…by their sentences.”
We’ve long defined effective communications when the sender and the receiver of a message understand the message in the same contextual meaning. As leaders, this is a basic, albeit crucial, element of the success as a 21st Century Leader. However, as Warren Bennis reminds us in the title quote, there are consequences associated with the words we use and whether or not they convey their intended contextual meaning. This is especially true when we speak. Technology advances notwithstanding, humans are pre-wired to still respond to the spoken word. The spoken word is hundreds of thousands of years old while the written word is still only several hundred years old. Even in a technology-laced world we now operate in, the spoken word still rules in the world of effective communications.
In my experience, lack of effective communications is the number one reason why leaders are not effective in leading their organizations and teams. Worse, yet, it is the number one issue they have that they will not admit they have. It is too easy to blame the receiver of the message or not having enough time to deliver the message effectively. Regardless of the excuse, there are three key reasons why a 21st Century Leader needs to know how to communicate via the spoken word effectively.
- Communicating Vision – It is hardly a secret how important a vision is to the success of an organization or team. The vision represents the aspirations of the collective people in an organization or team and is understood at a very emotional level. When was the last time a memo or email conveyed emotional inspiration as you read it? If the vision your organization currently operates under inspires you, it was likely communicated in person first before it was printed and displayed where it would be reinforced. Effective Leaders speak with emotion to inspire and evoke an emotional response to the vision!
- Communicating Change – A key reason why leaders communicate the vision effectively is to lead the organization through change. Organizational change by nature is hard and can be painful based on our inherent need to for stability. It is known that nature cannot exist in a vacuum. When organizations create an information vacuum through silence or vague communications, people naturally fill it in with a story they are comfortable with. It is how rumors, gossip, complaining and dogmatism begin to fill in the blanks. Effective Leaders speak with Honesty, Integrity and Authenticity to help their organization and teams navigate change and follow the new direction!
- Communicating in Conflict – Change comes with conflict and as long as there are two people left on earth, there will be conflict. Interestingly enough communications is both the cause and the cure of conflict. Saying the wrong thing the wrong way at the wrong time will invariably cause conflict. Based on the emotional element of all conflicts, the number one reaction to conflict is to avoid it altogether followed by over-reacting and escalating it. Both actions make the conflict more intense creating more damage than if the conflict was embraced and dealt with through effective communications. Effective Leaders speak to both the substantive and the emotional elements of conflict setting an example for how to communicate effectively for team effectiveness!
Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” In this age of always-on technology, leaders who use the right words to effectively communicate their Vision, the next Change and embrace Conflict are the ones who are creating a culture of sustainable success for their organizations and teams.
What is your followers’ verdict on your spoken communications?