I rarely meet leaders who think they are poor communicators. Quite frequently someone will confide in me that his or her employees just aren't getting it or that they have to repeat things a million times. The missing element in these heartfelt confessions is the role of the leader himself or herself.
Practicing effective communication begins with you. You decide whether you build a foundation for excellent communication or whether you keep getting the results you've always experienced. Many people honestly believe that they communicate well because they tell people what to do and then those people do it and seem happy. Others are certain that everything is going wonderfully because nobody ever speaks up or contradicts what they're saying. Perhaps you've worked for someone who is proud of his (or her) ability to get his point across clearly and concisely and then prattles on at meetings until people fall asleep.
So what can you do to enjoy great communication in your workplace rather than pretending it's happening? It starts with looking at where you might need to make some small adjustments. Here are ten of the most common, and avoidable, communication mistakes that occur in workplaces worldwide.
- One-way communication where the leader says something and it can't be questioned.
- Absence of listening to what employees have to say.
- Interrupting what other people say or cutting them off in some way.
- Inserting your "helpful" questions or opinions into what someone is saying.
- Reacting immediately and negatively to what people say.
- Pretending there's an open door of communication.
- Correcting what people say instead of valuing their ideas.
- Assuming you know what the other person means.
- Multitasking while someone is trying to talk with you.
- Lack of deeper communication and interpersonal connections.
Imagine a workplace where all these ten things occur habitually and you've probably described most workplaces that currently exist. Everyone says they value communication but few actually practice it in a way that encourages people to share meaningfully. Luckily, you can change this pattern at any time by doing the opposite of each one. If you don't listen often, do it a little more. If you don't really have an open-door, start inviting people to talk with you at a time of their choosing and simply listen to what they have to say with no interruptions or repercussions.
It's these small steps that eventually help leaders build workplaces where effective communication is highly prized and practiced. What ideas do you have to promote healthier communication in workplaces?