Communication - Do You Hear What They Hear?

It's safe to assume that most leaders are quite conscious of how they communicate. Because of this, there are usually methods they're working on to improve this vital area of their lives.

Whether a focus on personal interaction, written mediums, or even public speaking, there are many methods and techniques you can use to greatly enhance your effectiveness in communication. Nonverbals, posture, voice inflection - so many techniques to communicate at a higher level.

Yet sometimes, just a look at the fundamentals can reap some remarkable results that we may otherwise forget or neglect. Here are some thoughts and examples from my life, to bring out these principles and help us all remember a solid foundation for better communication:

Shop Talk & Industry Jargon

Our CEO, who had come from retail, was new to the food industry. It took him about 2 years to understand the term fold it in. It's simply the process of taking a recipe and adding an ingredient to it by pouring and stirring it in, like blueberries being added to a muffin mix) In our work it was adding another item to the list, or another feature to the website, but the term was foreign to him. Once he got it, he understood. Jargon is a great way to connect, but make sure that everyone knows the lingo. Otherwise, speak plainly.

Meeting Of The Minds

My business law professor, still a good friend of mine, taught us about the legal implications when two parties have any business arrangement. This "meeting of the minds"  assumes that both parties at that instant understood what they agreed upon. It's not enough to think that two parties have a mutual understanding; leaders should go all out to make sure there is mutual understanding among all parties.

Can't Hear

When I first became a restaurant general manager, I hired two siblings who had great talent. The younger brother, Lance, was hearing impaired. Undaunted, I was confident in his ability to do the job, and to have his sister help with sign language. My boss was skeptical at first, and then gave his full support months later. I knew that Lance had the skills, we just needed to go beyond the physical challenges to be able to understand each other. Once we could communicate on some basic terms, we built a solid ground of training and trust and the rest Lance took care of on his own.

Can't Speak

My dog and I have a tremendous challenge in communicating. She doesn't speak my language. And apparently I don't speak hers, either. So how do we know what the other wants or needs? Trial and error. By being determined to find ways to communicate based on her actions I can know what she's trying to convey. And when I give consistent, clear commands and direction, she knows what I'm saying, even though she doesn't speak English (or German). If two people aren't able to communicate, at least one must continue to work at it until a positive response is elicited.

Speak Vision - Repeat Often As Necessary

One of my best mentors was incredible at folding in the vision and mission at every opportunity. He believed it so much that every interaction - phone, email, personal contact - drew you into the vision as well. He was like a megaphone going around and telling everyone what we were all running towards. It wasn't badgering or annoying - it was infectious. He was able to magnify the vision so big by constantly preaching that we didn't care about the dysfunction in the leadership above him, or the challenges our market's competition presented. We just ran toward the goal. His leadership made us accomplish goals that otherwise would have been squelched by the disruptions around us.

The Intellectual

I had another college professor, a professor of philosophy, who was not very effective in teaching. His attitude conveyed that he was the guru and we should be thankful just to be around him. His lectures were quite condescending, and generated some resentment from the students. He couldn't be bothered to acknowledge that we didn't understand his level of thinking. Great leaders talk their people up and are funnels of information to them.

Communication is not just how we convey the message, but rather how it's understood by the recipient. These lessons have served me well thus far, and I hope they give you some ideas as well.

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