Last week at the AIMS Safety Seminar in Orlando, I had the pleasure of teaching the “Operational Leadership and Communication” course. If there is anything, in my mind, that goes together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s leadership and communication!
After going through a communication assessment to determine their strengths, everyone wrote down their biggest communication struggle and turned it in to me. Then as a group, we all brainstormed ways to over come that particular issue. It was a great opportunity to learn from everyone in the room.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get to them all, and some students have already emailed me asking to address their particular trouble spots. If you were in the class, I am happy to do that for you, too. In the meantime, I thought I would use the blog to address some of the ones that many people seem to be struggling with.
Here we go!
Biggest communication struggle: Being patient with others’ opinions.
You are not alone! In class we talked about the fact that listening has more to do with an open mind than anything else. When we hear someone state an opinion that is different from ours, we have a few choices.
- Immediately launch into a rebuttal
- Think about what to say, then respond
- Say nothing at all
Too often, option 1 is taken and that rarely ends well. In order to make options 2 or 3 a reality, it takes patience, and what allows us to be patient more than anything else?
Thinking of things from the other person’s perspective. Since there are (at least) two sides to every story, first consider that yours might not be right, or at least it’s not the story that the other person believes.
Take a deep breath. Try to imagine where they care coming from. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider your previous impact on the situation. THEN, feel free to respond.
Biggest communication struggle: Being vocal
This came up a few times, and it doesn’t surprise me considering the class was full of leaders who are still developing their chops. Expressing your thoughts to your peers, employees or even management can be tough… there is a lot of fear that can encircle those situations.
- Fear of rejection – either the idea or you as a person
- Fear of sounding stupid – you’ll fumble your words and sound incompetent
- Fear of indifference – there will be no reaction, just awe-inspiring silence
These are legit, but can be overcome! Best way to do that? Just do it. Work up the gumption, plan what you are going to say and state your case. As a leader, you MUST have the confidence to state your position or vision. If you know of a better way, SAY IT!
One way to bolster your confidence to speak up is to do a trial run with some trusted allies. Let’s say you know the topic at the next manager meeting is going to be reducing guest complaints. You have sort of an out-of-the-box idea that you fear will get shunned if spoken aloud. Try it out on a few people one-on-one to gauge their reaction.
Also ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” If you won’t die or lose your job, you can handle just about anything else. And we always make it worse in our minds than it really is. PLUS, you may have the winning idea, the suggestion that saves the company from total ruin! You don’t want to hold that back, do you?
Biggest communication struggle: Expecting people to know what I am talking about.
Hello, McFly! We don’t all get it, get it? Seriously, this is something we all suffer from at one time or another. Why? Because we forget that other people can’t read our minds.
Think of all the knowledge that you have accumulated over the years. What are the chances that someone else has the exact same database of knowledge and information rolling around in their skull? Very slim. So, we can’t take our communication for granted.
I love it when I hear managers say, “he should really know that!”. Really? How? Do you know that he knows that? Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have the knowledge and context to reach the same conclusion? If not, get your specifics ready because that’s what it will take to avoid confusion.
If you have been with your company for a while, you know lots of stuff and jargon that a lot of new employees don’t know yet. You have the benefit of time and experience. They have someone getting frustrated with them because they don’t understand your abbreviations or nomenclature. Don’t blame them. Blame you for either not explaining it or assuming that someone else did.
I think this one goes along with being patient.
And we’re back.
There were a bunch more struggles that I will save for future posts. In the meantime, if you have questions about communication, leadership, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my inbox is always open. Drop me a note anytime!
Thanks for reading!
What? You want to read more? Might I suggest: