Clear and Effective Communication – now more than ever a key leadership skill.
It’s more critical than ever for leaders to be
- compassionate, and
in their communication to help their team members embrace change through this time of uncertainty.
If you’re like me, you’re probably on about your 300th Zoom call of the week and learning more each day about connecting with colleagues remotely.
As we continue to make our way through what is the defining event of our age, effective communication and adapting to remote communication technology is fast becoming one of the most important ways to demonstrate clear leadership, inspire our communities and keep our teams not only functioning, but thriving.
I find it fascinating that, at the heart of any team dysfunction or conflict, is always miscommunication in some form. I have seen this first hand with the many corporate clients who have completed our leadership programmes, where even the smallest of communication issues – some that participants may even be oblivious to – are highlighted by our horses. Through their highly astute senses, horses pick up on the smallest incongruences between an individual participant’s intentions and actions, as well as interactions between team members. They show us that in order for a team to function there must be clarity, inspiration and empathy.
- Be Clear
With many businesses impacted by the new government guidelines, difficult decisions regarding the future are inevitable.
This is an incredibly difficult time for employees, with so many unknowns across all areas of life. As a leader, communicating clearly and authentically is vital in supporting your teams. As BCG Henderson points out, there are many traps leaders fall into when communicating during a crisis: these include being too formal and coming across as inauthentic, focusing too much on talking about the crisis, overloading everyone with information, and inertia.
In our work, we see that any communication shortcomings leave our equine team members confused, and feeling unsure. Not dissimilar to the feelings we humans have when communications are amiss. When this happens in our programmes, everything grinds to a halt. Just ask our horse, Bart, he literally plants his feet and will not budge until the issue is resolved. It may take some deep intra- and interpersonal reflection to figure out what is going on but when it clicks, it is a real light-bulb moment!
- Be Compelling
The UK’s Chartered Management Institute says managers are ‘moving to action mode’. I believe leaders during this time must not only to communicate with their teams about these actions, but in a way that inspires them to look after each other as a community.
With many people now working remotely, most employers are turning to video conferencing and other technologies.
While video conferencing is not a new technology, its rapid, widespread take-up will be a steep learning curve for many. Do you get distracted by your own picture on the camera? Find it difficult to know when to speak without talking over everyone else? How do we lead effectively while navigating this new normal?
I’ve been inspired to hear of the many employers finding creative solutions to the current situation. In clearly articulating these, they have been able to build strong employee buy-in and support. Including employees, where appropriate, in discussions around these solutions, as well as presenting them in a clear and timely way, helps ensure the best outcomes for all parties. Some of the solutions such as reduced pay, unpaid leave and shortened working hours, may be less than ideal, however in these unprecedented times, buy-in and support will be gained by honesty, transparency and authenticity.
In our programmes, unless the whole team is on the same page, the task simply cannot be completed. As I said in an earlier article, “herds are to horses, what teams are to people”. Just like us, horses need to have trust in their leader and feel safe in their role on the team. Our mare, Kylie, demonstrated this beautifully one time when she simply left her team to join another. Let’s hope our human team members to not jump ship!
Like all change, we will become accustom to these differences with time and practice, but for now be kind and aware everyone is in the same boat.
- Be Compassionate
As I said previously, we must strengthen our sense of community; looking after colleagues and finding solutions to help everyone is an essential part of this.
When learning about effective team communication in our courses, we do a psychometric test around communication styles called the Miro Assessment.
Now you might be thinking that such a test is impersonal and objective. But I would argue it helps us understand that each and every one of us has our own innate style. It explains why we each respond differently to life’s challenges and why we have no place judging others.
Our horses never judge and are champions of inclusion. This comes from their natural herd instinct whereby they need every member of their herd – or in our programmes – their team to be present. Our quiet gentle horse, Vinnie, makes sure that every team member is present before he makes a move. He seems to have an innate sense for the vulnerable and always ensures they are heard.
It is important to embrace individual communication styles so that nobody gets left behind. Ask the quiet person if they have anything to add or make sure the stronger types don’t dominate the conversation. This applies at any time, but is especially important now!
Whatever you do to get through the trials of the next few months, remember communication is going to be key to maintaining our communities, our teams and our leadership. I would love to hear your thoughts and how your communication practices are evolving at this time. And to subscribe to more updates and leadership tips from Leading Edge Life Skills, please comment below to ask to be added or email firstname.lastname@example.org