The Tin Can

 

A few weeks ago, I was working with a development company on a new business website and was frustrated because the project manager did not seem to understand how important it was for me to have a banner under my logo that would easily be seen by the customer. I explained to him that the banner was the most important part of the website and needed to be enlarged and placed under my company logo. After receiving the revision, I realized I oversold the point. Unfortunately, the project manager took my instruction way out of context and made the banner HUGE! I felt like he and I had the conversation with two tin cans and a string. Once I got over my frustration, I realized good communication is not the message you give that matters. It is truly the message that the receiver hears.

Peter Drucker once said, “the art of communication is the language of leadership.” Remember it is not important what you say – only what your listener hears. If we wish to be great leaders we need to check for understanding!

How then can we ensure the receiver hears what we are saying? First, we need to be a good listener. Use active listening by paying close attention to the speaker, ask appropriate clarifying questions, and rephrase what the presenter said to ensure understanding. Use a phrase such as, “so what I heard you say is.” Using this approach will save us misunderstandings later.

When having a conversation in person consider our non-verbal communication. Monitor facial expressions as often our face and the look in our eyes tell the orator what we are thinking. Use appropriate but minimal hand gestures as they can help us make our point if used minimally.  Maintain a relaxed stance as this will encourage others to speak openly with us. When talking on the phone, it is amazing how easily others can hear our body language. If we are speaking on the phone, stand up and smile while we are talking. Listeners will hear the happiness in our voices and listen more closely

Think about riding in an elevator from the first to the thirty-second floor, and we only have the 20 seconds the elevator takes to reach the top to share our thoughts with the other person. Keeping our message short and to the point will make our message stand out. No one enjoys hearing what happened last night blow-by-blow. Think about what we want our listener to know and then cut our words in half. Brevity and clarity are critical in the business world.

Selecting the right medium for our communication is equally important. In business today, we often shoot off a quick email without thought or hesitation. We often reply to all without even thinking about our response. Yet, if we were in the boardroom with that same group of people, our response would be thoughtful and considerate. The problem with written communication is that the reader does not see our non-verbal communication or hear our tone of voice. Therefore, the reader may come to conclusions that are completely opposite of our original meaning. Before sending an email response, read it out loud putting yourself in the reader’s place and see how you feel after hearing the response.

Personalizing communication helps other relax and respond in a positive way. Calling our co-workers by name and asking about their weekend are effective ways to gain attention before beginning your business communication. When we exhibit confidence in what we are saying the listener is more likely to accept our words and respond.

To summarize use the following techniques to improve communication and leadership.

  1. Be a good listener and check for understanding
  2. Monitor non-verbal communication and be engaged with the speaker
  3. Be clear and brief
  4. Double check written communication for unintended negative emotions and/or words. You can’t take them back.
  5. Personalize your communication by remembering and using people’s names

Published by Mary Kuniski, Executive Coach for Golden Professional Coaching

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Author: MKUNISKI@ME.COM

Mary Kuniski is a catalyst for business and individual change. Throughout her career, she has consistently led corporate businesses into the future, often achieving process improvement and change that others could not. Mary’s enthusiastic attitude and tenacious ability to keep moving forward is why she identifies with this quote from Dale Carnegie: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” Passionate about problem resolution and committed to coaching and leading others, Mary is driven to ensure that everything she does provides lasting value. At a young age, her leadership and public speaking skills were recognized and nurtured through her ten-year participation in 4-H. She has also fostered change for businesses such as Parkinson Voice Project, where she directed the implementation of their website and online learning management system, and Overhead Door Corporation, where she created and launched a successful core data process improvement strategy. During her tenure with The Michaels Companies, Mary held five Director positions and three Vice President roles, and pioneered the company’s expansion into Quebec. Her efforts to lead the transformation of over 40,000 craft items to three languages resulted in Michaels becoming the first international retailer to acquire language certification from Quebec on the initial attempt. This meant Michaels successfully adherred to strict French-language laws. Mary has over 20 years in executive leadership in the retail industry and for 10 years led supply chain shipment improvement and savings and reduction efforts at Michaels. Mary is a Dale Carnegie graduate, certified trainer, and consultant for Dale Carnegie DFW's Executive Leadership training. She holds an MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix and a degree in Human Development, Clothing Studies from Pennsylvania State University.

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