Famed management teacher and writer Peter Drucker states that “…the essence of management is communication.” We fully agree with Professor Drucker – a leader’s ability to communicate effectively determines his or her own impact, and the results his organization delivers.
We find that leaders often struggle to improve communication, even when they spend a huge amount of time on it. Our experience shows that six obstacles prevent leaders from being truly effective:
- Moving too fast. Technology has increased the speed of business, and, has led to communicating without thought, consideration, or attention to what we say and how we say it. Slow down, think carefully about what you want to say, and consider how others will receive your message.
- Listening too little. People have never been great listeners – our fast-paced business culture doesn’t help! We get distracted, we disagree with what’s being said, we have poor active listening skills, and get caught up checking email or surfing the web. Stop. Make eye contact with your colleagues, paraphrase what you have heard to check for understanding.
- Failing to show respect. We tend to forget that people have the need to be heard. When we try to communicate without being fully present (giving our full attention), we fail to show respect. Doing so erodes trust and wrecks communication. Take the time to acknowledge what is important to your colleague. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to let the other person know his or her views matter.
- Making assumptions. We miscommunicate frequently with the words we use and the assumptions we make about what people are thinking or feeling. Ask questions to deepen and clarify your understanding of what is being said.
- Ignoring the importance of nonverbal communication. Often we aren’t paying attention to our body language and what that’s telling people. A roll of your eyes, shrug of the shoulder, sideways glance or slumping posture speak volumes without words. Stay focused on your colleague, lean into the conversation; check to be sure your nonverbal ques match your words.
- Not checking for understanding. Just because we’ve spoken, doesn’t mean the person understands what we are saying. Ask your colleague polite questions to be sure you have gotten your message across clearly.
Overcoming these barriers to effective communication can go a long way toward improving your leadership impact and your organization’s performance.