Two Key Communications Techniques For Leaders
Leaders must take time to clearly communicate with their teams and team members.
This starts with being equally good at two critical communication skills: questioning and listening.
Great leaders ask the right kinds of questions in order to get to the root causes of a problem or to
determine the full scope of a team member’s concerns or issues.
They also ask the right questions to ensure that they are getting complete details and the full story of a situation. Great leaders know that too often subordinates are inclined to say what they think the leader wants to hear. This prevents team members from expressing their own assessment and knowledge of a situation.
That’s why great leaders ask open-ended questions, particularly questions that prompt team members to analyze, speculate, evaluate, and rank options. And then a great leader uses the best three-word phrase to gain deeper insight from team members: tell me more. Personally, I add a prefix phrase to this, usually along the lines of “that’s interesting, please tell me more.”
Even when all the right questions have been asked and answered, great leaders do their own checking of facts, data, and missing information.
Great communicators are great listeners. And so are great leaders. In fact, I always tell my leadership development participants that since they each have two ears and one mouth, they should use these proportionately in communicating as a leader. In other words, they will benefit most from listening twice as much as they speak.
I firmly believe that listening is the number one communication skill a leader must have. This is particularly true for new leaders, as the tendency is to think that once one is put into a leadership position it is a requirement to have all the answers and to bark out all the orders. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is more to listening than simply hearing the words others are saying. Rather, leaders need to develop their active listening skills, which means observing the emotions, feelings, expressions, and body language behind what is being said. It also means acutely listening for what is not being said and for what is intentionally being left out.
Stephen Covey, author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, identified a key problem in communicating, both professionally and personally. He noted that too many of us “listen with the intent to respond, not with the intent to understand.”
Listening with the intent to understand is a crucial skill for leaders. Fortunately, it is also one that can be developed and enhanced through practice and reflection.
All of these communication techniques, when used repeatedly in your daily communications with team members, will make you a better leader of people and teams.
This article is excerpted from my book Great Leadership Words of Wisdom, which is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats and has over 1000 quotes on leadership from global business leaders, statesmen, athletes, coaches, sages, and philosophers.