…is the illusion that it has taken place.”
In the fast-moving, technology-fueled world we live and work in, we could easily be forgiven for falling prey to the illusion portrayed in George Bernard Shaw’s quote above. As an Irish Playwright, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 so he certainly knew a thing or two about communications. It also supports my belief that there are time-tested tenets of Leadership Communications that are consistent with the passing of time. However, in the 24/7 always-on world it is the context of Leadership Communications that has changed dramatically further perpetuating the illusion that it actually takes place at all!
Effective Leadership occurs when both the sender and the receiver understand the shared meaning of the message. It is in this shared meaning in which the illusion actually occurs. In my own experience in the last 30+ years, effective communications is the number one challenge leaders face in growing their business (regardless of whether they would admit it or not). Furthermore, I can point to three specific situations every leader, whether a corporate leader, non-profit leader or entrepreneurial leader are faced with where effective communications play a crucial role in a successful outcome to the situation.
- “Change is inevitable, growth is not” - Change is one of those situations where successful execution is so dependent on effective communications. The leader not only has to communicate what will change in order to achieve the new state of the business but must effectively communicate intent as well. Regardless of the circumstances, all stakeholders to the change must understand the “Why” as well as the “What” and the “How” so the desired results of the change are realized.
- “Communications is both the cause and the cure of Conflict” - Conflict is another inevitable reality in today’s global economy. The many faces of human diversity create natural conflict on a regular basis giving leaders ample opportunity to communicate effectively with their organizations. Of note is the leader’s ability to listen during conflict situations. While listening is a learned skill, not enough leaders actively and consciously practice it. Communicating and listening effectively during conflict allows leaders to stay in a position to manage the conflict without becoming part of the conflict themselves due to ineffective communications skills.
- “You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility” - Leaders do not succeed by themselves. Even a solo-preneur has to delegate authority for parts of their business to succeed. By clearly communicating the desired outcome of the delegation as well as the leader’s trust to those who he or she is delegating to, the leader confidently assumes full responsibility for the outcome. The team also takes pride in being a trusted integral piece of the their overall success.
A friend of mine once shared a comment she made to a member of her team, “I can explain it to you, but I cannot understand it for you.” Effective speaking, active listening, communicating intent and soliciting feedback all contribute to shared understanding and dispels any illusion that communication is actually taking place.
How well are you communicating and how do you know it is not an illusion?