February 2021: Communication

It’s February already and we now have a functioning Journeys’ website! During the setting up of the site, I was reminded vividly how important is the skill of communication; especially if we are helping emerging leaders to influence others around them. I have made it no secret that I believe the academy’s main focus should be to help young career individuals, making this an important conversation.

A major skill that we take too much for granted is the ability to connect with people, with a major objective that we create an environment where others can trust us. This connection can be explored through verbal articulation (telephonic or physical); writing; social media posts; and through websites. As we all have been reminded, communication is certainly as much a physical interaction (where we see and experience others one one one) as it is an auditory/verbal experience.

It could be said that everything about leadership can be boiled down to the ability to communicate, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that! Good leaders know that one of the most critical elements surrounding their success relates to this ability to communicate, because positive interaction allows them to develop trust. Trust allows people to feel comfortable when you want to make change. Oft times we focus on the quantity of messages (do it regularly they say). I would have to say that in my experience it is much more complex than that!

My experience with current leaders/young career individuals is that they communicate a lot, but that this doesn’t always mean they are building trust or forming deeper relationships. There is constant traffic using texts, facebook/twitter/ instagram, etc. As we dig deeper into what this has created, I would suggest that these vehicles allow technical information to move across, but it doesn’t resonate as a tool to enable deep connections to develop. I would hypothesize that one well crafted message written/spoken in a calm manner (or a 10 minute conversation) will generate more trust than a score of social media messages. The latter are generally intended to keep things at the surface. It is for this reason that I have resisted using social media as my primary communication tool.

What am I trying to say? If trust is at the heart of being able to move people forward through difficult times; and trust is in short supply when commuication is poor or absent, then we need to find ways of connecting with others through vehicles that allow deeper conversations. Covid has swung a huge curveball at leaders: at this time. It is especially important we be seen to care, but the pandemic restricts us from being visible. So we resort to forwarding messages from senior leaders, hoping that this will tell others around us that we care.

I want to suggest that all of us spend some time thinking through how we intend to communicate; especially during the pandemic. It could be said that Donald Trump lost the recent US election because of what Americans perceived him to be. They saw superficial tweets; radical comments, an irate person who seemed to reject the opinions of people all around him (all of which resulted from bad communication strategies). It wasn’t always the policies that drove people away. What they needed was a calm, stable communication from somebody who seemed to care. What they got was someone who seemed to care more about himself.

I will offer a few practical suggestions:

  1. Try and use a virtual technology that allows you to see others when you discuss matters with them. We humans get something out of seeing people and interacting with them.
  2. If you cannot meet people and are limited in technology elements, then send them something to prepare a conversation. When we arrive on a phone call with no preparation for the discussions, this is a trust killer for others.
  3. Be honest with people. Even if something you have to say is likely to hurt someone, its more likely you will garner trust by being transparent.
  4. Try and develop skills that allow you to be brief and clear when you communicate. Others respect people who make an effort to bring issues to resolution.

    During the pandemic I have put more attention on communication within the academy programs. Speak to me about how we can do a better job at connecting with each other and especially how leaders should enable trust in their followers.

My regards,

Peter Craighead

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