Every week, I spend time with leaders discussing communication and communication related problems. Be it in a one to one executive coaching session, or group meeting, I guarantee you that the subject of leadership and communications will surface during our time together. After much reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the more we communicate as leaders, the less we understand.
During the first session of the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I ask the group to read the following article: “The Leader of the Future” by William C. Taylor, Fast Company magazine - June 1999. In it, Ron Heiftz states, “leaders die with their mouths open.” This spring I have seen more leaders with their mouths open and their brains on overload.
Here is an exercise to see whether or not this is happening to you. On one side of a 3x5 card, write down what is most important about your entire company. On the other side, write down what is most important about what you do.
Many people when confronted with this exercise just sit and stare at the 3x5 card, wondering what to write. Others quickly want a bigger card. Some write paragraphs of information in tiny handwriting. They key is to have an answer that is clear and concise.
After you have done this exercise yourself, then ask the following two questions during your next five coaching sessions:
- What do you do?
- What do you do that matters the most?
Your answers on the 3x5 card and their answers should have some degree of alignment if you hope to be successful during the coming 18-24 months. Otherwise, key information is not understood and not getting passed along to others clearly.
Another thing that is important in the world of leadership and communication is the ability to listen and to understand before being understood. Stephen Covey told us this years ago and some leaders are still practicing it. In order to improve communications this spring, seek input from different people and value different perspectives. Authentic listening is a powerful form of communication.
Next, realize the difference between words and actions. On one hand, words are about talking and the other is about doing. But the difficulty for many young leaders and many people new to the world of leadership, particularly senior leadership, is for them to realize that Words = Actions. Words convey commitments and thus equal actions when you become a leader. Furthermore, actions may only be seen by a few people in a large company, but words are heard and can impact many people in a large company.
This week be more mindful when you are listening and more aware that when you lead, your words are part of your actions.