think we spend enough time_____. 
  3. I think we should focus on_____. 
  4. I would like to be able to_____. 
  5. Our customers would be happier if_____.

While they’re “filling in the blank,” your job is to listen.
 
When you’re having a conversation, I suggest the FUSION model for positive communication –

Focus on one issue at a time.
Understand the other’s perspective through listening and asking questions.
Be specific with what you want and need.
Use “I” language:  own your viewpoint.
Be open to different points of view and willing to try out something new.
No “hot button” phrases like the conversation buzz killers above.
 
What will you do differently today to be a more effective communicator?___________________________________________________

Linda is the Senior Partner of Gravett and Associates in Cincinnati.  For questions or comments, you can email her at Linda@gravett.com or follow her on Twitter @GravettLinda. 

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