Communication – a word so quickly written and shared with others and at the same time so hard to explain. The modern leader is often overwhelmed with different types of communication needs. People above him want one kind of communication, but people below him need different communication types. Not to forget the leaders’ peers on the same level, who need their way of communication to build trust and support between each other and the outside world of the company, demanding some norms and rules in inter-organizational and social touch to be followed.
The need for flexibility in communication is so huge that some of the leaders miss essential elements and make mistakes easily judged by others.
Leaders often try to use different tools to make the communication clear, precise and turned to the auditorium. At the same time, they are turning to dynamics, not in words, many fail, but into the presentation tools like animations in the presentation slides, podcasts. While people find most of the tools amusing and exciting, in the end, there is no much change in their thinking – an easy-to-see sign that communication is failing.
Leaders are in constant search of the best tool to help them communicate better with employees. At the same time, employees are complaining that communication is not flowing in a balanced way.
From that perspective, things do not look well for everyone. No matter the effort put into the communication process, it seems like leaders still can’t translate the message they want to the language the employees expect to hear. And that saga continues by generating dissatisfaction or, as some people, using incorrectly the word say, disengagement.
The search continues and will not stop soon. Many leaders share good practices from their experience working for them in the environment they operate. And still, shared good rules are not applicable everywhere in the same form or content. While this is true, three tools have proven in time as supporting communication and shared understanding. In my experience, these three tools have often helped me to transmit a suitable and understandable message to the people I am working with. I hope they can also help others to achieve some progress in the complex communication misunderstanding.
You want to explain something new. There is no easier way than to start with what has happened in the past. History is one of the most powerful tools leaders can use. It contains facts and, at the same time, delivers enough information to ensure that there will be a high ground for analysis, discussion, and decisions. What is in the past is irreversible, but at the same time, this information is something long-term employees remember parts from. Combining all that parts into an authentical picture awakens memories and feelings and creates attitudes toward the current situation or what needs to be communicated. But there is a catch. Knowing the past can lead the participant to form a negative attitude toward what has happened then and what will come in the future. The leader’s role in ensuring that history will have the right impact is to choose this part of the history that is not provoking and does not create a prerequisite for conflicts and negativity. If the leader succeeds in that point, history can be used as a powerful tool for communication and even provoked change.
Another powerful tool that every leader can use in communication with team members is philosophy. This tool has two sides – personal and general philosophy. Many leaders mistake both types of philosophy, and often that causes disturbance in communication. Philosophy represents a view that may look personal, but its type depends on the level of trust built in the team. Selling your philosophy without knowing the group may cause trouble with balance, conflicts, and communication. At the early stages of the team forming process, the leader must use general philosophy to create a safe and trusting environment. Such prevailing philosophies are company mission and vision, the written values, company rules, obligations, and recommendations for ethical behavior in the workplace. There are many examples. The leader must only choose those who will work best for the team.
Moving first with the general philosophy creates sustainability in a team understanding why something is happening and its greater purpose.
After successfully translating the general philosophy into the team-specific configuration, the leader will see trust rising, and people start showing more informal and open to communicate.
The next step for the leader here is to introduce his philosophy. That is allowed after the team shows that understanding the general company philosophy is widely accepted and represented in team morale, connections, and communication. The personal philosophy of the leader must describe the company’s broader philosophy. If the team finds a discrepancy between both, they will turn against the leader. While company philosophy is a strong foundation for defense against differences, the team may act as the leader’s opposer. But aligning the personal philosophy with the broader company philosophy is a good starting point to expand more informal and trustworthy communication in the team that can easily lead to better results now and in the future.
Leaders tend to use another tool to explain purpose, mission, and vision and set goals for higher achievements. Often in the conversation between the leader and the employees, the Metaphor arises as a tool. Said this tool involves talking about something else that is not applicable in the current situation but represents the same or similar situation and factors that caused it. The leader can use the Metaphor to mitigate the communication effort and pressure by not talking directly about challenges and obstacles in the current situation in the team. The Metaphor is a polite way to start communication without pointing to someone or something which has interfered with it and caused it to slow down or turn into a negative perspective within time.
While the Metaphor is an excellent tool to start, it must be used wisely and not for every section or moment in the communication cycle. It is a good starting point when the leader does not know the team well or has to share something new and is not sure what the reaction will be at the moment of change. After this moment, Metaphor must be transformed into direct communication, pointing to all the specific elements for the team and the situation. Using this tool to manage communication can create resistance and conflicts and turn the team toward the leader. The team members think that the leader is not honest and does not share the complete information using distant situations and not a direct explanation.
Communicating with teams and people is not an easy task. While communication is one of the most emotional experiences, the modern leader must find the best way to manage it for success. There are many tools in the field of communication. The three shared here are a good start for every stage of the evolving communication process within the team or in the organization. Using them at the right moment can assure that some of the conflicts will quickly be resolved, and part of the challenges will not look so hard. Still, it is the leader’s choice which of the tools he will implement and how will he use them