Effective Leadership Communication Habits
Knowing when and how to communicate reflects your leadership capabilities. Here are some tips to fine-tune your communication and demonstrate your leadership.
Understanding the Common Signals When Communication Is Needed
Teams require information when they express doubt, hesitation, or share differing views on a direction or objective of the team. Working with management to help them form concise explanations or drafting an email or other documentation to share with your team is typically a welcomed bit of assistance when confusion prevails.
Another common signal when communication is needed is when questions or concerns are raised about the efforts being made by another department. This can reflect a lack of understanding of overall processes within your organization and can result in things being dropped between your departments, which will affect downstream processes and/or client outcomes. Bridging the gap to establish understanding in these instances is a substantial leadership trait.
As teams often work on different endeavors, debates can erupt about what should be done first or what deadlines need to be met. This is a big red flag that communication is needed. Management may or may not be aware of these prioritization issues and questions, so providing assistance is useful. Try to help clarify the items causing the prioritization question, and discuss alternatives to determine if it is possible to meet any requested deadlines. If not, propose a prioritization scheme for discussion. Your prioritization doesn’t have to be accepted by management, but proposing a prioritization can generate meaningful dialogue—and taking action that generates constructive dialogue is a great indicator of good leadership.
The 30/3/30 model
Effectively communicating to senior managers is an indicator of your leadership potential. Crafting your communication properly is crucial to success with senior personnel. They are extremely busy and receive many messages on a daily basis. In one senior role I had, I literally received well over 250 emails a day! Working through that “noise” to get your message across is a challenge. The approach I recommend is the 30/3/30 model, which packs your message into short pieces to get your senior leader’s attention. (30/3/30 stands for 30 seconds, 3 minutes, and 30 minutes.)
With this approach, you create three versions of your message. You begin by crafting a short 30-second story designed to get your leader’s attention. Then, you expand it into a three-minute story you can use once you get your leader on board. Finally, if needed, you expand your story into a 30-minute meeting agenda to fully discuss the issue at hand. Often, you won’t need this, as the 30-second and three-minute dialogues may get you the result or direction you need.
Asking Permission to Communicate Challenging Information
Good leadership means sharing good and bad news while doing so in a timely manner. Sharing bad news is difficult, and yet, hearing bad news is just as challenging. Communicating issues and concerns needs to be done concisely and clearly—and it is wise to ask permission before sharing bad news, unless it is absolutely necessary to tell your story immediately. The result you are looking for is for management to accept your bad news and act appropriately to adjust or address the situation.
Asking permission before sharing bad news helps increase the probability that your message will be heard properly, that it’s given the attention it needs, and that appropriate action will be taken. It seems less like an “ambush” if you ask permission to share challenging information in advance, and it allows your leader to set themselves emotionally for what is to follow. I will typically say, “I have a challenging issue to share with you. Is this an appropriate time or would you prefer to wait?” while at the same time, giving an indication of how long we can wait to discuss the situation before things get critical.
Another indicator of your leadership capability is how you make decisions or participate in decision making. We’ll tackle that topic tomorrow!
All the best!
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