As you grow in your leadership and influence you will have the chance to increase and even master many important skills. Along the way you will likely even find yourself surprised someday to discover you are doing well in some of the aspects of leading people which you thought would you never excel at or even enjoy. Others aspects will surprise and frustrate you in their elusiveness. An area that seems to be one that leaders always chase is team and organizational communication. Unlike hard skill sets that are needed for productivity and systems efficiencies the inherent dynamics of communication are in constant flux. Information changes daily. Team members can change. Communication styles and preferences can change. What was important yesterday may be secondary today. You get the picture. There is no operating system to dictate how to lead communication. Yet, if it is ignored then everything you are seeking to move forward in the work is at high risk of being either misunderstood or ignored. Clear team communication is truly the opponent to your strategies that you are always chasing.
If we understand team communication can’t be automated or largely controlled, then we see it can only be managed proactively along with prolonged attention and intent. Although there isn’t a perfect system there are few best practices we can keep in mind to keep communication flowing well among our teams and organizations.
Balance what needs to be said with what needs to be heard. This point can’t be emphasized enough. There is a subjective nature to this as well that we will never get right 100% of the time. Overall, however, as a leader or key influencer you have to utilize the right level of emotional intelligence to understand that what you believe is important will not be heard unless the recipients of the message feel they are understood. In other words, they won’t value what you say is important unless they feel you value them. Yes, there are hard truths a leader has to share from time to time and it is the job of the leader to be out in front casting vision. If the team members do not feel like the leader has a clue about who they are and what is important to them then the message will not get through. A leader has to understand the future of where the work of the team is going AND understand the present reality of the team itself.
Check communication style. We all fall into the habits that either work for us or are easy for us. Communication styles and preferences change. Different aged employees grow accustomed to certain ways they prefer to receive communications. Different team members have different learning styles. It’s an unfair expectation for a leader to assume everyone has to receive communications and learn the way they do. A good leader will make sure they understand this dynamic and actively practices a variety of styles.
Be consistent in messaging. There are few things more confusing to team members than a lack of clarity about what is important. Does the team understand where the work is going and what the immediate future goals are? A clear message of this increases team empowerment and engagement. A good leader will seek to be consistent in sharing both what is important now and how that is building toward what is important for the future.
Check for alignment. Lastly, a good leader will invest some footwork in follow-up. Don’t make the assumption everyone knows what is important just because you have shared it. Ask around. Follow-up informally with team members after important communications by asking what they heard. Your carefully crafted communication still goes through their filters and you will be surprised sometimes to hear the difference between what you said and what was heard. Knowing this difference gives you the chance to address it and bring clarity.
Clear team and organizational communication is an unruly beast to manage. Saying that you will never beat this may sound depressing or demotivating, however, there is an advantage in embracing it. If you know it is always a challenge then it will serve to keep you motivated and thinking on it. Keeping your mind on the strategies you need to employ in communication will help keep your thinking on it fresh