Now, Let’s Do It…

Now, Let's Do It...Let’s recap: one of the most critical things Cindy and I have seen for almost every organization we’ve been a part of or done work with has been Developing a CULTURE of Effective Communication. Understanding that leadership is based on the influence we have with the people we’re responsible for, nothing more, nothing less, allows us to begin putting in the necessary effort to earn their trust and respect. Fortunately for most of us, effective communication is skill we can develop rather than some mystical talent only a few are born with!

But all of that knowledge does little good if we’re not willing to put it into action! So let’s do something with it!!

John dedicates the second half of Everyone Communicates, Few Connect to outlining several applicable practices we can each implement into our own personal communication style that will help us to be more effective in our interaction with others and begin developing that influence immediately. One of the most important steps to “Connecting on Common Ground” is simply identifying the language your audience needs to hear. A number of years ago, I did some training at a manufacturing facility in central Mexico. That bottle of Valentinas I had in the refrigerator at home wasn’t going to help me one bit! I needed a translator to have any hope of helping that group understand the material I was covering… Identifying common ground can be equally difficult even when we’re all speaking English. Understanding the behavioral styles of the individual or group you’re communicating with can have just as much impact as that translator did for me in that plant in Mexico. We recently led a session called Piecing Together Your People Puzzles for a group where the overwhelming majority were Reserved and People-Centered, but several on the senior leadership team were very Outgoing and Task-Centered. Having that same Outgoing/Task-Centered style personally, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to establish common ground with someone who’s more Reserved/People-Oriented. Without dialing it back several notches, we can either scare them or alienate them without ever meaning to! We tailored that session to provide them tools they could use right away to identify the primary style of the person (or group) they were speaking with, and just as importantly, change how they were delivering their message! Knowing what to do and doing it are two VERY different things! But moving in the right direction isn’t likely if you don’t know where you’re supposed to be going…

Another effective practice is keeping the message simple, but that’s often easier said than done too! Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.” John Beckley, former business editor of Newsweek and author of The Power of Little Words, wrote “Instead of teaching us how to communicate as clearly as possible, our schooling in English teaches us how to fog things up. It even implants a fear that if we don’t make our writing complicated enough, we’ll be considered uneducated.” If you’re anything like me at all, you’ve also sat in your doctor’s office nodding your head with a blank stare on your face while the doctor explains your diagnosis with words you’re absolutely certain they’re making up as they go along and prescribing something no one could ever learn to spell correctly – hence the scribbling on the pad… If we really want to develop that culture of effective communication, we have to be willing to put in the work necessary so we understand our message so well that we can deliver it in the simplest possible terms! This certainly isn’t saying that anyone we’re communicating with is less intelligent; quite the opposite! This is all about making sure our message stands out from the other 34,999 they’re going to receive that day!…

While it’s true that many of these principles and practices could be used as manipulative tools for convincing your team to do things that may not be in their own best interest, this will eventually catch up with the person who chooses that kind of approach. John Maxwell says “In the first 6 months of a relationship (of any kind), we focus on a person’s communication ability in order to make judgements about them…. After six months, credibility overrides communication.” If we genuinely want a lasting culture of effective communication, we would do well to make sure our walk matches our talk! We’ve all likely experienced situations where a new leader joins our group or organization, telling us how great things are going to be. But as we learn to know them, there’s very little doing to match the talking…. How long does it take you to tune out this person’s message? What steps can you take personally to be sure that’s never how your team sees you? Although this is often very simple to do in practice, the decisions we have to make to be sure it happens can be challenging.

In tying this all together, communication is a significant part of everything we do on a daily basis. We all have messages coming at us from every direction constantly. Over the last two decades of studying communication styles, I’ve learned that the individuals and organizations who genuinely make effective communication a priority, sooner or later, are the ones that come out on top! And one of the things Cindy and I enjoy doing most is providing resources that give a competitive advantage to the people who truly want to Develop a Culture of Effective Communication!

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