The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.Peter Drucker
When she walked into my office, she was clearly nervous. We had worked together for six months. In the next five minutes, she shared a very personal medical condition, how the treatment would take her out of work, and her concerns about her job and her health. There were tears.
I heard the words – and knew the next step was to leverage the policies we had in place to help all of our people get the same level of support and organizational compassion.
Somewhere in those five minutes, I heard some other unspoken messages:
- I want to be a mom more than anything
- I am scared
- I love this job
- I trust you to help me Scott, that is why I am sharing this
Within the unspoken words is the space where empathy happens, where we get to really understand what matters to people, and where the passions and fears exist that help us truly know someone.
The next time you have a conversation, listen for the unspoken messages. What do you notice? This is the real practice of honest listening, and it takes putting them first.
Great conversations start with a question. Let’s have one on communication.
- How is the communication in your team?
- How does your team feel about the flow of information?
In a recent post, Why Growing Past 20 Employees is so Damn Hard (and what you can do about it) by Eric Jorgenson, the author makes the point that a 10-person company can have 45 different 1:1 relationships while a 20-person company can have 190. Think about these numbers – we increase the size of the team by 100% and we increase the communication complexity by over 300%.
The reality of communication, especially for growing organizations, is that complexity grows exponentially as we add people to our team. Layer on top of that the complexity of building trust with new teammates and with you as the leader, and it might make you want to curl up in a ball in the corner.
People-centered leaders face realities like this and overcome them, because effective communication unleashes the talents and skills of people. The other opportunity is having help to do the work, solve the problems that arise everyday, and celebrate the successes that will inevitably happen. If leaders do this well, the health of the business will follow. The other truth is that these do not depend on your leadership style; they are leadership skills that can be learned.
Here are three healthy habits that will help achieve healthy growth using communication:
- Company gatherings – Quarterly (monthly if you can): What are the key messages that have to be shared and the key questions bubbling through the organization which need to be answered by you? Make this a priority and NEVER cancel it! A best practice is to record it so everyone has a chance to see it.
- Team gatherings – Weekly (direct reporting team): Review progress, revisit commitments from the last meeting, get aligned as a team, and solve the biggest problems facing the team. If you do these 4 things every week the teamwork and culture will thrive.
- Individual meetings with your team – (One-on-Ones or 5-5-5™ if you are an EOS® company): I see too many executive teams ignore this because of their calendar, their ego (“I am an executive and don’t need the coddling”), or their fear of sharing they are scared and confused. People must need this, because it is the #1 download from my website.
Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!
. . . and do your organization a favor by passing this on to a few peers and/or teams so you can critique your own performance at your next leadership meeting and fill in the gaps that exist in your own habits!