# 3 Communication
Here we go, #3 of the 10 Characteristics and Qualities of a Good Leader
The is a loaded word, with many implications, consequences, and opportunities all rolled into one. I will try to break it down in two minutes or less! There are three major categories within communication:
Verbal: Choose your words wisely, Oscar Trimboli the author of Deep Listening, highlights that we can think at 400 words per minute but we speak at only 125 words per minute, which means that 1/3rd of our thoughts are not being clearly articulated. How you speak and the words you choose are worth consideration. It is easy to speak your thoughts and leave the interpretation up to the receiver but I guarantee that approach will not serve you well. There is a disconnect between what is thought, what is spoken, and what is heard. Combine that with poor body language and tone and you and your listener are heading in opposite directions. Deliver your message with clarity.. Many “fill the air with words”, and don’t consider the importance of preparation and intentionality. Consciousness and clarity reflect your professionalism and preparation, and many times determine the response. Lack of clarity in an attempt to avoid difficult conversations is a common habit (one of the most destructive and frankly selfish behaviors leaders possess). Communicating honestly and often creates a culture of trust and transparency. Withholding feedback because you feel uncomfortable gives you immediate relief but does nothing to serve the recipient or team. You cannot ask for accountability or success if you have not led with the truth. Know your audience- consider age, culture, hierarchy, the mood of the room, and your relationship with the recipient(s). Powerful concise discussions should be direct and impactful while simultaneously open and engaging. Great communication is an elaborate dance, it requires patience, insight, deep listening, and clarity. Finally curiosity. As Simon Sinek says: Leader Speak Last (a powerful 2-minute video). If you immediately tell a group what you think and then ask their opinion, you have shifted the dynamic and they will be reluctant to share. Speak last and show the team their thoughts are valued, be humble and learn from others, and only then, share. Non-Verbal: As a leader, your presence and (hopefully) unintended intimidation precede you. It is your responsibility to be aware of this and over-compensate in an effort to build collaboration, trust, and alignment. Non-verbal cues speak volumes and believe me, you are being watched at all times.
Is your phone on the table or do you turn it off and put it away during a meeting? Without speaking, most will follow suit, try it. Leaders set expectations by their actions, not their words.
Do I have your undivided attention or are you multitasking? If multitasking, you are telling me that my ideas are not a priority.
Where are your eyes? Are you looking at me or somewhere else? Again, what is your priority?
Body language: bring awareness to what your hands are doing, if they are covering your face so you can think I may interpret that as you are tired, uninterested, or angry. Are you standing or sitting to create a power move? All of these small elements send impactful and lasting messages.
Listening: Oscar Trimboli is a leader in teaching the art of listening. Listening is a learned skill and one which is pivotal for leaders to master. Listening is not just about hearing the words spoken but taking all of the ideas above and considering what is being conveyed and intended. Listen to learn vs. listening to respond Many people use questions as an opportunity to give their opinion or highlight the inadequacies of the other. This is not useful and honestly, it is a power play.. I encourage you to ask questions in the spirit of learning and discovering what you don’t know. This requires a neutrality of opinion and an openness of humility. The choice to partner with another for the shared desire to learn and drive success. There are many words spoken and there is much left unsaid. It is an art and skill to navigate through it all and discover what is foundational for growth, support, and understanding. Patience and curiosity will serve you well. Notice the nuances, the averted eyes, the choice of words, and the body alignment, it is all of these that will complete the story and assist you in finding the truth.
My Challenge to You:
The Center for Creative Leadership wrote a very nice article on this important subject.
Consider the 125/400 rule, what stop gaps might you put in place to improve the chance that what you intend to say (thinking) corresponds with the words you choose and in turn, more accurately aligns with what your recipient hears?
Bring deeper awareness to your conversations and begin to notice the subtleties of the dialog and relationship. Challenge yourself to stay present with the other’s comments as opposed to formulating a mental response.
Before responding, allow for 5 seconds of silence, many times this break in conversation allows for deeper discussion and clarification.
If you missed the previous deeper dives into leadership characteristics, you can find them here.