If No One is Following You Aren’t Leading

images (8)Whether you are in a management position or play a leadership role in your organization, the challenges remain the same. New leadership skills are required for the workplace of today and the next decade. Not everyone chooses to lead – but everyone gets to choose who they want to follow. What do you look for in the leaders you follow?

Worth Remembering … “One of the most important things about being a good leader is to lead with a heart. You have to know the business, but you also have to know what’s at the heart of business and that’s people.” – Oprah Winfrey

Daniel Goleman, in his groundbreaking book Working with Emotional Intelligence, might have said it best: “We are being judged by a new yardstick: not just how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.” Soft-skills, your ability to communicate and interact more effectively with others, now plays a more pivotal role in your success and the overall success of your organization. You stand little chance of winning the hearts, minds and hands of those you lead without the ability to connect with them.

Worth Remembering … “Communication is the breakfast of Champions.” – Ken Blanchard

All the great leaders: Churchill, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Thatcher, Trudeau and Clinton, they all had one thing in common – they had the ability to communicate. They had the ability to communicate in such a way that you could see a future that you wanted to be part of.  The power of the spoken and unspoken word can’t be overlooked. The words you choose and how you go about saying them can be a catalyst for action or in-action. You can build people up or tear them down simply by the tone of your voice and the non-verbal message your body language sends. Regardless of your political beliefs, President Barack Obama’s ability to communicate and connect with others inspired a Nation – and changed our World forever. Agreed, leaders also need to be patient, understanding, flexible and great listeners. But, if you can’t communicate in a way that others will want to follow – then you aren’t leading.

I believe you aren’t born a great communicator but, I believe you can learn to become one. Here are a few suggestions on ways to communicate and interact more effectively with others.

  • Provide regular opportunities for informal, casual discussions. This is a great exercise for building collaborative teams.
  • Check for points of disagreement or misunderstanding by being more intuitive to the non-verbal signals being sent. Ask closed questions for clarity. Ask open-ended questions to promote dialogue.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • When giving instructions use direct, to-the-point communication without a lot of social chatter. Too much information muddies the water and tends to confuse rather than inform.
  • Use two-way dialogue, responding to a person’s feelings is just as important as what is being said.

Give them a try. After all – the worse thing that could happen is you’ll draw a crowd. And for today’s leaders, that’s not such a bad thing.

Copyright (C) 2013. Brian Smith – Reformed Control Freak. Brian is available for speaking engagements and seminars on a variety of topics including: communication, dealing with difficult people and challenging situations and leadership development. To find out more visit http://briansmithpld.com

If You Think They’re Listening – Think Again

How often have you been in a conversation with someone and their body language is telling you that they aren’t interested in you – or what you have to say – simply by the non-verbal messages they are sending you? (Scooping the room to see if there is someone more interesting to talk too, looking down at their watch, retrieving messages on their smart phone or being easily distracted by people walking by) If it looks like they aren’t interested – trust me – they aren’t interested.  Think about that the next time you are having an important conversation with someone. If you want others to be interested in you – you must demonstrate that you are interested in them. And to do that you have to learn how to “Actively” listen.

Dr. Ralph Nichols – a communication’s expert – suggests that we communicate 40% of the time by listening.  A recent survey revealed that individuals listen about 25% of the time; most people recall only 50% of what they hear, and 70% of all misunderstandings happen because people do not listen to each other. (Two monologues do not make a dialogue) According to Dr. Nichols grade school aged children listen to their teacher just 25% of the time. By the time young people graduate from high school they are listening to the teacher just 17% of the time. And by the time they graduate college they are listening to the professor just 12% of the time. How much do you think they are listening by the time they go out into the workforce or meet up with you at a networking event?

We are not born good listeners – but we can learn how. The next time you have an opportunity to listen to someone try to be actively involved in the conversation by developing/demonstrating these five active listening skills:

1. – Try restating and summarizing what the speaker said by saying it back to them. (So what you are saying is …..)

2. – Paraphrase what the speaker said by repeating it as accurately as you can using your own words. It goes beyond restating and summarizing because you are giving the speaker your interpretation of what you heard them say.

3. – Use non-words and simple gestures to show the speaker that you are listening.  Nod your head, smile and use non-words like ah …, yeah, hmmmm, oh …. work great.

4 – Supporting statements like – “Go on, tell me more” or “then what happened? and “I see what you mean” are another way to verbally acknowledge the other person.

5 – Always keep in mind that non-verbal messages must be congruent with your verbal messages. Most adults believe the non-verbal as being more accurate. You communicate 38% of the time by the tone of your voice and an astounding 55% of the time by body language alone.  (Rolling your eyes, looking down at your watch, yawning or tapping the floor with your toe is telling the other person what you really think.

Active listening is as important to communication as effective speaking. To really listen requires mental focus, verbal paraphrasing and attention to non-verbal cues like tones, gestures, and facial expressions. The more that you can dial into the other person’s am radio station – MMFIAM (Make Me Feel Important And More) – the more likely they’ll “tune” into you. – Cheers, 🙂