This is the second piece in a series from Jamie Hansen, focused on how a new leader must develop his or her communication skills in order to maximize their impact. You can find the first installment here, and receive the rest of the series in your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.
Welcome back to the Leadership Toolbox! Today, we are focusing on two additional communication skills that leaders must develop to effectively lead the people and teams around them. If you have already read Part I of this series, you know that the first two skills are Assertiveness and Listening. Leaders absolutely must possess the courage to say what needs to be said, and the patience to hear what must be heard. Next, let's examine two more communication skills for leaders:
3. Proof in Paraphrasing
I call this the drive-thru skill. Anyone can "phone it in" or act like they're listening while their mind wanders. Most of us have been guilty of this at least once. Some of us, this author included, may have even been caught in the act.
Effective communicators keep the whole of the communication in perspective and make sure the important points of the message are received. They prove that they have been listening and that they value the other party's message by taking a moment to re-state the speaker's key points. Learn to use this phrase: "Let me make sure I've got this straight so far... Is that right?"
We have all experienced the frustration when this step is skipped in the drive-thru lane, and we pull forward without knowing precisely what awaits us at the pick-up window. We have come to expect this paraphrase as an important part of ordering our coffee or burger. But how often do we skip this step in important day-to-day conversations?
4. Assessing for Understanding
Great communicators know that language is complex and that a message sent doesn’t always equal a message received. Non-verbals, distractions, life experience, listening ability, and varied expectations all work together to set up communication channels between the speaker and the listener. These channels are not guaranteed to intersect.
Imagine yourself at the bank of a river. On the other side of this river stands your conversation partner. You are each tasked with building a bridge toward the other person, meeting in the middle of the river. Your bridges must be the same height, width, and length to connect in the center of the river. Surely this task will require several check-points to stay on track. Neither of you can just jump into the task alone, plowing forward without any regard for the other side. The same is true in our communication styles.
Effective communicators take responsibility for their role in communicating, by stopping to make sure their message is clear. This can be as simple as, “Does that make sense?” or “What questions do you have?” Or for more critical communications, I recommend, “Would you mind stating back to me what you’ve heard me say, so that I know that I’ve been clear?” Basically, it’s the other side of the paraphrasing skill – asking for feedback on our message. You know you told them, but do you know what they heard?
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