No matter how well informed you may become, no matter how much knowledge you acquire in your field, it is important to remember that very few have ever accomplished more or gone far in any endeavor without the assistance and cooperation of many people. Leadership, goal achievement, and effective communication are inseparable, and they are all inextricably tied to trust. Valueship provides the values, direction, and strategy that support and guide behaviors.
Open and honest communications are always important, but in times of major change, communication is critical. When people are unsure and insecure and feel as if they don't know what's going on rumors and innuendos abound, and blame generally gets placed on management. Not knowing is worse than knowing (even bad news). Take the time to communicate face-to-face if possible, one at a time. This gives you an opportunity to show your concern and respect. It also gives you and them the opportunity to address questions and feelings, as well as discover the best solutions. What and how you communicate is critical.
Communication is the exchange of ideas between two people. It involves more than telling. Effective communication is "connecting." Effective communication results in understanding and it involves feeling. It is an active two-way process. It is not accurate to think that when we communicate with others, we transfer a precise piece of information from one mind to another. Words in and of themselves do not have explicit meanings that are unaffected by other influences. Instead, people have meaning for them. The meaning that any one person places upon words is influenced by gestures, expressions, intonations, and beliefs.
It is in the sharing of ideas and thoughts and emotions between 2 or more people that communication occurs. Exchanging facts or data is only part of the process. The feelings and emotions that develop during the course of any transaction strongly influence the behavior of those involved, and ultimately the outcome of the conversation. Human behavior is rarely a result of strictly logical and rational thought. Effective communication hinges on our ability to make emotional contact with the listener.
Once you understand the role that emotions play in communication, you can begin to put yourself in the other person's shoes. This is called empathy, and it is a quality that can be cultivated by developing genuine interest in other people. It is far easier to do this when you are authentic, genuine, and honest.
Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy, nodding your approval, or simply agreeing with another person's point of view so as to appear understanding. Empathy is recognizing the fact that others are entitled to their beliefs, just as you are, that they have certain needs to satisfy and goals to achieve, just as you do. Communicate with both words and actions that reveal genuine interest in people as individuals and in what they say and feel. They need to know you appreciate their efforts and their accomplishments are recognized. Knowing their needs, you can chart a career path designed to give them what they want and contribute to the overall achievement of the organizational goals. People respond positively to this type of leadership because they realize that they are actually only doing what you sensed they wanted to anyway.
For some reason, many people believe that the ability to speak articulately is an important prerequisite to successful communication. St. Francis of Assisi said that we should "Seek first to understand then to be understood," It is impossible to find out what someone is thinking or feeling unless we listen to what they are trying to tell us. In valuing others, what others are trying to tell us, we establish value for what we are trying to communicate to them. By valuing others we add value to ourselves.
Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in business and management consulting, strategic planning, leadership development, executive coaching and youth leadership.