5 Communication Blunders That Ruin Your Effectiveness
Ask yourself this question: Do you adhere to the traditional superior-to-subordinate paradigm? Hierarchy is still very necessary in the workplace, but it can go too far. When you focus too closely on "me vs. them," you are walking yourself down a road filled with conflict, disagreements, and other communication breakdowns.
CEOs and executives can fall into the trap of five common communication mistakes when they approach leadership through this stereotypical lens. The good news? You can avoid these pitfalls when you identify them and take the necessary, and often simple, steps to correct them.
Communication Pitfall #1: Non-Communication
Do you ever close the door during your workday and forget to open it again until you're ready to leave for the day? The physical act of cutting yourself off from those around you creates an air of non-communication. There are times when it is necessary to close your door, but leaving the door open throughout the day sends a much more positive message to those around you.
Non-communication isn't just about physically closing the door. If you cut yourself off from employees and make yourself inaccessible, it sends the wrong message. Strike a balance by getting out on the floor to interact with staff, or consider hosting town halls or bag lunch sessions where you discuss company news and priorities, and allow time for employee questions.
Communication Pitfall #2: Letting Emotions Dictate Behavior
Were you taught that emotions have no place in the corporate world? As a CEO, you are a human being and therefore you are allowed to have emotions. What you should not do is allow those emotions to dictate your behavior. If your CFO forgets to authorize lease payments for four months and the landlord threatens to serve the company with eviction papers, anger is a justifiable response. However, it does not give you licence to storm into the CFO's office and berate him for all to hear. You are allowed to feel anger and frustration, but you should always behave professionally. Say, "I am angry and disappointed that you did not pay the lease. How are we going to correct this issue immediately?" Anger is an emotion, but rage is a behavior. Feel your emotions, and express to individuals when you are happy or unhappy with them, but do not let those feelings influence your actions and behavior.
Communication Pitfall #3: Not Asking Questions
In a team meeting, do you have a tendency to speak in monologues without stopping to ask for input or questions? It's an easy trap to fall into, but effective leaders know that the person who truly controls the direction of a conversation is the person who asks the questions. Do you want to be known as a leader who solicits input or a leader who presents mandates? As Epictetus once wrote, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."
Communication Pitfall #4: Incongruous Body Language
You cannot express pride or pleasure while your arms are crossed in front of you. Conversely, you cannot deliver bad news while waiving your hands up and down like a contestant on The Price is Right. Conflicting body language creates confusion and dilutes your message. Always be aware of what your face, hands and posture look like during a conversation, and match them to your words and tone. Through your body language, you can develop a reputation as a leader with the unique quality of saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
Communication Pitfall #5: Coming Off Inauthentic
Have you ever heard the old saying, "Don't pee on my shoes and tell me it's raining?" Your team can spot an inauthentic interaction from a mile away. They know when they aren't being told the full story. You may not always be able to tell them the reasons why you are enacting a change or requesting information. But you can be candid and transparent without spilling the beans. Simply be forthcoming about how much detail you can provide about a situation and make a commitment to your team that you will give them the full story when you are able.
Strong communication skills are an essential quality of effective leaders, but it can be easy to get tangled up in the moment and forget where you are or with whom you are interacting. Always be mindful of the message you send through your words, your body language, and your actions. When you recognize yourself slipping toward one of these pitfalls, stop, and take a moment to adjust your approach. When you focus on your own communication strategies, your team will follow suit, allowing for ideas to flow openly from the top down - and the bottom up.