For Whom Do You Communicate?

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communicationWe were sitting in his office discussing what he recognized was a problem of sorts in his leadership: the way he sometimes communicates to people.  Empathy isn’t his strong suit.  He’s a good leader and he moves the ball down the field, but it’s sometimes at the expense of relationship.

He is self-aware enough to know that empathy is a weakness for him.  He has realized his communication with people is often simply getting them to do what he wants them to do.  Thankfully, awareness is the first step in creating change.  He’d been trying to create change in his communication, but it wasn’t happening as easily as he’d hoped.

In an attempt to strengthen this weakness he went to a seminar and had a profound realization: “Even when I think I am communicating well I realize that I may not be at all.”

Wow – he just caught a glimpse of a blind spot.  And the only way you can change a blind spot is if you have the humility to listen to, believe and act on another person’s perspective on your behaviour.

This was where we now found ourselves.

We talked about the fact that he gets to choose all the aspects of the communication he has with his people: the timing, the tone, the content, the body language, the situation, the format, etc.  He can choose accordingly to create a great interaction with good engagement, or not.

We then shifted down to another level of depth…

“For whose benefit are you communicating?”

Hmmm.  Initially he thought “mine”.

Ahhh, therein lies a problem.  There is a better way…

If we enter into all our communications from the posture that we are communicating for our benefit, we will be poor communicators.  It will all be about getting people to do what we want them to do.

However, if we communicate for the benefit of other people we will ensure that we do so in a fashion that enables, equips, empowers, engages, inspires and encourages them to be and do better.  A great communicator recognizes that the responsibility for clear communication rests with the communicator.

I think that is important enough to say again: the responsibility for clear communication rests with the communicator.

Have you ever provided some degree of leadership or direction to your people and what they end up producing is evidence that they really didn’t get what you were trying to communicate?  How do we typically respond in those situations?

“I don’t believe it – they totally missed it!  What’s wrong with them?!”

Actually, what’s wrong with your communication?!

If you communicate for the benefit of those with whom you are speaking, and clarify to ensure understanding and ownership, I guarantee the results will be different.

How do we often clarify if people have understood?

“Does that make sense?  Are we good?”, we ask.

What are people going to say?  “Yes”, of course – they don’t want to look stupid.

Next time try this strategy to clarify understanding:

“To help me understand if I have communicated clearly, can you please tell me what you have heard me telling you?”

Now you will discover how clearly you have communicated.

And, before you go into any communication ask yourself this question:

“How do I need to communicate for the benefit of this person?  How do I need to communicate with them to help them create the change we want to see?”

Don’t communicate for your benefit, communicate for the benefit of those with whom you are communicating.  That shift in the foundation of your leadership will create significant dividends in people’s lives.

Leaders can often have 2 different biases:  1. Relational.  2. Missional.  Relational leaders are naturally good at connecting with people, building relationship and communicating.  They often communicate for the benefit of the other person.

Missional leaders are more concerned about the mission than the relationships, and are more apt to be low in empathy and communicate for their benefit to get done what they need done.

Missional leaders need relational leaders, and vice versa.   Both need to be able to communicate for the benefit of the other person – to help them do and be better.

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Leading and Living on Purpose.