Although communication is an essential skill for leaders like HR managers, that doesn't mean it's easy. Plenty of leaders have found themselves in the position of doing their best to communicate their message, only to come back the next day and find that people have questions which indicate that the message didn't get through to them.
Why is this less than ideal scenario so common? A big part of it comes from leaders' reliance on a mental model that's outdated in the modern workplace. A post office provides a great way to describe that model. Leaders think they have a message to send and need to get it to recipients.
Leaders can improve their communication and ultimately find success by shifting from the post office mental model to one that's focused on actual conversation. When a leader is committed to engaging in real conversations, they're going to be able to pick up on the larger context and reality around them instead of being overly preoccupied with their own message.
Leaders who embrace two-way conversations understand that there's value in sharing perspectives, as well as creating balance and openness throughout a workplace. This type of communication still allows a leader to share a specific message. But by listening and engaging, leaders can be confident that they're sharing a message which will actually resonate.
Listening and engaging in useful conversations are skills. The good news is as with any skill, you can improve by understanding what works and then practicing. The first step to being an effective listener is to slow down. By putting yourself in the moment, people will pick up on it and engage with you accordingly.
The next step is to be selective with where you have conversations. Not only can choosing more private settings provide people with the comfort they need to share honestly, but it can eliminate the distractions that can get in the way of clear communication. The third step is to ask questions that are inviting. Questions allow you to guide a conversation and still maximize creativity.
The fourth strategy for being a truly effective listener is to go into a conversation with an open mind. If you're not willing to be influenced by a conversation, there's no reason to have it. Being open will allow you to personally benefit as a leader from conversations. Finally, end conversations with a summary and commitment. Wrapping things up in this way will allow you to confirm that you really are on the same page as the other party.
By slowing down, being selective with where you have important conversations, asking questions that are inviting, having an open mind and ending with a summary, you can be an effective listener and improve your overall performance as a leader.
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