How to Improve Your Communication by Leaps and Bounds

No Cape Needed

No Cape Needed

Do you know the most common communication mistakes leaders make?

What practical steps can you take right now to be a more effective communicator?

What is the most common mistake we make when using email?

 

“True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning.” -David Grossman

 

David Grossman is a communications expert. Both David and the firm he founded in 2000, The Grossman Group, have received numerous awards. Prior to founding the firm, he was director of communications for McDonald’s, and he teaches the only graduate course on internal communications in the U.S. at Columbia University.

What you notice when you pick up David’s latest book, No Cape Needed: The Simplest, Smartest, Fastest Steps to Improve How You Communicate by Leaps and Bounds, is that it’s stunning as a physical book. Full of colorful graphics, gorgeous photography, and digestible information, it is one of the reasons I still enjoy the physical book. Not only is it a gorgeous book, but it is full of immediately actionable, useful information. I recently asked David to share some of the wisdom from his book and his consulting practice.

 

“Communication really is a superpower.” -David Grossman

 

Communication is a Superpower

Question: As a kid, you wanted to have superpowers. As an adult you say, “Communication really is a superpower.” Explain why you elevate communication to that status.

I wholeheartedly believe that effective communication is really a way to make a difference.David Grossman

You can use communication to make others feel good about their jobs, to be engaged and excited, to help someone who’s having a hard time get through a rough patch, or to inspire a team. And in essence, you can use communication to make substantial changes that aren’t just about helping a company or team go from ‘good to great’ but instead create a lasting legacy through a new strategic direction.

A lot of people don’t think they can communicate well or don’t think they can develop the skill. But the truth is that it just takes practice. If leaders at all levels of their organizations come to realize that, then great things can happen for their companies. And they can become heroes of their own.

 

Cut-Through-Clutter-No-Cape-Needed-David-Grossman

3 Steps to Improve Your Communication

In your new book, No Cape Needed, what are the top three steps you recommend for improving communication?  

1. Understand your audience.

To truly move employees to action, we have to know what they care about and get into their mindset. As leaders we spend much of our time and effort setting business goals and developing plans to achieve them. Yet the most important element behind everything is your team. If they don’t understand where they fit in, all of our lofty goals will go nowhere.

2. Plan, and then communicate regularly.

Leaders often mistakenly assume that as long as they have ideas, a vision, and a sense of purpose, that will be enough to lead the way forward. If only it were that easy. In truth, good leaders know the importance of planning and clearly spelling out the path ahead. You can wing your communications and take a chance on the results or be planful and purposeful to increase your chances of success ten-fold.

3. Listen and create dialogue.

True communication comes from a shared understanding of meaning. Ask open-ended questions. Listen. Listen some more. Check for understanding.

 

“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” -John Maxwell

 

3 Common Communication Mistakes

What are some of the common mistakes leaders make when they communicate?

1. They don’t set the context. 

12 Things NOT To Do As A New Leader

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This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

What NOT to do as a New Leader

Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It is recognition that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and more visibility.

 

“Continual blaming only disempowers the organization.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Whether you are a new executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader; when you are new to the role, people will watch closely to understand your style and how to work with you. Here are just a few of the things people will be evaluating:

  • Are you decisive? How will you make decisions?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • Do you hold people accountable?
  • Are you approachable?
  • Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
  • Do you take action?
  • How do you react to bad news?
  • Do you focus on big picture or detail?
  • Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
  • How will you deal with both good and poor performance?
  • How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
  • How will you gather information?
  • What are your values?

 

“Many people confuse lengthy discussions with being effective.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

In two previous posts for new leaders, I described several tips to quickly and effectively establish your style, culture and values:

            How to Get Good Information and Build Relationships

            How to Decide, Empower and Take Action

However, as you begin to take action and set the desired cultural tone for the organization, it is easy to allow some behaviors to undermine your effectiveness as a leader. Here are a few things NOT to do as a new leader:

 

1. Do not Lead or Manage “around” other Leaders:

When involved in the various skip-level and other informal meetings, be careful not to usurp the authority of other leaders who may be responsible. If necessary, instead of acting at the time, simply make note of the situation, ask a few questions, then work through the appropriate leader to do what is necessary later.

 

2. Do Not Kill the Messenger:

Using the techniques I outlined in the previous post to get good information will sometimes surface bad news. Be cautious not to “kill the messenger” of the news, but listen and take the appropriate action in the proper forum. Strong, emotional reaction to a messenger of bad news kills open communication.

 

3. Do Not Be Totally Problem-Focused:

It is easy as a new leader to focus on solving problems. Be sure to balance problem solving with actions to capitalize on new opportunities and future strategies. Looking forward to possibilities allows the organization to solve current problems with a better context.

 

4. Do Not Start Too Many Large Initiatives at Once:

It is great to make decisions and take action, but be cautious to balance long-term, larger initiatives with the short-term actions. You will be more effective with organizational focus on a few long-term initiatives that are completed rather than on too many initiatives that drag on forever.

 

5. Do Not Permit Hidden Agendas:

When people have ulterior motives that are for personal gain or to hide negative consequences for actions and proposals, it undermines clear communication and trust in the organization. Always prompt people to explain their motives if you suspect hidden agendas. Asking questions is a good way to get to the actual agenda.

 

“Upward delegation undermines accountability and empowerment.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

6. Do Not Tolerate Pocket Vetoes:

A pocket veto is when someone appears to agree but actually does nothing, hoping that the subject will be forgotten. A pocket veto in business is a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. It not only undermines the effectiveness of the organization, but it also undercuts your leadership. Always confront this behavior with follow-up and reprimands. Pocket veto behavior is not like baseball – you do not get three strikes. Taking direct action with someone with this behavior will quickly set the tone for everyone that pocket vetoes are not a good idea.