Freedom of speech is one of the pillars of our constitution. What about freedom of listening? Effective communication relies more on good listening than it does on speech. Both are key to the overall development and progress of your team. Without effective communication, your team and your business will lag behind in many areas, be less productive and less happy working for you.
If you want to improve communication skills for clarity and effectiveness, here are some vital tips for you to follow:
1. Listen Carefully
Let’s admit it, we all struggle with this. Yet there is one very simple way to ensure you are truly listening. Stop the voice in your head. You know the one. While you are listening to someone else speak, its constantly chattering to you about your retorts, answers, opinions, corrections and responses to what they are saying. Stop it. Stop planning what you are going to say back to them, and just listen. When it starts up again, stop it again. Focus all of the energy you can muster on listening intently on what they are saying, with the only objective being to really fully understand what the other person is trying to communicate and what they are feeling.
2. Body Language
Freedom of speech also includes body language. Often, we don’t realize the significance of our body language, yet it is 70% of our communication. After all, actions speak louder than words. Your facial expressions, eye contact and gestures reveal everything, even though you do not utter a single word.
Exercise to improve your posture. Stand straight and smile to stimulate positive feelings. Always maintain eye contact when talking to someone. Use open body gestures. Watch your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. At the same time, educate yourself about different non-verbal communication signals in different countries, cultures and societies. For example, a handshake is considered rude in some countries, whereas is it a common practice in the US.
3. Read and Write
In order to improve your verbal communication, read and write as much as you can. Read books, the newspaper, online news and articles, blogs or anything you want to boost your vocabulary and improve your writing skills. Listen to audio books while you are driving or getting ready for your day in the morning.
4. Ask Questions
Asking questions helps clarifying things. It shows that you have interest in having a conversation by keeping them engaged. It shows you are truly listening with the intent of fully understanding what the person is trying to communicate. It also helps overcome the fear of small talk in situations where you don’t know people.
5. Manage Stress
Stress is a major impediment to effective communication. Learn to manage it. Use humor in your conversations, keep calm, or be passionate. Be healthy, exercise, go for walks, take breaks from your day and drink lots of water.
The ability to communicate and listen clearly, concisely and coherently takes years of practice. Practicing these skills will not only improve your communication skills, but also improve your business results, and the quality of your life.
Do You Inspire Your Team?
My experience shows me that a very small percentage of company presidents, managers and supervisors truly inspire their staff. They might build solid teams, set clear expectations and reach most of their goals, but they fail to inspire their people to reach and become better.
But if you’re building effective teams and getting adequate results, does inspiration really matter that much?
The answer depends on what you want out of your organization. If you are satisfied with your current results and don’t mind replacing your best people every few years, I would put down this article and get back to managing your staff.
However, if you want to create a remarkable culture that exceeds expectations, keep reading.
The importance of inspiration
In his book, “The 8th Habit–From Effectiveness to Greatness,” Stephen Covey points out that “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” In other words, he believes leadership is primarily about inspiring others to reach their full potential.
OK, so inspiring your team is an important part of leadership, but why is it such an essential component in creating an outstanding company?
There are three key reasons.
First, if you are able to effectively inspire the most valuable members of your team, you will keep them from leaving. Because it is their nature to continuously look for ways to improve, they get bored with the status quo–no matter how satisfying it seems to everyone else. In addition, you will need these team members to assume leadership roles in the future as you grow. Promoting average employees to key leadership roles because your best employees have left eventually will lead to low morale and anemic growth.
Second, as you face difficult times–which every great company does–it will be your best employees that help you push through to the next level. You will need their enthusiasm, ideas and brainpower when trying to determine the best way to deal with difficult challenges. These people will not put in the extra hours for a leadership team that isn’t helping them to develop new skills and improve. However, they will do whatever it takes for those leaders who are inspiring and supporting them to reach their full potential.
Third, you need these people to help your organization think “outside of the box.” The truth is that remarkable companies need remarkable solutions in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace. These answers are seldom found in the operations manual. They require a higher level of critical thinking; and the kind of dedication you get from a talented employee who feels that your leadership is exactly what he/she needs to excel. Chances are slim you will get this effort from employees who just finished updating their resumes.
How do you inspire your team? It’s not easy, but through disciplined effort, most leaders can learn to inspire their staff. The best way to get started is to focus on the following simple steps:
— Clearly communicate your company’s vision to your team every single day. Most people will put in the extra effort if they know where they are going. If they don’t know where you’re going, they cant help you get there.
— Identify the potential leaders on your team and focus your efforts on these individuals. I am not suggesting that you ignore the rest of your staff, but, I am recommending that you dedicate the majority of your time to cultivating the individuals who will help take your organization to the next level. Its easy to miss this one, since these team members are doing such a great job.
— Find out what these key employees want. That is, help them to identify their own vision. Once you know what it is, provide them with opportunities to develop the skills necessary to realize their vision.
In today’s work environment, most leaders feel overwhelmed. The need to produce immediate results forces them–or us, since I am right there with you–to focus on the now, instead of considering the future.
My challenge to you is to be clear about where you are going and remember that, every time you inspire a member of your staff, you likely have improved productivity, increased effort and helped to build the future of your remarkable company.
Get in touch to learn more about how to inspire your team.
I got such positive response to my last post on creating an accountable team that I decided to turn it into a series, so, welcome to part 2!
So why put into action an accountability strategy in your business? What are the keys to putting it in place, what are the benefits and the risks?
First, creating an accountable team – one that holds themselves accountable for their results individually actually creates a congruent whole for everyone – an environment where what is best for the individual is also what is best for the company – how does that sound?
One of the keys to accountability is consequences – clear and significant consequences must exist, both positive, that you earn or receive, and negative, things that you won’t receive, based on results.
Benefits of An Accountable Team
A team that is accountable, knows what they are accountable for, so team roles are more clear and expectations are enhanced. Gaps and overlaps are reduced, so tasks don’t fall on the floor, and you can staff efficiently. Accountability creates room for developing decision-making skills and personal growth, and provides a context for goal setting. It enables people to let go of what they are not responsible for, increasing their commitment to what they are responsible, and to their measured results.
Risks of Accountability
Building accountability with your team does have risks. Because accountability requires public commitment – you and your team have to say out loud, and in writing, what you are committed to accomplishing and by when. That commitment comes with consequences – if you are not truly committed to your results you will eventually experience personal loss – when excuses are no longer an option, it can feel defeating to not achieve the results you’re expecting.
Accountability means changing cultural for many organizations – those changes will require a change to expectations and relationships with other team members. Excuses and reasons for why something didn’t get done, blaming managers, blaming other team members, blaming customers simply can no longer be part of the organizational conversation. This shift will naturally create friction with the hierarchy – as managers are expected to be accountable as well.
The Dark Side
Like any form of power accountability is open to misuse. An unfair bargain can be developed where the unfairness is made non-discussible. People can set unreasonable negative consequences for themselves or their subordinates. Incomplete accountability agreements can be made to operate exclusively in a top-down fashion rendering the concept of accountability meaningless. Be aware of these issues as you develop your culture of accountability.
The Leadership Challenge
As you create your new accountable team culture, be sure to follow these guidelines:
- Leaders seek commitment, they do not settle for compliance
- Leaders focus on results, not activities
- Leaders learn and help others to learn from mistakes
- Leaders encourage and challenge, they don’t over-control
- Leaders reward courage not caution
Next time: the Accountability Agreement and Lame Excuses Why an Accountability Strategy Wont work.
Questions on how? Get in touch.
When things don’t go as planned in your business; schedules missed, customer’s expectations not met, quality of work not up to standards; what do you hear? Blame, excuses, denial? Or ownership of the issue, accountability for the results and responsibility for taking corrective action? If you’re like most business owners, you hear lots of reasons and excuses. How did this culture develop in your company? How did your team come to accept this behavior as the norm in your business?
Look no further than the mirror. It starts with you. Even if you are not the one making excuses, your team has witnessed you enough times accepting blame and excuses. Or visibly punishing mistakes that are not soon forgotten. People learn the acceptable excuses for explaining why they did not achieve their goals. Rewards for exceptional performance barely exceed rewards for the ordinary. And people hide the truth – to be polite and safe – and in denial.
Why is Accountability important?
It closes the gap between intention and action. Between plans and results. Between goals and success. And its the foundation of an ethical business culture. If you focus on or change nothing else but accountability in your business, you will see massive results.
Accountability and empowerment are inseparable. When someone is blaming and making excuses, they see the cause and solution as being outside of themselves. Outside of their control, influence and power. They have no capability or power to change the outcome. Accountability is a promise and an obligation, both personally and to the people around you, to deliver specific, defined results.
Accountable people are aware of the positive and negative consequences of their actions – they want different consequences – they take different actions. A team organized for accountability, to achieve a desired result, immediately becomes interdependent. In order to achieve effective interdependence, you must have the structure to support it in place. Accountability in your business requires structure, focus and clarity that supports and builds trusted relationships and gets results.
Where to Start – Key Principals of Accountability
- A personal promise – that you agree to
- Results means activities are not enough – you do whatever it takes to achieve results
- Results requires room for judgment and decision-making – empowerment to use discretion
- Neither shared nor conditional – you are responsible for your commitments – not shared with another and it is unconditional regardless of limited control, other’s mistakes, or a lack of role clarity.
As soon as you hear yourself saying “ . . . because . . “ STOP, rethink what you’re about to say. Rephrase it until you are clearly taking full responsibility, describing a situation where YOU have control to do something different. Start with you. It will not go unnoticed by your team.
5 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
Effective communication is key to your development and progress, not to mention that of your team! Without effective communication, you will lag behind in many aspects of your personal and professional life. And your team, therefore your business, will not reach its full potential without the tools to communicate effectively.
If you want to improve your communication skills for clarity and effectiveness, here are some vital tips for you to follow:
1. Listen Carefully
Let’s admit it, we all struggle with this. First seek to understand what the other person is saying and feeling. If you find that you are formulating a response while the other person is talking, you are NOT listening. You have to shut off that voice in order to listen. Pay attention, be patient with them and do not interrupt. Not only is it rude to cut someone off, but it makes it hard to understand what they are saying. Wait for them to finish before you even think about your feedback.
2. Body Language
Often, we don’t realize the significance of our body language, but it can account for 70% of what we communicate. After all, actions speak louder than words. Your facial expressions, eye contact and gestures reveal everything, even though you do not utter a single word.
Exercise to improve your posture. Stand straight and smile to stimulate positive feelings. Always maintain eye contact when talking to someone. Use open body gestures. Watch your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. At the same time, educate yourself about different non-verbal communication signals in different countries, cultures and societies. For example, the handshake is considered rude in some countries, whereas is it a common practice in the US.
3. Read and Write
In order to improve your verbal communication, read and write as much as you can. Read books, newspaper articles, blogs or anything of interest to boost your vocabulary and write a blog to improve your writing skills. Similarly, watching some programs related to your areas of interest and movies can also help improve one’s communication skills.
4. Ask Questions
Asking questions helps clarifying things. It shows that you are truly interested in having a conversation and understanding the other person. Moreover, it also helps overcome the fear of small talk. Learn to ask good questions, it will improve your ability to engage your audience.
5. Manage Stress
Stress can be a major impediment to effective communication. Learn to manage it. Don’t communicate with someone if your stress level will make you sound irritated or angry with them. Use humor in your conversations, keep calm, exercise and drink lots of water.
The ability to communicate clearly, concisely and coherently takes years of practice. Hence, incorporate the above mentioned steps to not just improve your communication skills, but also improve the quality of your life.
To learn more, get in touch or come to ActionClub!
Are You Leading Or Managing Your Company?
As the owner or chief executive in your company, how much time do you spend on leading and not just managing? If your goal is to create a growing, profitable business that can work without you, strong leadership is a must.
Author William Arthur Ward once wrote, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I many not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and from all ways of life, but they do have common characteristics.
- They create a vision and understand that true change is driven by emotion, not logic. In other words, they transform the mundane into a passion that their team can rally around. What benefit do you create for your customers? Don’t think you have one? Here are some examples: bankers and financial planners make dreams come true, communications companies educate and inspire, consultants and recruiters create a livelihood for workers, photographers preserve memories. What noble cause does your company provide?
- Leaders know how to link vision and action. It’s not just about a vision; it’s about making that vision come alive. They have a unique way of separating the important from the interesting and then focusing on one of those things.
- Leaders create an environment of accountability. Not only do great leaders demand accountability of themselves, they demand it of their team. Excuses are not allowed.
- Leaders have a strong character and aren’t swayed by what’s easy or popular. When faced with a challenge, they do what is right, not what is easy.
- You are not a leader unless you are willing to make the tough decision.Sure it is easier to say “yes”, than “no”. Charles Nielsen once said, “When, against one’s will, one is pressured into making a hurried decision, the best answer is always ‘No,’ because ‘No’ is more easily changed to ‘Yes’ than ‘Yes’ is changed to ‘No’.” As a leader, it is more important to make the right decision than the easy decision.
- Leaders inspire through their everyday actions and words.You don’t need long speeches or memos to inspire. Lincoln’s, “Gettysburg Address” was less than three minutes long and Churchill’s famous, “Blood, Sweat and Tears” speech was two and a half minutes long. Words are important, but actions inspire even more. Mother Teresa’s credo was, “Let no one come to you without leaving better and happier.”
- Leaders realize that no one, including himself or herself, is indispensable. Once you become bigger than the cause, you cease to lead. Translated into business, teach your team to do things better than you ever could and you will both benefit.
Leadership doesn’t happen overnight, but a mentor, like me, can help you understand how to take the first steps and then work with you as you transform your management skills into leadership skills.
Practice your leadership skills! This will benefit you, your family, your team and your customers.
To learn more, come to the next GrowthClub!