The Danger of Assuming They Know
“They know that”. Possibly one of the most growth-stunting phrases in a leader’s mind. We tend to assume that others know what we know. The ideas have floated around in our own heads or in closed-door meetings for weeks (or months, or years), but they’re coming out-of-the-blue to others. We have to talk about them rather than assume others already share our head space.
Talk About What?
Here are some things you might be under-communicating because you assume others already understand them:
- Values – If your values represent what’s truly important to you, they should be constantly on your lips. Not just the pithy statements, but fresh stories of how you’re seeing them applied and appreciation for those who apply them.
- Mission – Never let the people who will make your mission succeed (or not!) forget what the target is. Continually clarify what success looks like and what it takes to create it.
- Objectives – Organizational objectives get accomplished by teams accomplishing their objectives; teams accomplish their objectives by individuals accomplishing theirs. Continually help each person connect the dots between their activities and organizational success.
- Changes – Nothing stretches the communication skills of a leader like change. If you want buy-in and not just compliance, people need to understand WHY the personal sacrifices the change will require of them are worth it. Change is highly emotional: Listen—listen—listen and seek to understand.
If you’re the hard-data-analytical-type, get good at telling stories that paint a picture of the outcomes you envision. Stories engage the intellect and the emotions to deepen comprehension and motivation. If you’re a natural storyteller, be sure to include some hard data in your conversations. The analytical types will appreciate it.
You Should be Bored
It’s been said that if you’re not bored with a topic, you haven’t begun to communicate it to your followers yet. Think about it: You may have said the same thing to ten different audiences, but each of them may have only heard it once. You’re bored and they’re just getting their first glimpse into what you’ve been talking about for weeks and thinking about even longer. That kind of boredom is a price you need to be willing to pay to be an effective leader. When they start rolling their eyes and thinking, “here we go again with that topic” you’ll know the idea is just starting to sink in. Don’t stop yet – keep drilling it home!
Talk (2-Way) vs. Speak (1-Way)
One of the definitions of talk includes the word, “exchange”. You can tell people what you’re thinking, or you can engage them in a dialog. Telling may seem more efficient, but that’s short-term thinking. If you want to energize people to give their best efforts, you want their buy-in. That means getting their brains to move beyond passive listening to active processing of ideas.
You know you’re making progress when, unsolicited, they begin repeating your own words back to you. Even better is when you overhear them using your key phrases with others when they don’t know you’re listening.
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