Communicating More Effectively Starts With A Commitment from YOU
We hear about it constantly — the addiction to screens, in particular smartphones. They seem to have taken away the human element. But distractions aren’t new and they aren’t going away. While we can’t halt the technology boom, we can make a conscious commitment and effort in our schools, at work, and, most importantly, at home to communicate more effectively or even at all.
Being a leader involves embracing difficult and uncomfortable conversations. I have noticed, increasingly the past few years, that often I receive texts and emails that require a challenging interaction:
“Hey, Scott, I’m not able to make it tonight but have fun… I’ll see you soon.”
“Hi, Scott, I want to thank you for your internship offer, but I have made the decision to spend the summer traveling with family in Africa — a once in a lifetime opportunity. I will absolutely be in touch in the future.”
“Scott, thank you for your presentation and the time you put into the bid for ACME Inc. We have made the decision to go with another agency located closer to our HQ in Denver. We thank you and your team for your time and will certainly keep you in mind for future work.”
The truth is, these aren’t “challenging interactions” at all, but I don’t believe that the reason I received these messages by text instead of phone is because of convenience.
Everyone is afraid of the next question, and that question may lead to an uncomfortable situation that people often don’t know how to handle. It’s unfortunate, because we rely on interactive conversations (whereas we can hear each other’s voice and not just see their words written out) to help move us forward, making us better family members, friends, co-workers, teachers, and managers.
I have made a commitment to myself and those with whom I work to be proactive, incredibly approachable, and predictable.
When we need to deliver bad news or are underperforming, we tend to sugar coat, hide how bad things really are, and/or place blame on others. We do this because we fear the interactions that may follow, not wanting to deal with the repercussions and possibly upset someone.
However, when we are approachable, we find more people come to us with their questions and concerns. If employees know you will react in a negative way, perhaps embarrassing them, they tend to avoid the conversation or not disclose the whole story.
When I am approachable, my colleagues share more about what is going on at work and at home. When things aren’t going as well, I try my best to ensure there are no surprises, delivering feedback, criticism, suggestions, and direction with the same tone as I would for a costly and even minor mistake.
My commitment made to those I manage leads to more questions, which results in less mistakes and instead more information delivered over the phone or in person. As far as I know, no one wonders: “How will Scott react to this?” They know. They are more comfortable to share their concerns, and send less texts, make more calls, and have more face-to-face interactions.
In regards to my efforts to change my leadership and communication techniques, I also noticed that we often don’t know how to ask good questions.
Every day, when I came home from school, my parents asked what every kid hates: “How was school today?” It seemed they asked the question knowing my response would be the same response every, single, day. “Good.” They’d shoot me an unsatisfactory look at the dinner table, followed by : “Did you do anything fun?” “No,” I would reply…daily.
It seems everyone asks these standard questions without sincerity. What’s up? How are you? How was your weekend? Instead we should ask questions in a way that let others know you genuinely care about their response.
In sharing this message with you, I hope we all make the commitment to adjust how we communicate. Communicating through text, or email, or social media will always be “easier”, but when you have mastered how to make conversation comfortable and flow, especially to those colleagues who are younger, you will make great strides in life and in business.