While driving one day last week, I stopped to make a left turn. There was oncoming traffic (we drive on the right in Boston) so I was ready to wait. One of the drivers gestured that I could take my turn. That seems considerate enough but there was a problem. He hadn’t stopped rolling. His idea was that I should take my turn while his car was still moving. As you might imagine, I hesitated. Was he really letting me go? And if I did make the turn, what were the possible consequences?
Sometimes we say one thing while we’re sending a completely different message
It was interesting to note my emotional response. I wasn’t sure which message was the true one. This happens in the workplace as well. Take one of my clients, Barry (not his real name) who had a clear vision for how his company could grow nationally. Unfortunately, he also had a habit of over-analyzing trends, opportunities and the performance of his company to such an extent that it muddied how he expressed his vision and expectations to his team. Another client, Rachel (not her real name) would assign tasks to one of her staff but then do the task herself because “I know how to do better and quicker.” For both of these clients and for others, the bottom line was that they claimed to value the skills and input of their staff but their actions said otherwise.
What you do carries more weight than what you say
We are used to news being made by CEO’s of large corporations. Even the most minute word can result in a headline. Since small to mid-sized organizations are much more intimate, the decision-makers have greater influence on corporate culture. The words you use (including swears and pejoratives), the volume you speak at and when you speak tell your staff how to treat one another. Another potential trap is to assume that everyone looks at the world through your eyes and your sensibilities. Let’s say you spend long hours in the office because you believe that is essential to success but tell your employees that they can have flex time and vacations. Which part of your message are they going to listen to the most? I’ve even had a business owner tell me that he limits suggestions and recommendations because he doesn’t want to hear bad news.
There is a smarter way to communicate
In past blog posts, I’ve written about how the CEO Mindset supports the business owner/ executive to be more effective. But what does this really mean? For a leader to truly use the CEO Mindset, he/she must pay attention to what is going on internally and externally as well as the other aspects of leading and managing a business. To effectively communicate, you have to use many of the same things.
The intersection between the CEO Mindset and communication uses both the internal and external awareness of the business owner/ executive:
- Builds trust- Consistency in verbal and nonverbal message goes a long way
- Lets people know where the boundaries are- Ineffective communication styles given contradictory signals so people aren’t sure what is acceptable
- Charisma is over-rated- Motivational speeches do have their place but substance is what you’re team is looking for. Be yourself and give a complete message
- Paying attention for better listening- It is remarkable what stopping and paying attention, even for 15 seconds, can do to prevent misunderstandings and unnecessary clarifications
- Know clearly what your message is- There is a time and place for idle chitchat. When you want people to know where the business is going next, how to solve or prevent problems or get tasks done, state clearly what you want people to hear.
- Flexibility- You may need to vary your words or the pacing of how you say things. Sometimes flexibility includes fully listening first before you say anything.
- Pay attention to the emotions- Try an experiment…say “yes” in as many different ways as you can imagine. Someone can say what you want to hear but if you don’t hear what they are really feeling, the issue will come up again and again.
When business owners/ executives are comfortable in their own skin, communication tends to smoother. Sure, there are days when everyone makes mistakes but good communication builds good will. It sets the stage for apologies, corrections and clarifications. Using the CEO Mindset does foster smarter communication.