Communication requires two major actions: the act of listening and the act of speaking. But there is another aspect of effective communication which is well worth mentioning. Good communicators exercise their ability to identify the meanings beyond the conversation. It is from this vantage point that they develop strategy for managing the situation effectively.
Both interpersonally and professionally, good communicators rely not only on the words expressed during a conversation or meeting, but they read body language, take note of situational cues and ask questions about related details to form a more complete picture of, what would otherwise be, a more complex issue. This technique, though only somewhat sophisticated, should never be relied upon at face value as the sole interpretation or explanation for a situation or circumstance.
“We are only as strong
as we are united,
as weak as we are divided.”
Good communicators surround themselves with people whose goal it is to collaborate to find solutions in the most effective ways possible; while maintaining a common sense of purpose and mission. This position of unity is an important one in protecting the integrity of the organizational structure, the interconnected relationships involved and safeguarding the communication and resolution process itself.
Good communicators listen to and learn from these individuals – who have been invited to the table of ideas – on purpose. Individually they bring knowledge, experience, wisdom, perspective and insight that would otherwise be lacking. Ideally, these are not individuals who relish the status quo or who are content to wallow in or pacify symptoms while ignoring the root of an issue. These are business partners, agents of change; people who shape policy, create culture and willingly accept responsibility.
When a situation is complex, good communicators will listen to these business partners: an exercise critical to helping them embrace a higher-level view or perspective; identify the symptoms from the disease. These conversations, where everyone provides notable and valuable input, are what drive the subsequent courses of action and facilitate solutions to symptomology or answer ancillary questions.
Leading Edge: If you want to be a good communicator but the skill doesn’t necessarily come naturally to you, start by invite others from differing but relevant perspectives, to share in the conversation. Make known your agenda at least a week in advance so that invitees can give the matter some thought prior to coming together. Clearly answer these questions for them…
- What is the goal of the meeting?
- What is the desired outcome?
- What is expected of each participant? (i.e. How will a decision to _______ affect your area?)
You may even decide that the solutions you seek cannot be reasonably accomplished in just one meeting. If that’s the case, ask that invitees come prepared with their availability to schedule a follow up meeting.
Then, listen to the problem from the varying perspectives and begin to prioritize solutions as the conversation ensues. Read the room… Who is staying quiet and why? Who is outspoken and what might they be missing? Is the discussion valid and on point or do you need to steer the conversation back to the topic? Are there items, conditions, situations or people being overlooked or undervalued? Are there issues that should remain separate from the task at hand?
Though you are the leader – remain in control of the flow of conversation or facilitate the discussion rather than lead. Ensure that the focus remains consistent and that each person has an opportunity to share from her/his perspective.
Remember – you invited each of them to the table of ideas for a reason and together, you are stronger. Don’t let them leave without offering insight. If they aren’t sure why they were invited –tell them why you chose them. This simple and honest interface may be all they need to begin to share exactly what you, as the leader, need to hear.