Manage episode 371689490 series 1283444
It is very frustrating at times, being a leader. Staff don’t hit their targets, forget things they need to do, complete tasks in a less than satisfactory manner and make stupid mistakes. Time poor leaders are the norm, so we are always operating on minimums to get it all done. We are usually in a rush, and this is when we get ourselves into trouble as the leader. We genuflect in the general direction of empathy, being a critical aspect of the leader’s people skills but often we forget to walk the talk. Our mouth gets ahead of our brain and we say things which may not have been the best choice or at the appropriate moment. Too late, it is out there.
Our internal tensions push us to being more direct than needed. There can be a tough conversation requiredand a plan for that is the best course of action, but we sometimes go ahead with no plan. Our emotional quotient, rather than just our intelligence quotient, is highlighted as being so important today, but that word “emotional” is hanging there. We can be dragged off course and abandon the best laid plans because of that emotional preponderance to say what we are thinking with no filters.
One habit we should get into is to beat around the bush a bit more. That sounds counter-intuitive for a leader doesn’t it? Leaders should be clear, concise and efficient. Efficient is not the same as effective though. Our concise communication skill can sometimes be too sharp for the situation and a more rounded, softer approach may be a better alternative. We don’t have to go on verbal wanderings at length, but sometimes a detour may be the best way to get to where we want to arrive.
The piece which we often miss in our communication with staff is the context or the background of our point or our thinking. We just wade straight in with what we want. This what is often followed up with by the how they should do it. That is all fine and good but the why bit is missing.
The habit we have to develop is to start with the context and the background, and this is where the why is incorporated. That means we have to break up a routine we may have been following for many years and it may take us some practice to get used to doing things this way, but we need to stick with it. So when we want to make a point, we should ask ourselves why we think what we think. We will have come to this conclusion through experience, from something we have read, heard, or seen. Usually we are not just making stuff up or winging it. Rather, we are operating from a solid viewpoint which informs our opinion. The key point here is to not just state the opinion, but to share how that opinion was arrived at. The temptation though is to tell the staff stuff and we leave it at that, because that is what we have found is the fastest way of getting the message across, so we can get scurry back to the many other tasks confronting us.
By leaving out the context, we run the danger of the staff not fully understanding the urgency or the rationale for the action needed. We should begin with the background to the issue and then very succinctly nominate the action we need from them. There should only be one action because the temptation is to load them up with a multitude of tasks which can dilute the key action required. Immediately following the action requirement, we need to add why this will be the best course of action and what is the benefit if we do this. Again, this should concentrate on the main benefit, even though there may be many. If we keep adding benefits, we are again diluting the power of the main benefit and weakening our idea’s potency.
This combination is disarming for the listener. Often, while we are explaining the background, their mind is racing toward an action which will suit the situation being unveiled. In fact, they will often get there before we do and so when we state the action, it is already accepted and now old hat for them. That would be a perfect outcome from a persuasion point of view.
As I mentioned, this requires quite a shift in approach and we need to defuse the constant desire to shorten the time for everything. Building new habits seems to take forever and there will be many failures along the way, as we just launch forth with the what and the how and then reflect, “damn, I forgot to talk about the context first and explain the why”. The point is to keep trying and gradually make this the default mode of explanation to staff.