Do you know how much pressure there is in writing a blog about effective communication? How ironic is it that we need to communicate about communication? Communication is so basic and yet so critical in everything that we do. Often, when troubles arise, we can boil it down to poor communication.
You have heard the saying, “It takes two to tango.” Well, the same holds true for communication; it takes two. Successful communication only occurs when something has been shared and its meaning has been received. It doesn’t matter if that communication is spoken, written, in a PowerPoint, in a video, etc.; if the purpose of the message is not received, successful communication hasn’t happened. So whose responsibility is it to ensure successful communication? Leaders think about successful communication in two ways – giving and receiving. We often think of the giver as having the majority of the responsibility in communication. While that is critical, the receiver also plays a major role.
Let’s first discuss receiving. Receiving or listening is active. You need to be fully engaged, seeking to understand the meaning of what is being shared. As leaders, we need to keep the environment “safe” for those who are sharing. Sometimes this takes patience. Sometimes it takes self-control. There may be times when we don’t agree with what is being said, but we should actively listen and make sure people know they are heard. There are several techniques for making sure you have listened to the true intent of what they shared. One example is to repeat back, in your own words, what you have heard. Of course, not all forms of communication allow this kind of interaction, but active listening to any form of medium requires your full attention.
The other responsibility in effectively communicating is giving or sharing information. I have had to remind myself multiple times that “just because I said it doesn’t mean they heard it.” To share information appropriately, you have to know your audience and tailor the information to communicate effectively. You may have to say it in multiple ways, multiple times, and in different styles to ensure the message is being received. It might even be wise to ask someone what they have heard so you can confirm that the message you shared has been received.
Not only is it the responsibility of the leader to share information in an understandable, concise way, but also to be wise about what information is being shared. As a leader, you need to discern what and how much information is being shared with your audience. The same information may need to be communicated differently (or not at all) with different audiences. As a leader, this can be a challenge, especially when dealing with multiple generations that want and expect different levels of information.
While communication happens every day in myriad ways, it is not always effective or appropriate. As a leader, you have a great responsibility in making sure you can understand the message given to you and share the proper amount of information understandably with diverse groups of people.
Continue leading the Interstates Way!