Leaders want their team members to communicate better.
- Better with each other, so that they can be more productive and efficient, and so that there are fewer misunderstandings, and fewer disputes that they (the leaders) need to get involved in.
- Better with higher-ups, so that those leaders get what they need to know from them, and so that they can listen more effectively from those leaders.
- And, most commonly, better with prospects and clients, so that they can build and sustain business.
But there’s a problem that is often invisible to these leaders:
Human beings take their communication cues from the people they report to.
Team members unconsciously look to their supervisors, their managers, their team leaders for how to engage others in conversation and how to present themselves, and they emulate whatever they pick up on.
All too often, these leaders aren’t displaying the kinds of patterns to their team members that they want to see in their team members.
They might be communicating carefully with superiors, or with clients and prospects, but their team members aren’t around to witness it. When these leaders speak directly with their team, their patterns are often full of the problems that they are concerned about in those team members.
This is why leadership communication is so crucial inside of any organization: Because the patterns flow downward through the hierarchy.
We learn to communicate with people by how we’re communicated with.
This is why it’s so important that communication mindfulness and skill building start at the top of any hierarchy. The patterns that leaders want to show up in front-line workers as they interact with outside prospects and clients need to get demonstrated in every interaction that those leaders have with anyone internally.
- When leaders present, they need to customize their message to the needs and interests of the people in the room. They need to care about the people in that room authentically, to be passionate about their message, to connect on an emotional level with their audience.
- When leaders facilitate meetings, they need to make sure that everyone understands what the meeting is about, what problem it’s been scheduled to solve, what the definition of success is for that meeting. They need to engage everyone in the room so that every participant co-owns the results being generated in that meeting.
- When leaders engage individual team members, they need to approach these interactions from the perspective of the team member. They need to ask questions, be curious, and learn about the team member, respecting and appreciating them on a human level so that the team member feels it and knows it to be true. And the main takeaways of that interaction need to be connected to what that individual cares about.
When leaders commit to the quality of their communication, that commitment is contagious. It’s not just because the leader is providing their team members a live demonstration of what they are looking to see, but because they are providing an active and invaluable — experience of what works. And when you’re on the receiving end of what works, you want to be able to deliver that experience to others.
What do you think of this? What has been your experience of good or bad leadership communication? Share your stories and comments below!
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