Last month in this forum we talked about the difference between knowing how to think and only knowing what to think. This month, we acknowledge the connection between how we think as leaders and its impact on how we behave as leaders. Specifically, we are looking at the behavior of effective communications. It is important that leaders know how to communicate effectively beyond just knowing what to say. It is, in my experience, the single biggest challenge for 21st Century Leaders to manage as they strive for sustainable success! So, what that means is:

  • Leave the echo chamber ~ Sure, it’s safe to hear that things are going well within the organization from your team. But if that is all you hear, as a leader, you are in trouble and may not even realize it! When is the last time someone on your team disagreed with you? Can’t remember that far, you have a problem. If someone did disagree with you, how did you react? Open-minded or defensive? Was it a dialog or a debate? Leaders getting out of their own echo chamber and past their own confirmation bias is key to communicating more effectively!
  • Listen ~ When you rearrange the letters of the word “Listen” the also spell the word “Silent”. It is important that leaders not only listen by being physically quiet, but also listen with an open mind by being mentally silent. That means the other 62 things a leader has on her/his mind are consciously put aside to give full attention to the conversation at hand. It also allows the leader to effectively respond to constructive feedback from their team. Remember, if the team criticizes or provides constructive feedback, it is because the care enough to do so. It is when the followers so silent and there is nothing for the leader to hear that spells the end of that leader’s success!
  • Decide with context ~ Being able to stress-test ideas and opinions gives leaders the best set of options in their decision-making process. However, making the decision is, in my experience, the easy part. Now the decision must be understood and executed by a broader team of stakeholders. Armed with clear context (meaning) behind the decision gives leaders a full narrative in which to explain the decision and the process for reaching that specific decision. The “Why” comes from how effectively leaders create a visual image of the desired result!

The title of this article come from a TED Talk by Theo E.J. Wilson where he spoke of the power of effective face-to-face dialog for tough conversations. The full point text is, “Remember, language was the first form of virtual reality. It is literally a symbolic representation of a physical world and, through this device, we change the physical world.” In the ever-complex world we live in, effective leadership give it direction and purpose. We hear words, but we think in pictures. Meaning comes from leaders who effectively communicate and use language in a way that the picture of sustainable success!

What is your physical world based on?

Lead Well!