Observe More, Embrace Humility, and Commit to Lifelong Learning
Effective communication is the keystone of successful leadership, especially for senior leaders navigating complex organizational landscapes.
Many of my clients come to me because they desire to improve communication with their teams and stakeholders. They want to overcome the challenges they face communicating needs, expectations, and commitments that ensure success and equip their teams to perform with excellence.
A few months ago, I put a question out on LinkedIn asking leaders how they communicate with their teams, cultivate accountability, and help their teams manage expectations. The emphasis stayed primarily on what leaders communicate to the people around them—improving clarity, ensuring alignment on scope, and assessing how progress was made toward a desired outcome.
So often, we think of communication as simply how we deliver a message, but there’s much more that goes into communicating effectively with the people around us. When we consciously make efforts to build trust, actively listen, and cultivate accountability, we’re taking steps to improve the way we interact with and engage with our teams.
The Power of Observation
One of the most powerful tools a leader can harness to improve communication is the ability to learn from others and observe their interactions. Think of the way a parent or teacher might interact with a child or student. When a child expresses themselves with unfiltered honesty, it presents an opportunity to learn the nuances of non-verbal communication: the way a child tilts their head, the sparkle in their eyes, or the hesitation in their voice can convey more than words alone. Taking time to tune in and observe might even help you identify a new interest, concern, or area of knowledge and expertise you didn’t know they had.
The same principle applies whether you’re in a conference room, on a Zoom call, or briefly saying hello as you walk by someone’s office. When you actively listen and observe, you're able to uncover valuable insights, identify hidden concerns, hear and see new perspectives, and make more informed decisions.
And when you demonstrate a willingness to learn, you’re communicating that you’re open to new ideas and more importantly, that you value the individual in front you and what they bring to the table.
Humility: A Key Ingredient
It takes humility to admit you don’t have all the answers—that there’s always more for you to learn.
Humility doesn't equate to weakness; rather, it showcases a leader's self-awareness and willingness to embrace learning. This openness can be a powerful catalyst for improved communication and fostering an environment where ideas flow freely, and innovation thrives. Sharing personal experiences of setbacks or moments of growth demonstrates authenticity, making it easier for others to connect with you.
Consider a scenario where a product launch falls short of expectations. Instead of deflecting blame or adopting a defensive stance, the product owner takes responsibility for the outcome, acknowledges the lessons learned, and outlines a clear path forward. This encourages a culture where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth, allowing for more open and productive conversations within the team.
Learn from Those Around You
I’ve had the opportunity to learn from the people around me in both my personal and professional life. Whether it’s getting a quick lesson on LinkedIn’s algorithm, working with a consultant to build a brand-new business, or even learning about a new app from my family, I knew that there were people around me who had insights and expertise I didn’t possess. So, I chose to listen to and learn from them.
Every leader can gain profound insights by leveraging the collective expertise of the team. Engaging in meaningful conversations with peers in the industry, actively seeking feedback from stakeholders, and valuing input from direct reports can lead to well-rounded decisions, improved communication strategies, and a more empowered workforce within the organization.
For instance, a junior team member might offer a unique perspective on a project, shedding light on a previously unexplored angle. A colleague from a different department might share a technique that has worked wonders for their team.
By creating an atmosphere of inclusivity and collaboration, you encourage diverse perspectives that can fuel innovation. When you make an effort to listen and learn from those around you, you reinforce the idea that effective communication is a two-way street, characterized by mutual respect and shared growth.
But improving communication isn’t solely about mastering a set of techniques or strategies; it's a holistic mindset that requires honing your observational skills, embracing a practice of humility, and a commitment to continuous learning.
Remember, effective communication is a skill that can always be refined. Committing to these practices could be the key that elevates you from a proficient leader to an exceptional one.