Often leaders shy away from simple lists of suggestions and guidelines. Yet by following basic suggestions we can become better leaders and enhance communication. Here, then, are practical suggestions for effective communication.
Subordinates discover quickly what leaders want and supply that information to them. But subordinates are unlikely to provide negative feedback or communicate bad news to those above them since they fear that, much like ancient messengers delivering bad news, they will be punished. The familiar story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” illustrates unwillingness of subordinates to communicate honestly to superiors. What then can you do to help accurate feedback reach you?
- Tell subordinates you want feedback. Encourage them to give you both good and bad news. Welcome disagreement on issues. Then, make certain you positively reinforce rather than punish them for such
- Identify areas in which you want feedback. Do not encourage indiscriminate feedback consisting of idle talk or personal gripes about others in the organization. Do communicate your desire for feedback on issues and areas that can help the
- Use silence to promote feedback. Listen, and encourage feedback rather than taking issue with comments raised by
- Watch for nonverbal cues. Most persons do not control nonverbal responses as well as verbal ones. The person who says, “I am so happy to meet you” as he draws away from the other person, probably communicates more by actions than by
- Consider scheduling feedback sessions. Since it is easier to prevent illness than to treat it, set aside time for feedback. A planned feedback session will usually get more response than an impulsive, “How are things going?”
Use statements to encourage feedback. Statements such as “Tell me more about it,” or “That’s interesting,”or questions that cannot be answered yes or no will help you find out what is going on in your organization. Start your questions with what, why, when, where, and how in order to encourage feedback.
Ways to Improve Communication in Leadership
To receive feedback leaders must listen. Listening is the neglected communication skill. All leaders have had instruction in reading, writing, and speaking. But few have had any formal instruction in listening. This lack of instruction is especially interesting in light of research showing that people spend seven out of every 10 minutes awake in some form of communication—10 percent writing, 15 percent reading, 30 percent talking, and 45 percent listening. Here are some things you can do to improve your listening.
- Prepare to listen. Effective listening requires physical and mental preparation. Put aside papers, books, and other materials that may distract you. Have the secretary hold your calls or have callers leave a message on voice mail. Avoid unnecessary interruptions. Be ready to catch the speaker’s opening remarks. The rest of the message often builds on the opening
- Listen for ideas, not just for facts. Concentration exclusively on the facts often causes leaders to miss main ideas. Facts may be interesting in their own right, but the reason facts are given is usually to develop a generalization from
- Keep an open mind. Often the subject or the delivery of the speaker may seem boring or uninteresting. Certain subjects or individuals may cause the listeners to become judgmental, hear only certain parts of the message, or just hear what they want to hear. Effective listening requires an open
- Capitalize on the speed differential. Thought operates several times faster than the normal rate of speech. In other words, listeners listen faster than speakers speak. Do not fall into the trap of daydreaming or trying to think about something else while listening. Use this time differential to summarize and internalize the
- Put yourself in the speaker’s place. Understand the speaker’s perspective. What do you know about the speaker’s knowledge, background, and grasp of the subject? What do speakers mean by the words and nonverbal communication they use?..
. Ways to Improve Communication in Leadership