The communication in your team is a mirror image of your own
The biggest influence on communication in the workplace is the communication style of the leader. The example or model they provide flows through to three set of critical moments that have a significant impact on the overall performance and morale of a team: the way the team communicates with the leader, the way they communicate amongst themselves and the way the communicate with the exterl client or customer.
The good news: by improving their personal communication styles and habits, a leader can impact each of these critical moments - and the impact can occur relatively quickly.
Leader as model inspiring workplace communication (transcript)
Communication in the workplace is obviously a critical issue. Teams that communicate well have the potential of performing at significantly higher levels. Teams that don’t communicate well regularly underperform.
My name is Simon Thiessen, I’m the CEO of the Real Learning Experience and today I plan to share with you some strategies to get your team communicating in a way that allows you to achieve the performance you’re looking for.
Setting the benchmark for communication in the workplace
The first thing we would say about communication in the workplace is that you as the leader, you as the manager of the group have a disproportionate impact on the way they communicate. A critical realisation for managers and for leaders is that your team is highly unlikely to communicate more effectively than you communicate. So the way you communicate with your team and about your team actually imposes a stealing of the potential for good communication in that team.
This is all about you, the Leader as Model - we believe one of the critical roles of leaders is to be the best model they can be for their team. As a model, you impact them in two critical ways. Firstly, you show them the way things are down around here. Secondly, if you’re setting a high standard, you show them how to achieve that.
Three settings for great workplace communication
Now this plays out in 3 settings when it comes to communication in the workplace:
- the way they communicate with you
- the way they communicate with each other
- the way they communicate with the external client or customer.
So let’s look at each of those situations one at the time - we’ll start with the way they communicate with you.
The way your people communicate with you
I can’t tell you how many managers and leaders have told me about how frustrated they are that their people won’t accept feedback from them. Yet, when we examine the way the leader accepts feedback from the staff member, its little wonder this dynamic is occurring. The way your people accept feedback from you is highly modeled on the way you take feedback from them.
You may feel that you’re really good at accepting feedback from your team, but this happens in subtle ways. For example, what’s the first thing they hear when they come to you with an idea? What’s the first thing they hear when they come to you with a suggestion for doing things differently? What’s your response when they suggest approaching something in a new way, a different way or when they have a contrary opinion to yours?
If, like most human beings, you’re natural instinct is to defend your current position to justify the way you currently do things, to reinforce your own opinion, that’s seen by the staff member as refusing to accept feedback. When they in turn need to accept feedback from you, it’s little wonder that you get adverse reactions from them.
This principle of reciprocity in communication could also be applied to respect, openness and trust. For example, if you demand that your people respect you without showing them respect as well, it’s simply not going to happen. People tend to show the respect they feel they get.
The way your people commuicate with each other
So let’s move on to the way they work with each other. Once again, the way you personally treat many dynamics is played out amongst your team. For example, if you deal with conflict in a really specific way, you’re likely to see that played out in your team, which of course is great if you’re dealing with conflict positively and effectively.
We worked with a manager recently who had a very direct, very black and white, very dry interpersonal communication style. The way they communicate often felt to other people like conflict, even though that wasn’t the intention of this manager.
Now while it wasn’t obvious to this manager the way their own style was being perceived, it was blatantly obvious to him looking at his team, that there appeared to be conflict amongst team members. Much of that conflict was based on reactions to that very same direct, black and white style that team members acquired by observing the manager.
If you expect your people to communicate with each other in specific ways, you need to start by modeling that style yourself, in every interaction you have with your team.
The way your people communicate with the client or customer
Let’s talk about the third situation now and that’s the way people communicate with the external client, the external user, the external customer, whatever that means in your organisation. Very often, interacting with that external client requires certain skills. It requires certain communication styles to be effective, and that varies from organisation to organisation. What doesn’t vary is the fact that you need to model the interpersonal communication styles with your people that you expect them to use with the external client.
I’m going to illustrate that by talking about two organisations we’ve worked with recently. In the first of them, the sales manager was adamant that his people weren’t listening to the clients effectively. Too often, client needs were misunderstood. Too often, clients would return the product they bought because it simply didn’t do what they bought it to do. This manager was adamant that his people needed to improve their listening skills.
The irony: when his people came to him with ideas, with problems, with solutions, with possibilities, he didn’t listen to them. And we saw this played out in the interactions he had with his people while we were actually involved with the company. It’s really hard to say to your people “Go and be great listeners!” when they’re working with the external client if that’s not the experience they have with you. This is a classic of Leader as Model going slightly awry.
With a second organisation that we dealt with that had this issue: the internal staff needed to work with high empathy when they were talking to the external user. It was a sensitive environment they were working in and their need for empathy was higher than any other situation we have ever seen. One of the biggest challenges was that the manager who ran the team dealing with the external clients was one of the most efficient people we’ve ever met. However, they had a really black and white approach, with little room for empathy, with little room for understanding the situation his people were experiencing. They learned empathy habits by modeling his behavior and the flow through was that the external client wasn’t treated with the level of empathy that was required.
Be the best model you can be
So there you have three situations in which your own workplace communication styles act as a model for your people. It impacts the way they deal with you, the way they communicate with each other and the way they work with the external client.
If you’re really serious about improving interpersonal and workplace communication in your team, take the lead. See yourself as leader’s model and establish the communication standard that you expect to see amongst your people.
Thank you for watching this video. If you enjoy the resources we create, please make sure you subscribe to receive notifications whenever we create a new article, resource or video.
You could also download these colorful, free and inspiring posters as a constant reminder of great leadership habits.
photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc