In case you missed part 1 of the series, it can be found here: AIMS Communication Review – Part 1.
On with the struggles!
Biggest communication struggle: Asking for help.
If you need help as a leader, good luck. You should know everything and be able to do everything all by yourself and on your own.
No one, despite trying to convince you otherwise, knows everything. As an emerging leader, you don’t know everything either. Heck, seasoned leaders (the good ones) know that they still have stuff to learn and that they need help.
I think there is a BIG misconception out there among new leaders that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s not. It’s actually a very confident demonstration of strength of character and a willingness to get better.
Some of the most well respected leaders I know (with titles like CEO) ask for help. They ask for it from the peers, outside counsel, their employees, their families… basically anywhere they can get it. As you mature as a leader, you start to understand the vastness of the things you don’t know and can’t do. You realize you can’t possibly have all the information, nor can you be an expert at everything. If you don’t ask for help, you’ll be sunk.
So ask for help. It’ll show how strong you really are.
Biggest communication struggle: Not getting to the point.
Why do we not get to the point? Do we not know what the point is, or are we afraid of the reaction of those who are receiving the point? Two very different scenarios.
If we don’t know the point, how do we figure it out? Are we relaying information to our team that we aren’t clear on… a new initiative, promotion or mandate from the top? Remember when we talked about asking for help? Ask for clarification. Make sure you CLEARLY understand before trying to explain it to others.
If we are afraid of the consequences, it can cause us to beat around the bush and sugarcoat the true message. That’s really not fair to the person you are talking to. They deserve the truth, and for the truth to be delivered in a clear, respectful and productive way. It can help to think through the conversation and it’s many possible outcomes BEFORE jumping in. Consider the ultimate outcome you are going for so you have an idea of where you are going (like a GPS when driving). State the facts, avoid interjecting too much emotion and be brief.
The other danger of beating around the bush is that it can take a long time… we may start rambling, trying to find just the right thing to say. That’s counterproductive to the conversation.
Biggest communication struggle: Not being able to say no.
Here’s the conundrum… as a new leader, you want to do well. You want to please your boss, you want to please your employees, you want to do whatever it takes to be successful. What’s the opposite of all that? Saying no.
But here’s the thing… you also have a responsibility to yourself. I know, I know… you’re a selfless workaholic who can handle the pressure – in fact you work best under pressure.
Good for you, but you won’t be able to sustain this. Trust me.
Emerging leaders often don’t know what the true time commitment is for all the stuff they take on. They don’t realize how much time they do or don’t have. They don’t know because they don’t have the experience yet. That leads to the idea that they can say yes to everything. And they would be wrong.
Instead of a blanket YES when asked to do something, think through a few things:
- How long will this take? Since you may not know, ask. If your boss is asking you to do something, ask how long they think it will take (hopefully they at least have an idea). Also ask about a deadline and any resources that are available. Maybe you can divide and conquer.
- Is this aligned with your current goals? First, if you don’t know your goals, start there. Now you can determine if the ‘ask’ is in line with where you want to do and what you need to do. Maybe it’s something you REALLY want to do but has little to do with what you SHOULD be doing… would you do it?
Still having trouble saying no? Think of this… when you say YES to something, you are actually saying NO to something else. Saying YES to staying late, you are saying NO to spending time with family or friends. Saying YES to taking on a special project, you are saying NO to the time you can spend with your employees.
These are not hard and fast rules, as there are times when you absolutely should say YES. Just as there are times to say no. Of course the key is balance, and having the ability and guts to say no when the situation is right to do so.
That’s six communication struggles down and more still to go. Probably enough for at least one more post. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading!
Reading is fundamental!