Aug 22, 2019

Driving team performance with effective communication

You may remember us talking up Plato’s Elevate Summit a week or so back. It was for a good reason. The leadership skill communication is still top of everyone’s mind and the art is learning how to blend emotional intelligence with tactical techniques. To this end, the summit panels were interactive and lively, the schedule was brisk and focused, and attendees were smart and committed to building the sort of authentic, collaborative teams we here at Lingo Live believe deeply in.

We were also fortunate to have the opportunity to host a midday panel. We didn’t write about this last time out because we wanted to show off the video and, hot off the presses, here it is:

Nothing hurts a team quite like bad communication

At the risk of being reductive, well-functioning teams just get smart stuff done. Why is communication important in leadership you might ask? To get to a point where you’re doing smart stuff, you need to communicate about what that stuff is. Add to that how you’re going to do it and you avoid the stress of second-guessing each other.

Teams that fall down don’t do that. They don’t exercise the core leadership skill of communication. Not necessarily through lack of trying but because great communication needs high self-awareness. That’s why communication skills coaching includes emotional intelligence so that people don’t involuntarily hide behind misguided games of ego-protection. 

We began the panel discussion with a quick overview from Tyler Muse, our CEO. He talked about the importance of communication in leadership and how to be successful within teams.

The leadership skill communication starts with Trust. 

If people don’t begin there, everything that’s said is shrouded. After you’ve found trust, you can share perspectives openly, knowing that everyone’s being honest and forthright about the best path forward. Then, you can have real debates with positive disagreements, make concrete commitments, and execute. What you’ll notice is that if communication breaks down at any step in that process, the outcome suffers.

As we all know, trust doesn’t just happen on its own. Executive communication coaching is one of the most powerful tools to support people in becoming more authentic.

Through coaching, people learn about themselves and how to be vulnerable whilst building their self-esteem. Only by showing our human side, based on a foundation of a solid inner belief system,  can we truly engender trust. 

In the past ten years here at Lingo Live, we’re proud of the work we’ve done fostering the sort of professional, authentic communication that gets things done. Moreover, the stronger your handle on the leadership skill of communication, the more likely your teams will feel psychologically safe and fulfilled. Tyler, Lingo Live’s CEO, talked about this in the first five minutes of the video and you can take a look here to learn a little bit more about it.

You want consensus. But you can become stagnant if you wait for it.

Our panelists talked a lot about how you build consensus on teams. After all, teams are more successful when they’re driving towards a common goal they agree on and are inspired by. That’s when the leadership skill of communication can make or break a vision.

The tricky part is what happens when a team just can’t find that consensus. How do you solve that? You can’t just sit there waiting for it, hoping that the holdouts agree to a course of action they aren’t that enthused about. And it’s so easy to become incredibly stagnant in the early stages of a project when you’re waiting for that buy-in. Suddenly, a couple of weeks have gone by and the team simply hasn’t accomplished anything. So how do you fix this and leverage the importance of communication in leadership? 

For starters, this is where managers and team leaders need to lead and exercise their leadership communication skills. Someone has to make the decision and, frankly, that’s their job. Trying to arrive at that consensus is an important part of the puzzle and it certainly helps build trust. Moreover, having more perspectives and data does lead to smarter decisions. Nevertheless, if a team is floundering, it’s time for the leader of that team to do what they think is best and bring into action the skills they learned in their communication coaching. It sounds simple, but you really can be paralyzed trying to find something everyone agrees on.

Follow the passion

Another smart tip we heard in our panel was figuring out exactly who does this decision to drive consensus matters most. This really resonated with us because passion plays an important role in the leadership skill of communication. Sometimes, a project might be something that’s really important to someone who isn’t deputized to make team-wide decisions. But they just care more than the rest of the team does. It could be something they created during a hackathon, for example, and something they will work exceptionally hard trying to make happen. Listen more to the people who care the most. Don’t be afraid to trust them as they’ll naturally drive consensus

Decision making is like a muscle: the more you do it, the stronger it gets

Not every decision you make or every decision your team makes is going to be the right one. In fact, the more you appreciate that it’s not about the decision but about what you do with the consequences, the easier it is to move forwards. Most companies know this and are comfortable with the idea that failures happen and are a necessary part of learning and growth. The key is to actually force yourself to both make decisions and evaluate them. 

There is no such thing as a perfect decision. This is actually also a way to answer the question “why is communication important in leadership”. Essentially, when strong leaders make a decision, they evaluate the consequences and communicate powerfully to keep teams aligned to the vision. 

Exercise your decision-making muscle

Our panel likened decision-making to a muscle. Like any skill, it’s all about practice. Furthermore, to make great decisions we need to balance our critical thinking along with our emotional processes. The more decisions you make in your field of expertise, the better you get at noticing the patterns of outcomes and reading your gut. 

.  Again, it’s crucial to keep evaluating the outcomes of your decisions. If they go well, understand why. If they go off the rails, understand why. You’ll learn from them either way. You’ll take those learnings and apply them to the next choice you make. Talk about what everyone on the team learned from the outcomes and decisions you make. Essentially, if you don’t exercise your decision-making muscles, they atrophy and you stop moving forward. Your decisions don’t all have to work out. But you do need to learn from every one of them.

Final recommendations for the leadership skill communication 

So, why is communication essential for effective leadership? It’s a critical skill to align teams to a common vision and core values whilst engendering trust. The leadership skill of communication allows us to show people who we are and it’s an opportunity to be authentic, inclusive, and inspiring. 

Poor communication can dismantle a team and create stress, defensiveness, and uncertainty. Instead, start with tailored communication skills coaching. This will enable your leaders to raise their self-awareness, manage their blindspots, and feel at ease making decisions in complex situations. At Lingo Live, our coaches support your leaders to become the best of themselves and so better able to inspire their teams, manage tensions and drive loyalty with action. 

 

mmunication Barriers and Employee Disengagement White Paper

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