So, You Want To Be An Effective Leader. How Are Your Conversational Skills?
Leadership Lesson: Conversations are the fire-starters that get the effectiveness of leadership off the ground, tapping into the resources of the people in the environment, organization, and community.
Contrary to traditional — and misguided — belief, leading is not merely about coming into an environment, picking up the torch and pushing forward.
It is not merely serving as a talking head for all that has been built and laid out before one’s own tenure.
It is not merely continuing what was laid out before one’s arrival, but also building upon and improving it, leaving it better than when the initiative, mission, or effort was taken on.
Leadership is much more than that. It’s much more proactive than that.
Related Post: Is Your Workplace Busy Being Reactive Or Proactive?
Before we can make something better, we have to delve in deeply to understand the inner-workings of our environment. We need to learn about how people and processes function.
In order to do that, we need to be curious. One of the most important tools needed for leadership is curiosity.
And in order to utilize that curiosity effectively and efficiently, we need to communicate as much as we can with others.
By combining these steps of curiosity and communication, one can utilize and sharpen one of the most powerful tools in leadership — starting a conversation.
Without being able to start a conversation, no other leadership attributes can shine through. One can have all the characteristics, abilities and attributes important to leadership, but the leader will be rendered ineffective if they are not able to communicate and convey those abilities to those around him or her.
A conversation is what is needed to learn, encourage, and build. Leaders must understand the power of a greater message for the long-term group sustainability, but they shouldn’t overlook the simple yet powerful impact of words in their day-to-day interactions.
Nothing of substance can happen without conversation. Nothing can be established. Nothing can be brought to the surface. Nothing can be refined. Nothing can be executed until a conversation starts.
The majority of a leader’s communication to others should not be a declaration, nor a monologue, nor an order. Communication is key, but communication can’t serve only to move or transfer information or knowledge in one direction. A conversation goes both ways.
Conversations lead to an exchange of information, back and forth, mixing both questions and statements. A conversation does not need to be a series of statements back and forth between the participants. Questions are just as fruitful to demonstrating value as statements and opinions. Never undermine the power of questions.
Through conversation, one learns and enables the following:
- Set The Example of Open Communication
- By starting a conversation, a leader can set the tone of the environment. Conversations set the example of how information can and should flow and be shared. They convey the safety of asking questions and the openness of sharing ideas. Exemplifying this communication ensures that people are, at least, afforded the ability to communicate. How helpful are you in guiding people to open up their own communication?
- Being a Broker
- Conversations allow leaders to wear the hat of broker, where the leader can bring ideas together and avoid a stagnant environment created by not allowing ideas to come out of their silos. The leader, through his or her curiosity, sets the example of how others can draw on their resources to make sure that all ideas are at least considered. How effective are you in facilitating the effectiveness of your team, balancing the energy, ideas, and abilities of those in your charge?
- Harvesting Ideas
- By asking questions in conversations, all ideas can be brought to the surface. Some can be combined with the ideas of others through the brokerage process mentioned previously, while other ideas and opinions can serve as a guide to the future operations and strategy. What is the point of hiring or engaging followers if you can’t – or choose not to — draw upon their ideas to enhance your mission’s success? How sharp is your ability to draw out the ideas of others?
- Iceberg: Surface vs. Out of View
- Aside from drawing out business and mission ideas, communication also allows a leader to take the temperature of their organization or followers. We can’t always know what the attitude or feelings are within a contingent we might lead, so it is incumbent upon a leader to dig beneath the appearances most people feel they might need to keep in order to take the true pulse of their group. How open are you to investigating the true energy of those in your environment?
Everyone communicates in their own way. A conversation allows a leader to understand what each person’s process is for thinking and analyzing, allowing them to convey and project their value.
Conversations can’t be held only for the sake of a transactional need, but for transforming the experience of the participants. This sounds lofty but, like anything else in life, the communication shouldn’t only be about the moment but about the lasting experience, tying everything of value together.
None of this is to say that every interaction has to be some kind of drawn-out therapy session, but learn how to take the pulse of the environment, engage those around you, and convey the importance of your mission in your actions and words, even in the briefest of interactions.
A leader is someone who can draw upon all the resources around her or him, including people. A true leader is someone who can encourage and bring out the best in everyone around them.
Through the curiosity in their communication, leaders can set the stage through conversations to allow for people to provide their best.
So…What About You?
- What kind of conversations do you both engage and encourage in those around you?
- Can you think of various situations with different forms of communications, and how the conversational ability of the leader contributed to the effort?
- What improvements do you think you can make to your own conversational style?