Communication breakdown; every leader experiences it. You gave clear instructions, but someone didn’t understand and did the opposite of what was asked. The goal was not achieved, and the pursuit of the vision was delayed, maybe even derailed. The question is: Who is to blame for the blunder, the follower or the leader?
Communication at the Heart of Leadership
Consider that leadership, at its core, is an interpersonal leadership. After all, to be a leader is to have followers (i.e. people), right? Communication is essential to maintain healthy relationships so we can get the job done, achieve goals, and see the vision accomplished. Consider the following leadership actions. They depend on good communication and the consequence of failure to communicate.
- Casting Vision. Vision-casting is communicating God’s preferable future with clarity and passion. If people don’t understand the vision, how can they join you?
- Mobilization. This involves getting one or more people to join the vision. If a leader is unable to get “buy in,” how will people be mobilized?
- Delegation. This is an essential part of leadership and, at its core, is a communication event. Without clear goals and expectations, delegation fails.
- Coaching and Mentoring. Developing other leaders depends on clear communication to work. How will we develop the next generation of leaders if we are not able to transfer our experience to them?
Five Steps to Crystal Clarity
Here are five simple practices that can increase the clarity of your communication in leadership. They come from experience (and many mistakes) in leading a global team of volunteers who multiply the ILI training around the world.
- Listen First. This is one of the basic tenets of good communication. When we start speaking (or writing) immediately, we may answer questions that are not being asked.
- Simplify. Resist the temptation to include everything in one single communication event. Dealing with one or two issues at a time increases engagement. At ILI, we practice “one-page executive summaries.” Any project or communication should, whenever possible, fit in one page of text. This exercise helps prune out the non-essentials.
- Follow Conversation with Written Communication. I do a lot of Skype calls with leaders from all over the world. Following up with a simple bullet-point list of conversation subjects and action points helps my memory and can help avoid misunderstanding.
- Over-communicate. In the age of e-mail, it doesn’t cost any more to copy every stakeholder on written communication. I get copied on a lot of communications that may not require my direct intervention until I spot something worth commenting on or correcting.
- Get Feedback. Begin and end communication with listening. A simple feedback question can spot misunderstanding.
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