ENGAGE SERIES: Communicate - Learn


We're continuing our series today about the need to communicate with your team. The larger topic we're covering is how to engage your people for greater productivity and we have covered the need for collaboration, and how to coordinate, but collaboration and coordination are worthless without true communication. Today we’ll cover the need to learn from your communication and use it as an opportunity to grow.

We all communicate a lot, as leaders arguably more than most, but how effective are we? Perhaps we should occasionally self-review our effectiveness in how and when we communicate. Plus, we can also ask the recipients of our communication, after all it is for them.

In this series we’ve talked about the need to collaborate, lead ourselves, individuals, and teams. So, we can learn from ourselves with self-reflection, individuals, and the teams we lead. Just ask! How is my communication, too much, too little? What would you like to hear more about or less about? Have I heard you?

Communication is a conversation. Include feedback mechanisms and allow a culture where it’s OK to question and challenge. That can be uncomfortable for a leader, but it creates an environment for growth. If you’re anything like me, you still have a way to go in learning about how to communicate well.

If you’ve taken feedback, say in a survey, the speed with which you respond with ‘I’ve heard you and this is what I’m going to do about it’ is correlated with your credibility. I see countless surveys that breed cynicism because the answers provided wither on the vine or disappear into the ether. Don’t expect a good response to another survey if you didn’t act on the last one. You don’t have to say yes but you do need to respond.

Communication is a learning curve, and a journey with a few landmines. Listen and learn. Plus, our recipients deserve the same mindset. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

The frustration here can be our own response or fear, where we retreat and don’t engage as we should. It’s a vulnerable position being a leader and a lonely one at that. “Why bother, look at what happened last time,” can be an understandable response. But as for a lot of things in life and business, we need to grow through an action-learning cycle; dust ourselves off and go again. Bruised but hopefully wiser.

What we want is feedback mechanism and an internal mindset that says “what can I learn from this? How can I improve? The answer is in a listening posture and a teachable attitude; neither of which are our natural state. We have to think about it, and use our emotional intelligence. It takes some self-awareness to operate in this way.

The principle here is that as leaders, we need to learn how to communicate. Take feedback. Improve and go again. Learning is like climbing a mountain. Hard work and often just one step at a time. But when you get there it’s worthwhile.

When I was running the Gloria Jeans Coffees Group I had to learn to communicate with and listen to our Franchise Partners who had been sadly neglected. It was a learning curve for me as the level of hostility and cynicism was understandably high. My team and I operated in hyper-transparency, over communicated and included them into decision making and responded to areas we could improve and bought accountability to all parties.

Like a flywheel the first small wins were hard hard work, then as trust was built, we did what we said we would and results followed, credibility and outcomes grew. Then momentum grew with sales and profitability flowing back into a system that was struggling and bringing results, and that rare and underestimated commodity…hope. The average Franchise Partner was 20% better off within 18 months, across a system with over 400 outlets.

Here’s a practical suggestion. Why not ask your immediate team about your communication? You may learn something. That’s not a bad thing. Take it as a personal growth exercise.

I trust you’ve enjoyed this Engage Series about the need to communicate with your team. The larger topic we're covered is how to engage your people for greater productivity and we have covered the need for collaboration, and how to coordinate, and in these last three sessions how to communicate, through inclusion, planning and learning.

Until next time, go well and lead well.

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