The Art of Straight Talk

Effective leaders know how to elicit the best in others through communication. They have great listening skills and people feel great after conversing with them. Unfortunately, too many rely upon manipulative techniques or hide behind technology. The results are disastrous!

Many people fear talking with others. They attempt to hide their discomfort by using company lingo or business jargon. Others don’t readily understand what they are saying. Sometimes they are not clear themselves, and may use terms inappropriately in the hopes they sound important. They offer flippant opinions about how something should be resolved without taking into account details or perceiving nuances that might be present. They are very poor listeners. They allow their minds to wander and think about other issues, falsely believing they are saving time. They over use qualifiers (e.g., try, might, etc.) in a vain attempt to have others “feel good” about talking to them. Leaders must achieve results, not merely try!  Your team looks to you for motivation and direction. Do not disengage their efforts!

Use multiple mediums to convey your message!  Many workers have only a 6th grade reading level. To complicate it further, many don’t read for comprehension. They read just enough to get it done and be able to say they read it. When questioned about content, they clam up. They might share a few words they remember reading, or simply claim, “I don’t remember.” Time has been wasted and everyone is disengaged. To communicate well, write simplistically. Speak in a clear manner that readily helps the other person get on the same page with you. This is particularly necessary when sharing new ideas. Talk someone through a new policy or procedure. Take the time to provide opportunities for Q&A. Use visual examples. The keys to successful communication are consistency and repetition.

Listen. It saves time and money. We believe we can look into the whites of someone’s eyes and know whether or not they are telling the truth!  Then, we operate accordingly.  (Truth: statistically we are only 14% accurate about deception.) We need to learn how to ask the right questions. We need to learn how to listen not for the answers we want to hear, but to the answers actually provided.  If you truly listen, you’ll be amazed by what you can learn.

Move the conversation forward.  We believe if we can repeat back what someone has said, we listened!  Or worse, we are mind readers. In that case we don’t need to actively listen and just wait until it’s our turn to talk. Simply repeating back someone’s words does not mean you listened! Unless you build upon someone else’s information, to them it is like having a conversation with a wall!  Listening is the ability to hear the spoken and unspoken words.  Take what is said and move the conversation forward. Now that’s value added.

The bottom line is that a well-run company works to communicate in a manner that others readily understand: verbal, written and visual delivery of the message. Communication is consistent, simple, and when necessary, repetitive.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011

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