Communication in general means the exchange of thoughts, feelings, messages or information by speech, signals, writing or behavior, the transfer of symbols to create shared meaning in the mind of the sender and receiver.
Leadership communication is the aspects of communication that
• influences the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to get results without damaging an individual’s well-being.
• empowers people in the organization and assists them in their pursuit of excellence.
• achieves coordinated action.
• motivates others to realize the company vision
The intended message is what the speaker wants their message to mean. The perceived message is what the listener interprets. These 2 messages may not be the same.
Example: A says: “You did a great job this time.” B understands this to mean “You managed to do a great job this time, not like the last time.” The intended message may have been “I really think you did well with that
report.” However, for different reasons B’s reality, they feel that the message is a reprimand.
A and Bs Reality:
A’s reality / B’s reality describes the way A and B view the world. This is influenced by the history of interaction between the two people, their individual self-concepts, cultural background, age, gender, status, and all the other factors that affect the way we interact with others.
• Verbal Message:
The verbal message is the message in words only. The verbal message may say one thing but mean another thing. Example: “It’s very cold in here” can actually mean “Can you close the window please?”
• Vocal Message:
The Vocal message is the way the voice delivers the verbal message. It includes factors such as pitch, tone and volume.
• Body Language:
Body language is a general term for the way a person communicates non-verbally with others. We communicate with different parts of our bodies, such as the eyes and face, and through posture and gestures.
1. Active Listening
Listening is the foundation of good communication. As a leader it is necessary to understand and develop the technique of listening. This means ignoring ones own needs and…
• Concentrating fully and making eye contact.
• Being silent – but indicating you are listening with your eyes “If our creator wanted us to talk more than listen, He would have given us two mouths rather than two ears.”
• Following closely – watching for the whole message and responding appropriately. It is necessary to listen not only to the words but also to the intentions behind the words. We need to observe the speaker’s body language and ‘listen’ to the non-verbal clues.
• Responding – reflecting feelings, paraphrasing & summarizing. Listening requires an ability to read between the lines to grasp what is really meant, which can often be different from what is said, and then demonstrating that we have understood in our responses.
True active listening involves taking and showing a genuine interest in the person you are listening to. We can demonstrate this by asking questions. Apply the 80/20 rule the next time you are gathering information you need – use a questioning technique so that the speaker is doing 80 percent of the talking and you are only doing 20 percent. If you are talking you are not listening!
There are many different questioning techniques.
• Open questions – gain information
• Probing questions – dig deeper
• Clarifying questions – ensures understanding
• Closed questions – check our understanding of certain points
3. Body Language
Before we learn to speak we communicate through smiles, eye contact and gesture. We are always communicating non-verbally, whether we know it or not. Even sitting silently we are communicating through our posture, facial expression and appearance. Body language is the way a person communicates his/her feelings through gesture, posture, facial expression and sound.
There are two aspects:
• body language we are aware of – sometimes we choose to use body language instead of words to convey information.
• body language we are unaware of – most of the time we are unaware of the way our faces, bodies, eyes and posture are communicating.
Some aspects might not even be out of our control – such as blushing and dilatation of our pupils. What we communicate through our body language is the result of all of these aspects.
Body Language of a Listener
The way we use our bodies as listeners can convey messages to the speaker. In some cultures, leaning towards the speaker slightly, watching their face as they speak and indicating a receptive stance, signals attention and encouragement. In other cultures, lowering the head and minimizing eye contact indicates that we are listening.
Body Language of a Speaker
The way we use our bodies when we speak gives listeners important information about our attitudes and feelings. Our body language can be used as a tool to emphasize what we are saying. It can also send messages we do not want to send. Part of the message we send is through our body movement. This includes:
• Gesture: body motion to help express thought or emphasize speech.
• Posture: the angle of the body.
Depending on culture, different signs may have different meanings. It is important to be aware that body language has to be interpreted in context:
• the cultural context
• the feelings of the people involved
• the history of the interaction between these people.
Finally, body language does not have a ‘dictionary’, and sometimes we do not interpret it correctly.
4. Reflecting feelings
Now let’s see how ‘reflecting feelings’ is used in active listening. Active Listening involves resisting the impulse to respond immediately. Good listeners concentrate on what is being said and they are sensitive to what is not being said.
Demonstrate understanding and acknowledgement by using phrases such as:
“It seems to me that you are concerned about this.”
“I can see that you are upset about this.”
A lot of clues to the speaker’s emotional state come from the speaker’s tone of voice and body language. While listening watch for the explicit and implicit feelings of the speaker and reflect these back.
Let’s now see how ‘Paraphrasing’ is used in Active Listening. Paraphrasing is used to show that you are listening and processing the factual content of what is being said. This is done to check that you have heard the other person correctly and it shows respect for their point of view.
When paraphrasing, the listener repeats back to the speaker the essence of what they heard in their own words.
Summarizing is a useful strategy to use when the discussion has arrived at the stage when progress needs to be reviewed, or you need to establish a basis for the next part of the discussion. Summarizing is a good way of restarting a discussion that resumes after a break.
When summarizing use statements like:
“These seem to be the key ideas we have discussed.”
Verbal Skills’ refers to our ability to use language – the words we use and the way we put them together. As a leader, the way you talk and the responses you make can create the right environment for cooperation and collaboration. Strong verbal skills:
• enhance interpersonal trust
• clarify expectations
• project professionalism
Verbal Skills of effective leaders include:
1. Inviting Participation
Inviting Participation It is essential for a leader to involve other people in the conversation, or at least increase opportunities for others to contribute. By asking people their opinions you demonstrate your interest in what they have to say. It is also important not to allow one person to dominate a discussion. Ensure that others contribute their ideas and attitudes by inviting suggestions and reactions. This encourages people to listen and reassures them that you value their opinions.
“What do you think of that proposal, Alex?”
Building behaviors are those which declare support or agreement with another person and attempts to extend or develop a proposal made by another person. Often, the suggestion you make will be based on the ideas of another person. It is important to acknowledge the originator of the idea before building upon it. This gives credit to the other person’s creative thinking and brings about an atmosphere of group effort and partnership.
“John’s approach will also help solve another problem we have with the supplier.”
3. Supporting and Acknowledging
People feel more appreciated and recognized in an environment where supporting and acknowledging is high. People like to be recognized for their contributions and tend to work better in a supportive environment that encourages creativity.
“I like your idea, Maria, even if it challenges me.”
Feedback is “factual data about something a person has said or done, intended to reinforce the behaviour or ask for a change in behavior, in order to be more effective and increase the sense of well-being”. It is through feedback that we can see ourselves as other see us. Giving and receiving feedback is an important part of the day-to-day communication of a Leader.
1. Giving Feedback
It is not easy to give feedback in a way it can be received without threat to the other person. Feedback might be used to communicate on performance or a person’s effect on others. It could be to make the person more aware of what he/she does or how he/she does it.
Give feedback on:
• Behavior and not the person
• Observation and not inference
• Description and not judgment
• Sharing ideas and not giving advice
• Exploring alternatives and not providing answers
It is very important that you give feedback on what you observe, not what you believe was meant by what you observe. Observing is to report what has been said & done, without judgment, interpretation or assumption of the behaviors. It is to look at the facts.
2. Receiving Feedback
We also receive feedback in our role as leaders. Here are some guidelines for receiving feedback.
When receiving feedback listen fully to what is being said. Try to notice your own responses and share them with others if in a group setting. Communicate accurately. Notice and acknowledge your feelings as well as your thoughts. Talk directly to those giving the feedback. Key questions which you need to address to be effective in receiving feedback are:
• Do I understand it? Your intentions may not be perceived in your actions.
• Is it valid? Yes it is – from at least ONE point of view!
• Is it important? Does it have an impact on your effectiveness?
• Do I want to change? It’s your choice – but there may be consequences!
3. Feedback Staircase
This model describes how we can respond when we receive feedback.
• Deny: “You must have got the wrong person…”
• Defend: “No it wasn’t like that at all…” At the bottom stairs we are usually focusing more on what to say than listening to the feedback and trying to understand the other person.
• Explain: In this phase you start to listen more and you accept/admit your action but you come up with explanations and reasons/excuses.
• Understand: You listen with your heart and head, and take in the feedback fully and try to understand the other person’s point of view…
• Change: This is when you will decide whether to do something about the feedback and make a change. You don’t always start at the bottom of this staircase, but you usually end up somewhere on it when you receive feedback.
This has been designed to look at the communication behavior managers and subordinates need to get the best results.
This article aims to help you to identify skills and strategies for effective leadership communication and recognize opportunities to use them in your work.